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Nine graduate from drug court

Nine graduate from drug court

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 6:25 am

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. And in that, you are no different from the rest of us.” Those words — spoken by Weakley County General Sessions Judge Tommy Moore — captured the essence of a milestone moment recently at the Obion County Courthouse. Moore stood at a podium in the Circuit Court courtroom and addressed a packed house audience. The occasion was a graduation ceremony in which nine participants were formally recognized for having completed the 27th Judicial District drug court program. On Nov. 14, graduation certificates were formally awarded to: • Kim Arnold of Kenton; • Jana Gilliland, Brandon Gregg, Edward McIntyre and Alaina Wicker, all of Union City; • Paula Harvey of Paris; • Greg Martin of Hornbeak; • Christopher Smith of Obion; • Joe Williams Jr. of Dresden. The 27th District is comprised of Obion and Weakley counties. The drug program is managed by Circuit Judge Bill Acree Jr. and Moore. “Your family members and friends are proud of you. We hope the nine of you will come back to (future) graduations,” Acree said in his address prior to Moore’s keynote speaker speech. “When (the late) President Ronald Reagan was running for office, he made the statement, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’” Acree said. “I want to modify that and make a question for you to ask yourselves: ‘Am I better off now than I was before I (enrolled in) the drug court program?’ Also, ask yourselves, ‘Do I want to go back to what I was?’ “The answer is obvious. I say that because we all have problems and temptations. I want you to ask yourselves these questions every night.” The drug court program was envisioned in 2002 and went operational in December of that year. It has produced at least 70 graduates, each of whom satisfactorily completed a stringent 12-month rehabilitation program. “I think we’re beginning to see results of drug court, not only from the standpoint that a lot of people are no longer using drugs, but also because we’re seeing a reduction in the crime rate. These people are not committing crimes to support their habits,” Acree said. Only nonviolent offenders are eligible for the drug court program. They may apply after conviction of a felony offense and after being sentenced to prison. A drug court team assesses each application and makes a recommendation to presiding officials. A prison sentence is held in abeyance while the offender is in the drug court program. When one completes the program, he or she goes free, so to speak, but remains on probation for a certain period. “This is our 11th graduation,” Moore told the crowd. “The first one was in the fall of 2003.” He praised the 13 local officials who comprise the drug court team. “Our drug court is being recognized throughout the country as a model program for rural drug courts and in dealing with the methamphetamine problem,” Moore said. “We have had participants speak at different conferences and conventions.” Moore said Dr. Deborah Gibson, a member of the faculty at the University of Tennessee at Martin and a consultant to the drug court, has been appointed to membership on the Tennessee Drug Court Advisory Committee. “We are real excited about the program and what it’s doing,” Moore continued. “The transformation in the lives of its graduates is more than statistics, it’s the story of individual lives that have been changed forever. It’s about family being reunited. It is the story of hope for an end to addiction and crime.” The drug court program, Moore said, has given its graduates a new lease on life. He asked the nine to reflect on the fact that many people addicted to drugs die an early death. “Others live a life of hell and misery. Many end up in prison. Most destroy their health,” he said. “You have been rescued from that and have been given another chance and a tool to maintain sobriety the rest of your lives. “There is a right and there is a wrong. Do right.” Published in The Messenger 11.25.08

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