Drug Court graduates eight participants

Published 4:53 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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On Friday, eight men and women graduated in Greenville from the Second Judicial Circuit Drug Court, a program created by the Alabama legislature to enable people charged for drug related crimes to rehabilitate their behavior toward a new, sober life.

District Judge Adrian Johnson, who presided over the court proceedings and graduation, said the program gives those convicted of drug-related crimes in Butler, Crenshaw, and Lowndes counties the opportunity to have their charges dismissed after successfully completing the program.

“Drug court is a statutorily created program that enables people charged for certain serious, nonviolent offenses or certain types of misdemeanors that are drug offenses or drug related offenses to plead into the program,” Johnson said. “Everybody in Drug Court has a jail sentence hanging over their heads. There’s only two ways out of drug court — you either graduate or you go to prison. There is no in between.”

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According to Johnson, the program keeps people convicted of drug-related crimes in their homes and communities, where they are not costing taxpayers money for upkeep in the prison system.

“They have the opportunity to get over their issues with drugs and alcohol, receive treatment, and pay their court costs and fines while they complete drug court,” Johnson said. “The benefit of successfully completing the program is having their charges dismissed. Because we have an expungement provision on Alabama law, they can apply to have their record expunged [after graduation].”

Participants accepted into the program complete daily call-ins for welfare checks, attend a monthly professional development class, consent to random drug tests, pay all court fees and fines, perform community service, and complete two hours each week with an approved drug or alcohol support group. Each person also completes an evaluation and, when needed, undergoes inhouse or outpatient substance abuse treatment.

Charles Box, minister at  Walnut Street Church of Christ in Greenville, has volunteered with the program almost from its inception around 20 years ago.

“Drug Court is a wonderful program for people who have drug sentences that are nonviolent,” Box said. “Their attorneys can attempt to plead them into drug court, which is a year-long program where people can learn sobriety and are encouraged to get jobs and their driver’s license.”

Box leads a professional development class where participants learn to overcome life challenging concerns and discover they can improve their lives to move beyond the offenses that led them into court.

“It’s a court just like any other court,” Box said. “[Participants] will have things they must do to try and improve themselves. One is a class we do on the first Saturday of each month, where we deal with things that show people they can do better in life.

“I try to befriend and help people find the right way one on one and in my class. They become friends and I work with them teaching things people need to know to be successful.”

Box enlists community leaders and court officials to speak to the class, helping participants understand that event leaders and officials grapple with life’s struggles.

“The classes are designed to help [participants] know that problems are no excuse to use drugs,” Box said. “I teach about finance, attitudes, and how to deal with family matters. We talk about honesty and choices too, just things that can make a difference for families and for the individual who’s in our court system.”

Johnson said the program welcomes volunteers to become involved with the effort. For more information, contact the Circuit Court office at (334) 548-2591.