Monmouth Drug Court Graduates Get Second Chance
Many of those enrolled in Monmouth County’s Drug Court have had lived hard lives filled with struggle and addiction, however for the 24 graduates this year, it symbolizes a new beginning to their life.
With a combined 82 years of sobriety and with tens of thousands in fines paid, the 14th graduating class from the New Jersey Superior Court Monmouth Vicinage gathered with friends and families (many of whom were brought back into their life because of the program)and new members to the program, at the Manalapan Branch of the Monmouth County Library to receive their certificate of accomplishment from Monmouth Counties Drug Court.
92% SUCCESS RATE OF STAYING CLEAN
The keynote speaker for the graduation ceremony was delivered by state drug court manager for the judiciary, Carol Venditto. She says Monmouth Counties program is exemplary of how addicts can not only get clean but completely turn their life around and become productive citizens. She cites that not only has the county given a fresh chance to 208 total graduates of the program, she reminds everyone that the there are now 190 children who have their mother or father back. She states that the program work, with only an 8% rate of new offenses amongst graduates and a less than 2% imprisonment rate, she quoted Governor Christie in his belief that “no lives are disposable.”
Diane, a graduate who volunteers speaking to other addicts in prisons and meetings says one of the scariest things new members face is an entirely new set of rules to live by.
“It’s a process and we’re not familiar with the process in the beginning and being responsible in the beginning. So those things are like going against the grain in the beginning.”
Superior Court Judge Thomas Scully has presided over the program since the fall of 2006 and he admits the program helps save the lives of not only the participants but of their families and friends as well. Probation officer Jill Trudel closely with many of the graduates and is just one of the many parole officers, councilors, and specialists in the drug court program. She notes the hard work every participants in the program has to put forth, noting that while many in society might have at one time viewed them negatively, “they are truly magnificent wonderful human beings. They have their sobriety, doing it one day at a time.”
A TOUGH FOUR PHASE PROGRAM
Though the Monmouth Drug Court program is in its 10th year with already 14 graduating classes under it’s belt, it’s by no means an easy one. Those who are accepted to the rigorous four phase program non-violent offenders go through a tightly structured regimen of treatment and recovery services. Visits with probation officers, random drug tests, attend group meetings tackling addition, as well as repay financial debts to society. By the time they receive their certificate of completion, they have rebuilt their lives and have remained sober for several years.
Steven went from living in the woods struggling with alcohol and drug addiction to getting back into society and being productive citizens.
“It’s wonderful, wonderful to help people and live a normal life.”
He admits that his trip to get from addiction to sobriety hasn’t been easy, however he’s learned to move beyond destructive behavior.
“You know I make mistakes but I know how to deal with them today. Drug court and AA taught me how to live life.”
PURSING ONCE-IMPOSSIBLE OPPORTUNITIES
For many of the graduates, getting a chance to be reunited with families and pursue opportunities that at one time never seemed possible.
Dorothy who was greeted off stage with hugs from her three children believes there is a bright future ahead.
“College, but because I have three children that’s on a hold right now, but that’s a goal. I’d like to own a home and all of those things are going to happen for me, all of those things are possible. One foot in front of the next.”
One of the things attributed to the success of drug court is in addition to it’s strict rules, the program builds a positive community for recovery.
Graduate Andrea says that the staff always provides support through the challenges recovering addicts face.
“Drug court as a community is like a family. When you need help or if you’re not understanding something you can go to your officer and all honesty and they will guide you in the right direction. “
Trudel says that one of the requirenments for graduation from the program is to reach out and help support others. Andrea agrees that the support they receive and in return give out is what makes their success possible.
“Leading by example and giving back what was so freely given to us, and if we’re able to help the next person then we would be damned if we didn’t.”
Though they technically “graduate”, the drug court program does not end once they walk off stage. Trudel says she personally keeps a close connection with graduates.
“I keep these graduates on my phone, I ask them to speak up at meetings and to share their strength hope and experience with those just starting .“
Dorothy admits though it’s a little scary to leave, “The safety net was removed, but not the network that we have built over the last few years.”
Trudel believes all of the graduates can succeed, they just to use what they learned from the program and continue doing it one day at a time.
“I look at it where they’ve gotten the tools, they’ve gotten the materials to build the house, and now it’s time they start building a house on their own. “
So what’s the future hold for them? For Diane the answer is “It’s unlimited that’s all I can say, it’s unlimited.”