West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin recently discussed the role in Drug Courts in West Virginia with WVOW radio. Benjamin noted that Drug Court programs in West Virginia have been successful in getting people off of drugs and back on with their lives by getting them clean and sober. Benjamin said people have gone on from drug courts to college classes and the world of work during a recent interview.
Benjamin was recently in Logan County for a Drug Court graduation ceremony in Logan County.
Members of the Logan County Drug Court treatment teams, the Logan Probation Office, Logan County Circuit Court Judges Eric O’Briant and Roger Perry and Logan Prosecutor John Bennett were joined March 9 at the Chief Logan State Park Convention Center by Benjamin to celebrate a major turning point in the lives of several young people from southern West Virginia.
The Logan Drug Court and the Logan Juvenile Drug programs held their spring graduation ceremonies at the Convention center, where court officials spoke about hope and clients of the facilities discussed the changes the programs offered by Drug Court had made in their lives.
O’Briant welcomed everyone to the proceedings and thanked family members for the support they had shown their loved ones in the alternative sentencing program. O’Briant pointed out that the special guest speaker for the occasion was well known for his support of Drug Court programs in West Virginia, a state which got a late start on such projects, which had been around in other states since the 1990s.
Benjamin congratulated the graduates on their determination in sticking with the program and pointed out that any time people graduate from the Drug Court program is a good day.
“This is a new chapter in your lives,” Benjamin said, and he thanked the Drug Court Treatment Teams for the work they did in helping those who had struggled with addiction to change their lives.
“It is a calling of sorts,” Benjamin said, noting that people in Drug Court programs initially can be difficult to deal with, due to the personal and legal problems they are facing.
“It is not always easy,” he said, noting that thanks to the help and support Drug Court clients receive they sometimes can make great changes in their lives. Benjamin said many elected officials and community leaders also supported the program which can sometimes be controversial with the public.
Justice Benjamin pointed out that even though Drug Court programs can be more effective and cheaper than just warehousing people with substance abuse problems in jails that it can be risky for elected officials to support such projects and he thanked Logan Circuit Court Judges O’Briant and Perry for their support of such projects. Benjamin said that West Virginia began discussing the program around 2004-2005 while other states had been experiencing success with Drug Court programs since the mid-1990s.
Justice Benjamin pointed out that the graduates should be congratulated for what they had invested in the program and noted that Drug Court programs are not as easy as sitting in jail would be, because the program forces people to come face to face with their problems and cope with them.
“For those of you in the program, keep working it,” Benjamin said. “Drug Court is not easy, but the treatment teams are there to help you, and for our graduates, congratulations to you for coming to the end of a long journey.”
Benjamin said graduates should remember that life is about making choices and tough decisions.
“From here on out, nobody can stop you from making your life what you want,” he added.
Benjamin urged the graduates to look back on others still in the program and be ready to offer them help or advice. He also pointed out that they still had a support system and a place that cared about them and would continue to offer them encouragement in the Drug Court.