The Jackson County Drug Court was founded in 1989 and has won the Sue Bell Cobb award for the best Drug Court in the state.


Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John H. Graham is also the Vice President of the Alabama Association of Drug Court Professionals. This past July, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) held a national convention in Washington, D.C., and as a bonus they held an essay contest for a free $4,000 scholarship to attend the event, with over 6,000 in attendance. Airfare and accommodations were provided for the winners. Unbeknownst to each other, Judge Graham and Jackson County Drug Court Coordinator Wendy Trott both entered the contest – and they both won. Out of 200 essay entries, their two were chosen to represent Jackson County, Alabama at the convention and do a presentation. The topic: How have you implemented what you learned at the last NADCP convention into your local Drug Court program?
Judge Graham stated, “It was a great honor for our Jackson County program and for our team to be invited to give a presentation. Those scholarships were awarded based on the success of our program and the good work that we are doing here at home in Jackson County.”
Graham and Trott wrote about involving law enforcement and how it has impacted the recovery and law enforcement agencies for the better and involving the community as a whole through community service, involvement and incentives.
Trott stated, “I was honored to be one of the 10 winners out of the 200 applicants for the ALL Rise 2019 contest and hope that I represented Alabama well. It is always an honor to go and stand beside Judge Graham at the conference and share our ideas with the other Drug Courts. I learned new things and can’t wait to implement some of the great ideas into our Drug Court.”
Judge Graham and Trott gave their presentations on the first day, and on the second, Judge Graham gave another presentation with local artist, Sonya Clemons, who spoke about the Pictures of Hope Art Program established through the Drug Court program and federal grants. The program has received two grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Participants and their families are encouraged to attend the art class and tackle new projects every week. They spend time together, and to the parents and kids alike, it’s like therapy. Clemons stated, “I never could have imagined when I started Pictures of Hope, that I would be in Washington, D.C. speaking about it at a national conference. I knew art class could be great, but I never dreamed it would be as loved, impactful and such a blessing as it is to so many, me included.”
The Drug Court program is a minimum of 18 months long, and after entered into the program, participants are drug tested five times a week and must appear in Drug Court once a week. They must attend AA meetings, intensive outpatient therapy, and they have to get a job. They must earn a high school diploma or GED, get their driver’s license and complete 30 hours of community service. All their legal fees, including the monthly $200 Drug Court fee, and child support must be paid up to date. The goal is to normalize their lives, get them off welfare if possible and teach them to contribute - teach them how to live normally for the first time in their lives.
Through community outreach, participants get involved and learn a sense of community, how to provide for the community and how to give back. The Garden of Hope, a Scottsboro community garden, is maintained by participants and teaches them a different sense of responsibility. They participate in trash pick-up, and they go caroling together every year. Every fourth of July week, Drug Court also holds the Freedom Fest BBQ on the courthouse lawn, and everyone is invited to come and celebrate the hard work and sobriety of the participants while enjoying a delicious, free meal and a cool drink.
NACDCP attendees also heard about how the Drug Court participants send a letter to their arresting officer(s) and invite them to their Drug Court Graduation, held every Thanksgiving week. The topic of the letters follows a map of the officer being there during the lowest part of the participant’s life and being there to see where they are now. Just as the topic is the same for each letter, the tone is as well. Most credit the officer with saving their life by arresting them. They write about how low they were, and how being arrested has opened doors for them. One participant even stated, “Because of you I now have a career that allows me to help people just like me.” Most of the officers had never been thanked by an arrestee and were curious, and more than half of the invited officers attended the graduation. There, the officers were able to see the changes a person can achieve with the support from a community of positive, like-minds. Graham stated, “Our job is to restore people to full, healthy, dignified citizenship - as parents, as sober and law-abiding people, as taxpayers, as contributing members of the community.”
The participants were able to learn the officers are there to help and support them, not ruin their lives, bringing self-accountability into play once again. Restoring a sense of empowerment and control over one’s life by learning to accept the consequences of their actions.
These were the main topics discussed at the NADCP convention and what interested the other drug court professionals in attendance. This inspired other drug courts, with Graham being invited to speak in their states, like Montana and Wyoming. Judge Graham hopes by introducing the other sides of these communities - citizens, law enforcement and those in positions of authority will have a better understanding and be more likely inclined to contact community projects and resources like the Drug Court and the staff operating them. He also hopes they lead by example, the participants, law enforcement and legal community, inspiring other community members, citizens and agencies to reach out and help change lives for the better - together.
“I was reluctant at first to develop a Drug Court in Jackson County, but I quickly became a true believer once I saw what great good it and similar programs did for people. Being a Drug Court judge has become the most fulfilling and satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my professional life.” - Judge Graham.
Drug Court meets almost every Friday at 10 in the morning in Courtroom Number Two in the Jackson County Courthouse, and you are more than welcome to attend.

 

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Upcoming Events

18 Sep 2019
10:30AM -
IMPACT webinar
24 Sep 2019
05:30PM -
VFW & Auxiliary Meeting
26 Sep 2019
10:00AM -
Jackson Co. Caregiver Support Group
28 Sep 2019
08:00AM -
The Sanctuary on the Mountain yard sale
30 Sep 2019
06:00PM -
Harlem Wizards at NSM

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