Drug Court recognizes 3 graduates
by Wes Mayer
Three program participants - two men and a woman - graduated from the Coweta County Drug Cour t on Thursday.
'These are people who have come from a hard place but have turned around,' said Jennifer Barnett, Coweta County Drug Court coordinator. 'They are now working full time, are back with their families and are furthering their education.'
The Coweta County Drug Court is an intensive program designed to help those convicted of non-violent crimes in Coweta overcome their addiction to drugs. The Drug Court requires participants to spend at least 18 months in the program, and all three graduates have been in the program since 2011, Barnett said.
Those who choose to plead into the program in court must be recommended by the Drug Court Team, consisting of the Drug Court coordinator, a law enforcement officer, a probation officer, the defense attorney, a district attorney and the therapy team, with Judge Joseph Wyant presiding. If allowed in, participants who complete the program may have their charges dropped or sentences shortened.
According to Barnett, with these three graduates, Ronnie Shane Daniel's charges and eight years of probation were dropped, Keila Wilkerson's five-year sentence is over, and the third graduate, who did not want his name published, also had all probation and charges dropped.
Participants are required to pay a $150 per month fee in order to allow the Drug Court to provide them with services. The program involves different phases of out-patient testing. Participants must be regularly drug tested, must attend Judge Wyant's court with the Drug Court Team twice a month, must attend 12-step recovery counseling in groups and individually, and become involved with community service. Participants must work full time while in the program, further their education and receive a GED if high school was not completed. Daniel received his GED while in the program.
At the moment, there are 32 participants in the program, and the Drug Court is constantly accepting new participants. Since starting in 2010, the Coweta County Drug Court has had nine graduates, with these new three making the number 12.
Thursday's graduation began with an introduction from Judge Wyant, who quoted the appropriate words of Aristotle: 'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.' Wyant told the audience of family members and program participants about his struggles in college and how he was able to find a path, just like the three preparing to graduate.
Each graduate got up and spoke a few words, thanking the program and everyone involved for giving them a second chance, and telling those still in the program to not give up hope and carry on.
'Drug addiction can be treated with willingness, honesty and dedication,' Wilkerson said. 'Now I am a better woman, a better mother, a better daughter, a better sister and a better friend.'
The graduation concluded with Barnett providing a few statistics of the three graduates. She said, combined, the three graduates paid more than $9,000 in fees, attended 392 counseling meetings, and took 467 urinalysis tests over the past 18 to 24 months.