A milestone for 3 in Oxford drug court

By The Associated Press

OXFORD — The first three people to complete the drug court program in Mississippi’s 3rd Circuit Court were set for a graduation ceremony Tuesday in Oxford, including a keynote speech from state Supreme Court Justice Ann H. Lamar.

“She’s the person who persuaded me to start the drug court here,” Circuit Judge Andrew Howorth told The Oxford Eagle (http://bit.ly/rlZGun). “I’m glad she’s able to come back and speak to our graduating class and their families and friends attending the ceremony.”

Drug courts provide judges with a sentencing alternative that focuses on rehabilitation

The 3rd Circuit drug court was formed in January 2008 and took in its first clients in April 2008. Three of those initial clients were set to graduate in Tuesday’s ceremony, along with five others who have completed the program.

Since its beginning, the 3rd Circuit drug court has had 218 people participate in the program from around the district, which includes Lafayette, Marshall, Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Tippah and Union counties, but is held in Oxford.

It generally takes about three years to complete the three-level program.

Those eligible for drug court are generally people who have been arrested for possession of illegal drugs, repeated alcohol-related felony offense or crimes of theft due to needing money to buy drugs to support their habit. Drug dealers are not accepted into the program unless they can prove they sell drugs to support their own habits. Their sentences are generally suspended until they complete the program. Depending on the circumstances, many will be eligible to have the original charges removed from their record upon completion of the program.

Howorth said while only eight are graduating in this first class, several more will be eligible to graduate in the coming months.

“Some of those who started the program three years ago might have had some problem that stalled their graduation,” he said. “They may have dropped down a level because of a dirty drug test.”

In the past three years, Howorth has watched as people changed their lives around and freed themselves from the binds of drug addiction.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he said. “It’s great to watch every day. But sometimes, it’s horrible and disappointing when people aren’t living up to our requirements. But seeing people take ownership of their lives is what keeps us going.”

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Information from: Oxford Eagle, http://www.oxfordeagle.com