Sobriety Court holds 24th graduation


By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

If there were a theme to the 24th graduation of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court, it would be that Drug Courts Work. They save taxpayer's money and help keep the streets safe.

According to the court, nationally, 75% of individuals who complete Drug Court are not re-arrested.

Ingham County's 55th District Court does better than that.

Ninety one percent (91%) of Sobriety Court's 267 graduates have not been re-arrested for alcohol or drug related offenses.

Drug Courts save money. Consider the following:

* Drug Courts save up to $13,000 for every individual they serve and return as much as $27 for every $1 invested.

* Nationwide, for every $1.00 invested in Drug Court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal justice costs alone.

* Drug Courts produce cost savings ranging from $4,000 to $12,000 per defendant. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.

And, as Hon. Donald J. Allen, Jr. 55th District Court Judge noted, Drug Courts are six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better.

Judge Allen thanked the service providers and his staff, Da'Neese Wells, Chief Probation Officer & Sobriety Court Coordinator, Eva Higgins and Amy Iseler, Probation Officers, and then called the graduates to the front of the room for the ceremony.

The fourteen graduates, taking their seats, were proud, happy and gratified to be part of a successful program.

"This program is outstanding," said Greg, a graduate who had tried re-habilitation programs without success. Sobriety Court gave "me a solid foundation and the tools to continue" a sober lifestyle. "I am thankful I qualified for it."

Others expressed their gratitude saying:

* It's amazing what Sobriety Court does for people.

* This is a new beginning.

* I am grateful I was offered the opportunity to be in a program like this and change.

* It allowed me to find what I needed in life.

* Judge Allen's a good 'nudger.'

Relatives echoed those thoughts:

* This program brought his life together.

* Today is a celebration of courage, strength, and hope. My husband is sober today.

* We have hope today.

* I was grateful the day you got pulled over--you needed that.

Sheriff Gene L. Wriggelsworth, the keynote speaker, began his speech explaining that while the problem is severe there is a humorous side. To illustrate, he told this true story:

"At about 3 am one winter morning, a Montana State Trooper came upon a car parked on the side of the road, stuck in the snow, the engine running and the emergency lights on. An elderly man was passed out behind the wheel with a nearly empty vodka bottle on the seat beside him."

"The driver woke up to the Trooper's tap on the window and, seeing the flashing lights, he panicked, jerking the car into drive and hitting the gas. The car's speedometer showed 50 miles an hour, but it was still stuck in the snow, the wheels spinning. The trooper began running in place next to the car. The driver thought the trooper was keeping up with him. After 30 seconds, the trooper yells, 'Pull over.'"

"The man nodded, turned his wheel and stopped the engine. He was arrested, amazed that a trooper could run that fast."

While that incident was funny, Wriggelsworth explained, the problem of drunk driving is very serious. The legislature passed some harsh laws to deal with the problem, but it also passed Sobriety Court legislation to try a different approach to the issue. He went on to express concern that the funding for Sobriety Courts, unless renewed, will end in 2014.

Sobriety Court, he said, "saves lives, keeps roads safe, and impacts families. I commend Judge Allen for his program and all of you for successful completion."

55th District Court Sobriety Court urges everyone to get involved by email or calling members of Congress in support of continued drug court funding, share your story on the National Association of Drug Court Professional's website, or visit the court.

Published: Thu, Sep 6, 2012