55th District Court Sobriety Court holds 25th graduation

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By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

The 55th District Court Sobriety Court held its 25th graduation on December 11th at the Mason City Hall in Mason, MI. With this ceremony, there are now 278 successful graduates of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court.

According to research conducted in April 2011, recidivism rates for the graduates are significantly better than the national average for similar programs.

* Nationally, the re-arrest rate for individuals who complete Drug Court is 25% (source: National Drug Court Institute, 2010)

* Locally, only 7% of 55th District Court Sobriety Court graduates have been convicted of alcohol or drug related offenses since graduation (source: 55th District Court, 2011)

Drug Courts save money. Local records indicate that OWI 3rd offenders previously received initial average sentences of 30 days in jail and OWI 2nd offenders were sentenced to an average of 14 days in jail. Participants in Sobriety Court are very closely supervised while remaining in the community, rather than being sentenced to initial jail terms.

In 2011, the most recent year with complete records available, 15 participants were admitted on charges of OWI 3rd and 24 participants on charges of OWI 2nd, reducing incarceration by a total of 786 days. At $54 per day (source: Ingham County Sheriff's Office), this represents a savings of $42,444.

Hon. Donald J. Allen, Jr. 55th District Court Judge presides over the 55th District Court's Sobriety Court.

"Our Sobriety Court continues to be a win-win situation, proving rehabilitation effectively protects the community, saves significant taxpayer money, and returns citizens to productive lives," Judge Allen stated.

"We are very proud of our program, our participants, and of the community support we consistently receive." Judge Allen continued, "The long term success of Sobriety Court is based upon close supervision of probationers by an interdisciplinary team dedicated to the safety of our community."

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

"It was this program or go to prison," said Cody, a graduate. "Sobriety Court saved my life" giving me a foundation for a sober lifestyle.

Each graduate that came to the podium to receive their certificate and discharge from probation expressed their gratitude to the program for setting them on a new path. Family members and friends who had provided support in the form of transportation and encouragement were also beaming as their graduate came forward. .

Dr. Mark Menestrina, MD, National Field medical Advisor for Reckitt Beenkiser Pharmaceuticals and medical Director of Southeast Michigan Community Alliance, was the keynote speaker. Dr. Menestrina, a recovering alcoholic, described addiction as "a chronic, progressive, fatal disease that goes on and on, which is the bad news. "

The good news, he said, "is that it's wonderful being sober."

Describing his path to sobriety, he said, "it is simple, find a meeting and a sponsor, accept a higher power and be grateful everyday that you are sober. It is a simple program for complicated people. The goal is to get happy."

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, proclaimed December 2012 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, urging all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.

55th District Court Sobriety Court asks 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, Dec 20, 2012

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