Three Graduate from 2013 Drug Court

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Published on May 17 2013 8:34 pm
Last Updated on July 14 2013 4:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

They all started using alcohol and other drugs when they were young teenagers.  Now, at last, the three 2013 graduates of Effingham Area Drug Court are clean and sober and celebrating life.

Greg Evans, Jeff Gill and Faith Leas were recognized in a graduation ceremony Friday at the Effingham County Government Center.  Evans has a special distinction as the first graduate from outside Effingham County, having been referred to the program from Fayette County.  Fayette, Jasper and Clay counties were added to the program in recent years and other counties are considering offering the program.

Drug Court is an alternative to a prison sentence, but Probation Officer Christine Winters said many offenders choose prison "because it's easier to do than complete Drug Court." 

The Drug Court regimen includes drug tests on a regular basis, sometimes several times a week, as well as regular court appearances and counseling sessions. 

It's a lifestyle change and several graduates indicated Drug Court gave their lives the structure they had lacked.

Families of the graduates were also saluted for the support they've provided through the Drug Court process, sometimes bearing the brunt for years of the wrong actions of their family members.  As Drug Court Judge Ericka Sanders put it, "You've been through hell, but now you're back."

Past Drug Court graduates are invited back to share how they're doing.  Brianne Martin said her thinking had been impacted by her mid-teens by the substances she was taking, saying at age 17, "I just was ready to die".  Martin said getting arrested was actually a good thing, saying, "When I got arrested, then I could go for help."

Sanders argued for an expansion of Drug Court, saying this year's graduates brings to 30 the number of people "who've broken the chains of addiction."  A slide show presented during the ceremony illustrated that 73% of those in prisons in the United States are addicts, but just 11% are receiving treatment.

Here's our conversation with Drug Court Judge Ericka Sanders following today's graduation ceremony...

(FROM LEFT, 2013 DRUG COURT GRADUATES JEFF GILL, FAITH LEAS AND GREG EVANS)