NEW BRUNSWICK—Twenty participants graduated Dec. 1, from Middlesex County Drug Court, which held a ceremony in recognition of the dedication and hard work they exhibited to successfully complete an intensive probationary and drug treatment program.
More than 250 people, including Superior Court judges, Middlesex County probation workers, prosecuting attorneys and public defenders involved in Drug Court, attended the ceremony at the Freeholder Meeting Room at the Middlesex County Administration Building in New Brunswick.
The graduates were presented with framed certificates commemorating their participation in the program and in the graduation ceremony, which was the third since the program began in September 2004 as an alternative to incarceration.
Each graduate spoke to the audience, thanking the Drug Court staff for helping them complete the program. Many of the graduates also encouraged those still enrolled in the program to keep working to attain productive, drug-free lives.
“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, and that’s what this Drug Court has given me: A future,” said Joshua K., keynote speaker and graduate from last year’s program.
“Recovery isn’t easy and nobody said it would be, but it is worth it,” he said. “There are people in prison and sitting in jails wishing they had your opportunity,” Joshua K. said. “Don’t waste it.”
Superior Court Judge Travis Francis, who is assignment judge at the Middlesex County Courthouse, congratulated the graduates, and reminded them that Drug Court recognizes that “drug abuse is not just a crime, but an illness that needs to be addressed.”
Superior Court Judge Lorraine Pullen, who presides over the weekly Drug Court sessions at the courthouse, and monitors the progress of more than 260 enrollees, said the program will not only help them, but will help their families and friends.
The judge pointed to a toddler, whose mother was among graduates, noting the mother has recovered and her child was born drug-free.
“Men, too, become better fathers,” Pullen said, “because they are no longer focusing on themselves. They see the bigger picture. This program has a lot to offer.”
The judge also introduced Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Meuly as being “very instrumental in the success of this program.”
Meuly, who has been working with the program since its inception, encouraged participants to emulate those who graduated. “Drug Court offers you a door. It offers you a way out. … And these 20 people were willing to do that,” Meuly said.
Those who plead guilty to drug offenses, or non-violent drug-related offenses, are offered an opportunity to join the program. Enrollees are required to follow strict procedures, including making weekly visits to Drug Court and to probation officers, who assess each individual’s progress.
Participants also are required to undergo drug treatment and counseling, and must have jobs or attend school full time. In addition, they are regularly tested to ensure they remain drug- and alcohol-free during probation.
Those who violate various requirements, or fail to complete the program, run the risk of being sentenced to prison.
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