A theme of change and second chances was prevalent in yesterday’s ceremony honoring ten graduates from the Troup County Superior Court Drug Court program.
Speaking of the program, one of the graduates commented that it “made me stronger. If you want to change, you’ll do the impossible to change.”
Judge Emory Palmer set the tone with his opening remarks about how the drug court works to help non-violent drug offenders “turn away from chaos, crisis and dishonesty and turn towards a life of calm, responsibility and self-respect.”
Rep. Randy Nix continued the theme in his invocation in front of the crowd of community leaders and families, saying “I serve a God of do-overs, of second chances, of forgiveness.”
On a screen above the stage, a video played with the testimonials of the graduates.
“Drugs keep whispering in your ear, ‘I love you,’” said one graduate of his addiction to methamphetamines. Another commented that her “whole world revolved around that and it confused me.” As they told their stories, it appeared that addiction took hold of many of the graduates in their teen years.
As the addictions spiraled, the drug abuse stripped them of their identity.
“It took away everything,” said a graduate, with another responding that she lost her “self-esteem, my sanity and self worth.”
Their arrests on drug charges often caught them at the lowest points in their lives. Some graduates blanched at the idea of the drug court program, while others whole-heartedly accepted the program.
“I got to do what I got to do to get my life back,” said one graduate.
The program, put in place here by Judge Jeanette Little, works with non-violent, misdemeanor substance abuse cases and works to turn around these drug offenders. Through the utilization of rigorous counseling, constant drug testing and frequent attendance of 12-step meetings, these offenders’ lives are turned around and they are made into productive citizens.
“It’s a lot,” said one graduate in the testimonial video while another continued, “it’s an opportunity to talk; to let go of those things keeping me in bondage.”
“I started to see things; they became clearer to me. I started to live,” said another graduate on the verge of tears.
The program “never slacked up,” added another graduate. “If they had given me too much rope, I’d have hung myself.”
Gov. Nathan Deal addressed the packed house. Referring to the 10 who were graduating, he said, “Just 10? I say, thank God for those 10! Those ten will not only change their lives, but the lives of their children and the lives of those around them.”
The governor went on to note that his son oversees a drug court in north Georgia and he has personally seen all the good it has done. When he became governor, he examined needed reforms to the criminal justice system and how instituting courts like drug courts can aid law enforcement, but also how these type courts can help turn the offenders around.
“Prosecution in and of itself is not beneficial to society,” he said. The governor reminded the graduates that if they are “ever faced with that temptation (of drug addiction), you now know who to call.”
Judge Jeanette Little told the group, “you’ve changed, you must never go back.”
With those words, the 10 graduates accepted a certificate and tokens from the assembled counselors and drug court administrators and stepped off the stage into a second chance on life.