Three graduate alternative sentencing programs

J.D. Charles For The Logan Banner

November 20, 2013

Three people graduated from the drug court programs in Logan County on Fri., Nov. 16, 2013. The graduation ceremony for a young male from the Juvenile Drug Court Program and two adults from the Adult Drug Court program was held at the new Logan County Commission where special guests and representatives from Logan County to Charleston to Washington DC discussed the realities of drug addiction and the challenges the grads had overcome.

Drug courts are intensive treatment programs which focus on community service, counseling, routine and random drug screens and developing an independent lifestyle both free from addiction and autonomous through work and education.

The programs are designed for people who have fallen on hard times and legal problems because of addiction, not violent felons or career criminals and the focus and goal is to help them overcome their addiction and reach recovery as well as to rebuild their lives as productive members of society.

None of this would be possible were it not for support and financial assistance from the Logan County Commission, the State of West Virginia and the Federal Government in Washington, noted Judge Eric O’Briant, who acted as Master of Ceremonies at the graduation which was a packed house.

There were many special speakers at the event who thanked the graduates for their hard work in the programs, as well as thanking the staff of the Logan Day Report center and the Logan Probation office for helping and supporting them. Many thanks were also given to family members for sticking by their loved ones when the going got rough.

Delegate Rupie Phillips asked the grads to remember that support they got in the Drug Court program and to keep contact with their support system now that they are back out in the world.

“It is a tough road, but you are not by yourself,” Phillips said.

Logan County Commissioner Danny Godby said it was a privilege to be present at the event and singled out people he knew, speaking about life in rural WV and the challenges people face in dealing with addiction. Godby said with solid goals and hard work and dedication, along with help from people who cared, that people who had stumbled and fallen into the traps of addiction could rise above those challenges and overcome them.

“Not everyone wins, but run the race as hard as you can,” Godby said, noting that the Logan County Drug Court program offered a much needed second chance to good people who had become mired in the scourge of our time, drug addiction.

State Senator Art Kirkendoll said there had been big changes in Logan County since the 1980s and one of them had affected everybody — the scourge of prescription drug abuse.

“It’s easy for some people to take a pill and feel good right now for a little while,” he explained. “But inevitably things soon get worse.”

Kirkendoll noted that years ago, Probation Officer Kay Browning had taken him to a meeting where he learned about the potential for alternative sentencing and treatment programs to provide rehabilitative services as opposed to just warehousing people at great expense.

“I have seen great things when people got a chance to make a change,” Kirkendoll said, noting that Judges Eric O’Briant and Roger Perry, along with the Logan Probation Office had been supportive of the idea of giving people with the potential to change a second chance at life. Kirkendoll warned that at a rough economic time in the United States, during deficit spending in government that those present who have been given a chance through the Drug Court and Day Report programs needed to make the most of those opportunities.

“If you are in the program, take advantage of it right now,” he said, noting that Drug Court could give them the opportunity to fix what they had broken in their lives and to succeed. Kirkendoll pointed to several people in the room who had taken advantage of the opportunity to change and had rebuilt their lives as exemplars.

“You can do the same,” he said. “The opportunity to create a better life is there for you. It can be easy to fool people, but you cannot fool yourself. Take this opportunity… Take your life back. Rebuild. Be proud of yourself.”

Judge O’Briant noted that the first graduate, who was not present, had been in the program since Sept. of 2011. The second graduate started in June of 2012 and had made many accomplishments while in treatment.

In fact, his supervisor at work was present along with co-workers to show their support. The young man thanked everyone who worked with him and helped him build a new and better life.

The Juvenile Drug Court graduate came into that program in March of 2013 and also did extremely well.

“During that entire time he never had a positive drug screen,” the judge noted, adding that his grade point average at school increased dramatically as well. The young man was surrounded by family members whom he thanked for their support.

“None of us are perfect,” Judge O’Briant said at the end of the ceremony. “We all have trials and tribulations. We all stumble. Thank goodness we all had second chances when we needed them. Forgive yourself for the times when you did not meet the mark you had set for yourself. For our graduates, this is the start of a whole new race.”

The judge invited the graduates to continue to participate in the follow up program to help ensure their success.