Kicking a drug addiction is not easy, but for the four people who stood before West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin Wednesday, the rewards are great.
Marshall County Circuit Judge David Hummel introduced Benjamin as always supportive of the people of West Virginia.
"He's here because he cares about you," said Hummel to those gathered, which included the graduates, their families, probation officers, Mental Health Court personnel, circuit court personnel, people still undergoing drug court rehabilitation and Prosecutor Jeff Cramer.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin, from left, Marshall County Prosecutor Jeff Cramer and Marshall County Circuit Judge David Hummel pose for a picture during a drug court graduation on Wednesday.
Benjamin spoke with the graduates, saying that he always loves coming to see people graduate.
"It is important to recognize the achievement made by graduating," said Benjamin. "It's not easy. You look back and say, 'Wow, I've changed.' With some help, look at what you have accomplished."
He stressed the importance of support in the battle to overcome addictions and destructive habits, and thanked both the drug court personnel and the families of recovering addicts who have supported them through their efforts.
Drug Court Coordinator Jennifer Call described the drug court system, who is eligible for it and what it entails.
"It is for nonviolent offenders who have committed a crime and are diagnosed with drug addiction or abuse," Call said. "Someone has to make a referral for someone to enter the drug court program, and the prosecutor can approve or deny them. The defendant can't have any abuse to children, no sex offenders, no physical abuse of any kind."
Once approved for the program, participants are given a strict regimen of activities designed to help them overcome their addiction in lieu of jail time. For a year, they have to attend classes five days a week, submit to three drug tests each week, and attend two to three Narcotics Anonymous meetings weekly. They also have to attend drug court proceedings each week, and do eight hours of community service. On top of all that, Call said, most are also holding a job during the process.
"It really is difficult, but it beats going to jail," Call said, noting there have been "probably 31 graduates" in the last two years, which she considers very good.
Destiny Fish, one of the graduates, said the program has helped her turn her life around.
"I've grown up a lot, and I have a lot of responsibilities that I can actually handle now," Fish said.
To people still working their way through the process she said, "I know you don't want to be here, but it's all worth it. Everything changes, but only if you want it to change."
Benjamin said to the graduates, "Turn around and see those coming up behind you. You are role models now."