Drug court changes lives

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2010

By Staff
Week after week, the headlines pile up in our newspaper as individuals in our community are charged with drug crimes.
Those stories don’t even scratch the surface of the heartache caused for families when a loved one is using drugs.
But the Escambia County Drug Court, established in 2004, seeks to reduce the recidivism rates associated with drug crimes — and get people back on their feet, working and being productive members of our community.
The drug court program was initiated by Circuit Judge Bradley Byrne, who was recognized last week by the Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce as its Citizen of the Year, in large part because of his work to establish drug court and help change lives.
Judge Byrne was a wonderful choice for citizen of the year; his dedication to justice and his personal effort to help turn lives around through drug court have made a huge difference in our community.
His criminal drug court — which offers tough love for those participate but also gives them a firm foundation when they succeed — has also inspired the county’s family drug court, a quasi-civil program headed by District Judge Dave Jordan. The family drug court celebrated with its first graduate, April Booker, late last month.
These programs are not easy. They require strict discipline from participants and strong support from family members. Participants risk jail time when they backslide.
But the rewards for all involved are immeasurable, from the confidence gained by graduates to the stability returned to families. And our community certainly benefits when we can fight the war on drugs with improved tools that give drug addicts a hand up rather than put them in handcuffs.