Drug Court program provides second chance for offenders

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Recently, the Covington County Drug Court Program graduated Gracy Black. The Drug Court Program, directed by the Covington County District Attorney’s Office, and presided over by Probate Judge Stacy Brooks, offers first-time drug offenders an opportunity for restoration and ongoing sobriety, and a chance to maintain a clean criminal record.

Black, the 356th graduate of the program, began using drugs at only 15 years old. She recounted that she began with marijuana, and quickly transitioned to harder drugs, like prescription pills and then methamphetamine. She became pregnant at 18 with her son. At age 19, and while 6 months pregnant, Black was arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance and Chemical Endangerment of a Child.

Thereafter, spurred primarily by fear of losing her son, Black committed to a life change and entered the Drug Court Program. Black reflected on the change in her mindset in the four years she spent in the program saying, “At first, it seemed like a pain, and I felt they were trying to make [us] fail, but that wasn’t true. The program is here to help people see that there is hope. It’s a great opportunity if you use the resources it provides.”

It was not always an easy road for Black, as she was sanctioned multiple times during her enrollment in Drug Court, including one sanction for a required long-term rehab program. Following rehab, though, Black set goals for herself and achieved each one. “I am goal-oriented and have a plan, whereas before I was reckless with little thought toward the future,” Black said.

Indeed, Black has set goals, and has achievements to show for them. In addition to her Drug Court graduation, Black recently celebrated completion of her GED one morning, and that same afternoon graduated from the Women in Welding Program at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. Black has already accepted a job as an electrician’s apprentice.

The Drug Court Program, together with the Veterans Court Program and newly created Opiate Diversion Program, each offer participants the opportunity to obtain sobriety, life skills, education, employment, and find accountability, in exchange for an ultimate dismissal of pending criminal charges. “These are each programs we are proud to offer to our community, designed to take first-time, low-level offenders and restore their abilities to contribute successfully to our society, without the stain of a felony conviction on their record. Gracy Black, and many others like her, are huge victories in the ongoing fight against drug addiction,” said District Attorney Walt Merrell.

Treatment Courts Coordinator, Sabrina Cobb, and Substance Abuse Coordinator, Laura Bartholomew, each of whom have worked closely with Black during her time in Drug Court, surprised Black at each of her graduation ceremonies. Cobb commented, “We were so excited and proud of Gracy, there was no way we were going to miss her LBWCC graduation. Gracy exemplifies what this program is all about and why we keep fighting. She started with so many doubts about her strengths and abilities, but has accomplished so much during her time with us. She has exceeded our expectations, and we are thrilled with her success.” Bartholomew added, “Gracy’s independence and confidence in herself have grown tremendously. Once she found her drive to overcome life’s circumstances, she never turned back. She is a remarkable young lady and I couldn’t be prouder of her. “

Black is on her way to a new life, in no small part due to her hard work. Now two years sober, she wished to encourage others battling addiction. “While everyone is different, you have to work the steps and keep working them. You’ll have ups and downs, but keep moving forward. Find an accountability partner and never give up. This Program pushes you to be the best version of yourself. I made it, and I’m now able to be the mother my son deserves, and one he can look up to. It has made me into a headstrong, respectful member of society, and that is someone I never thought I would be.”