Six participants of the DUI Court Program, offered by Liberty County DUI Court, graduated in a special ceremony Wednesday at the Liberty County Justice Center.
Graduates completed the 18-month outpatient-treatment program that provides group counseling, individual sessions, substance-abuse meetings, random drug screenings, an opportunity to obtain a GED diploma, employment services and a chance to regain their suspended driver’s license.
The guest speaker for this event was Adam Cochran, who in 2004, was sentenced to seven years in prison for vehicular homicide, speeding, DUI and driving the wrong way. Cochran drove 70 mph the wrong way at night on the Highway 17 connector to Interstate 16, causing a crash that killed three women on their way home from church bingo. He had a blood alcohol level of 0.103 percent, above the 0.08 percent level considered legally drunk.
“When I get up in the morning, brush my teeth and look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I killed three people. You don’t want to wake up and feel that every morning. I don’t want to, but I do because of my choices,” Cochran said directly to the graduates. “Learn from your mistakes. You don’t want to become a statistic; you want to become a success story.”
After the graduates were presented with their certificates of completion from Superior Court Judge Leon Braun Jr., who presides over the DUI Court Program, they spoke about their experience with the program and thanked their supporters.
“I learned about myself. I got my life back because I went through a lot. During the 18 months that I was in the program, I lost my stepbrother, brother and cousin in a vehicle accident. And that just woke me up. I appreciate the staff and also the judge,” said Patricia Chambers, one of the graduates.
DUI and Drug Court Administrator Glenda Harriman said: “The program is important because it assists people who have an alcohol or drug-related problem. The six-month sentence is held in abeyance, pending their completion of the program.”
It also helps them through the process of getting their driver’s license back faster, Harriman said, adding that the program also helps people deal with their alcoholism.
To participate in the program, a person must have at least two DUIs and not have a record of certain crimes, such as a firearms charge or sex-related offenses. During group sessions, participants learn about substance abuse, relapse prevention, anger management, domestic-abuse issues and family management, and they are offered counseling on whatever issues they’re facing.
The return rate to the course is low, Harriman said. However, to meet grant requirements, the program must have a certain number of participants. Court administrators are working to get referrals to have people in to the program so the DUI Court can continue to operate.
During the graduation, Braun asked the audience to refer anyone who could be a candidate for the program to the court.
“It makes a difference. You may know someone who needs to be here,” he said.
“It’s definitely a benefit to (those in the program), and it’s different than anything they’ve ever done before,” Harriman added. “Many people have successfully completed the program and have gone on to not re-offend and continue in the community to be successful individuals.”
The DUI Court Program is funded by the Georgia Accountability Courts/Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.