Clean slate

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 13, 2012

Drug court director Ashley Tyson and staff members Erica Thomasson and Hunter Kinsual are shown with the program’s first graduates - Farold Staley, Javis Nelson and Laura Harper.

Farold Staley, Javis Nelson and Laura Harper are the first graduates of the Covington County Drug Court program.

The three, along with the late James Edward Crayton who passed away Monday with cancer, were honored Wednesday for completing the diversionary program.

“I commend you for the effort you put forth,” said Circuit Judge Lex Short as he dismissed the drug charges for each graduate. “It took fortitude and strength, but now the real work begins.”

Drug court is typically for first-time offenders who are charged with possession – not distribution – of illegal drugs or a drug-related crime. The person pleads guilty, and gets a suspended sentence. Then, individualized plans are developed, usually beginning with rehab. Participants meet regularly with a case manager, have periodic drug tests, work with the court referral officer and attend classes. They are encouraged to seek employment and to pay their fines.

Program director Ashley Tyson said at present, there are 40 participants in the program; however, the goal is to accommodate 75 by year-end. She said the day’s proceedings were “bittersweet.”

“We are so excited to finally have a group of graduates who can move forward in their lives and prove the success of the substance abuse treatment and education they have received while participating in the drug court program; however, the court proceedings were also bittersweet, as we also had to dismiss two participants who refused to abide by the guidelines established by the drug court,” she said.

“We anticipate that this is only one of many graduations to come in the future; because we know that the cycle of substance abuse and addiction has taken a toll on many of the people and families within our community,” she said. “It is a problem we all must face and the drug court wants to be a part of the solution.

“If a person has the desire to completely abandon their substance abuse as well as avoid the repercussions a felony record imposes, drug court is definitely a great option,” she said.