Four new graduates serve as model examples of the benefits of
an intense rehabilitation program
BY MELANIE BUCK –
There are many who complain or have lost faith in the justice system. However, as proved in Polk County Circuit Court last week, there are programs that rehabilitate offenders to become productive members of society and stand as a testament to those that think addiction can’t be conquered.
Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner praises the graduates because he sees what they accomplish during their most trying times. “Our whole community should celebrate when a probationer completes drug court. A drug court graduate is equipped with the tools necessary to overcome drug addiction, but they must continue to make the right choices after they leave the program. It has been very rewarding for me to see some of our graduates and active participants overcome their addiction and become productive members of our community. What I really enjoy is when I see the drug court members who used to avoid me because we used to be on opposite paths.”
The Drug Court Program in Polk County is not the easiest road, but to four recent graduates of the program, it was the best road for them, and they and their support group, could not be more proud of the accomplishment of moving from the road to destruction to the road of recovery.
On Wednesday, November 4, Jamee Goodner, Robert Lanham, Jamie Romine, and Krishna Turner received their certificates for graduating Drug Court, with smiles that filled the room. Turner graduated with honors from the program because she had no violations during her term, which is almost unheard of according to Probation Officer Brittany Quinn.
Quinn is the only drug court officer in Polk and Montgomery counties and has worked very closely with the program for five years. The Drug Court Program is a strict outpatient substance abuse program that was created to curb substance addiction that often leads to other crimes. “The Drug Court Program is for anyone that has a substance abuse issue. They come with an array of different charges, a lot of theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, forgery, with drug problems,” said Quinn. She explained that candidates have counseling twice a week, around 80 hours per year of supervised community service, and have to report for color of the day, which is how they do random drug testing. They are also required to gain employment if they are able and they all have conditions of probation that they must also follow. Quinn explained, “It’s intensive outpatient and for someone that’s been abusing drugs for a long period of time, they can’t just stop and we don’t give up on them. Most of the ones we get are on probation for at least four years and most of them it takes the majority of their probation to complete.”
For some, like Turner, it just takes once. “It’s easy if you can just stay clean. It’s a very good program if you just do it and you have support. Steven [Free] and Brittany are pretty amazing people,” said Turner.
Turner began taking pills at the age of 15 and started methamphetamine at the age of 18, which led to trouble with the law. “I have a two year old and my grandmother has custody of her because I was so messed up. I’m in the process of getting her back.” Turner also has a three-month old son. Turner entered the drug court program on October 7, 2014 and found out she was pregnant with her son just one month later. “I found out that I was pregnant and that made it even tougher because if you fail a drug test while pregnant, you get sent off [to prison] until the baby is born.”
Turner attributes much of her success to her support system. “I had help from Travis, my fiancé, my mom, my dad and step-mom, and both of my grandmas, Jackie Turner and Mildred Sherrouse, who drove me for every trip to town, whether it be to report for color of the day, counseling, or court. Barbara and Charles Murphy helped me a lot too.” Turner is well pleased with her accomplishment that was gained with honors, “It feels great to be clean. I don’t have to worry about anyone stealing my stuff or getting poisoned. I have a family and they are very supportive. It feels a lot better than not knowing where you’re going to be the next day. I don’t want to find out what prison is like, I just want to stay clean.”
Quinn said about Turner, “Krishna is a self-determined, single mother. She has been diligent in seeking recovery by attending all group and individual sessions and expressing honesty in her communications. Krishna has not let the definition of addict become a self-fulfilling prophecy but has changed that definition to a recovering addict. This is shown in the fact that she has remained substance free throughout the program. Krishna has been a role model for others in the program. She exemplifies the hope of recovery that is available to all individuals who willingly seek it.”
Turner’s fellow graduates also spoke of what the program has done for them. Jamee Goodner said, “Drug Court has been a very good program for me. It forced me to pick myself up and deal with life head on…sober! I am very grateful and so is my family.” Adding some advice, Goodner quoted Shannon L. Alder, “Forget what hurt you in the past, but never forget what it taught you!”
“Drug Court has taught me to face my problems myself, using my own inner strength. Running away from my problems has only brought greater heartache,” said graduate, Robert Lanham. Lanham lives by a quote from Boba Fett, “You can run, but you will only die tired.” Jamie Romine added, “The drug court program has helped me a lot. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons the hard way. If not for drug court I would probably be dead by overdose. The people are great! I am going to miss Steven and Brittany; they’re awesome. This program has taught me to be happy and sober at the same time. I now love life!” “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” –William Churchill, added Romine.
Brittany Quinn said of the program, “It’s cheaper for the county for them to go through drug court. They’re supervised and it reduces theft and things. Most of them get clean to a level where the theft and stuff stops and it helps people in the community get clean. When they start using and become addicted other things start to happen and this keeps them clean.”
For over two decades, Drug Courts have led the charge towards a more humane, cost effective justice system. Research demonstrates that Drug Courts provide a highly effective alternative to incarceration for individuals whose involvement in the criminal justice system is rooted in serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. By keeping drug-addicted offenders out of jail and in treatment, Drug Courts have been proven to reduce drug abuse and crime while saving money. Statistics show that 75% of Adult Criminal Drug Court graduates never see another pair of handcuffs. Drug Courts significantly reduce crime as much as 45% more than other sentencing options and produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to $13,000 per client. These cost savings reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization. Drug Courts are also six times more likely to keep offenders in treatment long enough for them to get better, parents in Drug Court are twice as likely to go to treatment and complete it, and Family re-unification rates are 50% higher for Drug Court participants.
Riner said, “The drug court program takes a unique approach for the criminal justice system. It provides the court system with a community based treatment option for eligible, non-violent drug offenders. In drug court, the public defender, prosecuting attorney, drug court staff, and circuit judge work together to become a treatment team. Although we sometimes disagree on how to approach an issue, we all work together for the good of the program and its participants.”
As an added bonus incentive, upon graduation, Judge Ryan reduced each graduates’ amount of fees and costs left on their case. Goodner and Turner each received a $2,000 waiver and Lanham and Romine each received $1,000 waivers. Judge Jerry Ryan is proud of what the Drug Court Program has done for its participants and the County. “There seems to be a pervasive attitude in our county that the legal system fails to help our citizens who are addicted to illegal drugs. Here are the examples that prove that our court will not fail our citizens who reach out for help with their addiction. Through a combination of the guidance of their drug court personnel, their will power, determination and perseverance, these graduates have been able to overcome the addition that was destroying their lives and in doing so, have set an example for all to follow – that there is no limit to the human spirit. We are all very proud of the graduates,” said Judge Ryan.