The Atlantic Judicial Circuit Drug Court held a graduation ceremony Monday morning in a third-floor courtroom of the Liberty County Justice Center for 11 students who recently completed the intensive two-year outpatient program.
While presiding over the court and the graduation, Judge D. Jay Stewart welcomed families and friends of the graduates and thanked law-enforcement officers, probation officers and representatives with the public defender’s office for helping make the program a success.
“I wish I could say we have a 100 percent success rate,” Stewart said. “I will say, though, the program is well worth the time and effort. ... It doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is — if you complete this program, you can be a success.”
According to information provided by the court, since it was established four years ago, the Drug Court has had 113 clients or students from seven counties. Only 38 of those students were dropped from the program before graduating, which yields 67 percent retention rate.
Stewart said students who apply for the program first must pass a thorough background check to ensure they’ve committed no violent crimes. Once they’ve been accepted to the program, students are required to attend group and individual counseling several times a week, three Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week and court once a week.
Drug Court students also have to go through random drug screens, be employed full-time, earn a GED, perform 80 hours of community service, pay $2,000 toward the cost of treatment and pay child support and restitution obligations.
Rather than have a keynote speaker for the graduation event, Stewart said the court wanted to allow each graduate to speak about what the program has done for him or her. Before each graduate spoke, they received their diploma from Stewart. Some came with long, prepared notes, but most simply expressed their gratitude to the court, their families and God for helping them through the program.
Crystal Wheeler said the program changed her surroundings and way of thinking, helping her learn to like herself more. James Bullock said he had learned how to have fun without mind-altering drugs. Robert Evans said he now has a good job, and he is going to keep it. Michael Kicklighter said he learned to pick up the phone when he needs to talk to somebody who understands.
“This has been a long time coming,” Krishan Boyd said. “I thank God and my wife for never giving up on me over the last three years. I think I’m a better husband now, a better father, a better son, a better brother and a better cousin.”
Other students graduating from drug court included Nickolaus Babb, Alvin Golden, Lauria Meadows, Jonathan Morgan, Terry Risher and Matthew Strickland. Following the graduation, friends and family members were invited to attend a reception with the graduates in the first-floor jury room.