39 graduate at 40th Drug Court

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The Journal Gazette on December 15, 2015 by Frank Gray

Allen Superior Court’s Drug Court held its 40th graduation ceremony Monday, with 39 graduates receiving certificates and also having charges against them dropped.

The various participants, from 21 to 59 years old, some facing first of­fenses and others with lengthy criminal records, spent between nine and 24 months in the program, under­going counseling and testing but getting an opportunity to shed their addictions and change their lives.

The Drug Court was instituted in 1996 as a way of taking addicts who dealt drugs small time or relied on crime to support their habits and giving them a chance to get clean. It was viewed with some skepticism, called by some a “hug a thug” program, Superior Court Judge Fran Gull said before the ceremony.

“It lets them get clean, stay clean, and lots of drug-free babies are born,” Gull said.

Since the program was instituted 19 years ago, there have been about 730 graduates, not counting Monday’s class. About one-quarter who start the program quit or are removed from the program.

The ability to have a charge dismissed is a big incentive to stick with the program, Gull said. “If you’re looking at a B felony, that’s 20 years. There’s a huge benefit to finishing the program.”