54A and 55th District Courts celebrate Sobriety Court Graduations

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By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Sobriety Court is a "life-altering program," said Honorable Donald L. Allen, Jr. opening the celebration of the 19th graduation of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court on Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 3pm in the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason, MI. Twelve graduates participated.

The graduates echoed his sentiment commenting that Sobriety Court "saved my life." Michael noted that "life becomes a lot easier when you quit blaming everyone else."

"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. "You, the graduates, are inspiring members of our community."

"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 the community."

54A District Court held its Sobriety Court graduation ceremony on Thursday, December 9th in Judge Filice's courtroom on the sixth floor of Lansing City Hall.

Hon. Louise Alderson began the ceremony with the All Rise philosophy of the National Association for Drug Court Professionals, which "describes how instead of imprisoning an addict, Drug Courts insert hope and support into the very lives of people who the traditional justice system says are hopeless."

"54A District Court in Lansing," she said, "provided the hope and support to seven Sobriety Court participants that culminated in their graduation from the program."

With these ceremonies, there are now 216 successful graduates of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court and 41 from 54A. 55th's program has been operational since 2004 while 54A Sobriety Court began in 2005. Both are recognized by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), which was established in 1994 to assist the planning, implementation, and operation of Drug Courts. There are approximately 2,400 other Drug Courts in the United States.

According to the NADCP, nationwide 75% of Drug Court graduates never see another pair of handcuffs. Drug courts save money. A recent study by the Department of Justice found a cost/benefit of $3.36 for every $1.00 invested in treating the drug-addicted in Drug Courts. Locally our courts are even more promising. In 2009, the 55th District Court Sobriety Court alleviated jail incarceration for OWI 3rd offenders by 570 days, saving Ingham County $30,780. The court also reduced OWI 2nd offenders by 434 days, at a savings of $23,436.

Since its inception, 54A District Court has reduced jail incarceration by 5,078 days at a savings of $253,900.

55th Sobriety Court has a recidivism rate of 6%, significantly better than the national average of 25%.

"I am honored to be here to celebrate your graduation," said Beryl Frenger, the keynote speaker for the 55th Graduation. "It has been a long and difficult road for you graduates" and for your families and friends. Asking the graduates to turn to look at their supporters, she said "You can see the love and pride in their faces."

Pride was evident in the face of one mother who said her son Michael, was much nicer now that he was sober. Other parents, spouses and siblings echoed her sentiment, happy to have their loved one back as a fully contributing member of the family.

54A and 55th District Court Sobriety Court programs have foundations that can accept donations. Both are substantially funded through grants.

Published: Thu, Dec 16, 2010

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