In October, 2007, the Muscogee County Adult Felony Drug Court started with just one participant. Now, it has over 100, with 75 graduates.
This year’s graduating class — 17 participants — is the largest since the court was started.
The drug court is one of the 100 accountability courts in the state of Georgia. It accepts adults who have pleaded guilty to non-violent drug felonies. There is an application process and not every applicant is accepted.
Successful completion of the five-phase program, which includes random drug testing for the duration and mandatory court meetings, means the removal of the felony conviction from participants’ records.
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Judge Frank Jordan said that the drug court is a cheaper alternative to detention, and that the sobriety tools participants gain don’t have an expiration date.
“If we keep someone sober for six months, that’s a benefit even though they don’t graduate,” he said.
At this year’s ceremony, participants mingled with their families; alumni of the program returned to shake hands with Jordan.
“It’s a fantastic program,” said Alice Ann Walker, who has been clean for 18 months after more than two years working with the court.
Walker graduated Wednesday. She was arrested in December of 2010 after a DUI and possession charge for pills. Her breakthrough was religious.
“When I started, I may not have (recommended the program), but along the way I see what God was doing,” Walker said.
Since the spring, Walker has been attending a local ministry called Love Revolution, where she sings on the worship team. She also works as a server at IHOP. She’s considering going back to school and finding some way to give back to the program.
“You can be clean, but if your heart is not healed — I think people need to be healed from their past hurts,” Walker said.
Deborah Bass graduated alongside Walker. She was arrested in 2011 for crack possession.
Bass relied on a large support system, including her family and her new husband — and God. She said that Dayna Solomon, the drug court coordinator, taught her a handy tip.
“She told me to put a rubber band around my wrist, and every time I feel like using, I should pop myself on the wrist,” Bass said.
Jordan tells potential applicants that the program “will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”
But the reward is worth the work.
“The big thing is they get their life back through treatment,” Jordan said. “They get their families back.”