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Recent event is a landmark for drug court

By By JOHN DILMORE JR. Publisher
The Escambia County Drug Court celebrated a milestone last night, ushering its first class of graduates into what staff members hope will be a new, drug-free phase of the participants' lives.
The Drug Court staff held a recognition ceremony for the five program participants at The Ritz in downtown Brewton Tuesday evening.
It was the first such event for the relatively new drug court, which was founded on Oct. 4, 2003.
The five participants are all people who were arrested for drug-related offenses, but were given a second chance to clear their records by participating in drug court.
Once a participant -- or client, as they are referred to by the court -- completes his or her treatment and societal obligations to the court, the charge which originally landed them there is erased from their record.
The court has provided hope for those in the system who have been arrested for drug crimes, but who are intent on turning their lives around.
The five drug court clients recognized Tuesday night for having completed the program have lived up their end of the bargain. In addition to participating in court monitored treatment programs, they have completed all the following steps which applied to them individually: gotten a high school equivalency degree, registered to vote, gotten or renewed a driver's license, paid treatment fees, stayed drug-free for six months, abided by court-ordered restitution.
Now that they have left the court-ordered phase of the program, Alverson said, these five clients can use the drug court and its resources as a support system as they try to stay clean. In addition, they may wind up being associated with the court in another way -- by serving on a peer review board that hears the cases of future drug court participants.
There are currently 45 clients participating in the Escambia County Drug Court, and a waiting list of arrestees who want to participate.
The staff has decided on 50 as a manageable number for the court at any one time, Alverson said.
The drug court operates with a five-person staff: Judge Bradley Byrne, who tries the cases; Alverson; Jerry Caylor, who as supervisor keeps watch over clients; and Tina Hardy, Alverson's assistant.