55th District Court Celebrates 20th Sobriety Court Graduation Ceremony

By Roberta Gubbins

Legal News

There were 13 graduates at the 20th Sobriety Court Graduation Ceremony held in the courtroom in the Ingham County Courthouse in Mason. The courtroom, filled with graduates, their family and friends in addition to the members of the interdisciplinary team that guides the progress of the participants, law enforcement who start the process with the arrest, elected officials and probation, applauded as each was called to the front of the courtroom.

Hon. Donald Allen, Jr., 55th District Court Judge, opened the ceremony saying that the national re-arrest rate for drug courts is 25% while the rate for "our program is 17% and that's for all classes of arrest, for people who are re-arrested for alcohol or drugs it's 7%."

Ingham County Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook delivered the keynote address. She recognized the amount of work needed to get through the program.

"You have to attend countless meetings," she said, "participate in numerous drug and alcohol screenings and are required to appear several times before Judge Allen." She asked that the audience give a "loud and rambunctious round of applause to show our respect and our appreciation for our graduates and their accomplishments that are being recognized this afternoon."

The audience complied with whistling, clapping and cheering, sounds not often heard in the somber courtroom. The graduates beamed.

The ceremony continued with each graduate called to the podium to be joined by family, friends and mentors. Each spoke of the efforts taken, the changes made and the positive effects on the families. Judge Allen gave the graduates their discharge papers from probation along with a copy of their mugshot taken when they were arrested, pictorial evidence of the changes made.

Mentors of the graduates made such comments as, "I am overwhelmed by his improvement. We're really proud of him. You have improved your life and the lives of those around you."

The graduates recognize the work involved in completing the two-year program, commenting, "You have to pay attention and keep focused. It's like boot camp and it's not for everyone. I found it hard to keep a journal--we have to write in it everyday."

"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."

Research continues to show that Drug Courts work better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

* Nationally, 75% of individuals who complete Drug Court are not re-arrested.

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

* With this ceremony, there are now 214 successful graduates of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court.

Like the other 2,500 operational Drug Courts in the United States, the 55th District Court Sobriety Court is a judicially-supervised court docket that reduces correctional costs, protects community safety, and improves public welfare. In Drug Courts, seriously drug-addicted individuals remain in treatment for long periods of time while under close supervision. Drug Court participants must meet their obligation to themselves, their families, and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations.

Rebecca Bahar-Cook, the keynote speaker, serves the 4th Commission District in downtown Lansing. Appointed to serve in 2005, Ms. Bahar-Cook was elected in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Currently Ms. Bahar-Cook is Chair of the Judiciary committee and is a member of the Finance committee. She has also served on the Human Services committee. In addition, she serves on the Board for the Tri-County Agency on Aging, the Ingham County Land Bank, and The Potter Park Zoo.

Published: Thu, Apr 28, 2011

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