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Drug Court is ‘saving lives,’ grads reminded

SUMMIT – Lincoln, Pike and Walthall county Drug Courtparticipants took another step on the road to redemption Monday asthey and area officials celebrated completion of another phase ofthe rehabilitation program.

Fifty-eight participants were honored as they graduated fromDrug Court altogether or moved into the final stages of thefour-phase program. Fourteenth District Circuit Judge Mike Taylorsaid Drug Court is about redemption and participants doing what isnecessary to reclaim their lives.

“To buy back their lives, the participants pay a heavy price intime, money and dedication,” Taylor said.

Drug court, founded in 1999 by former area Judge Keith Starrett,includes intensive drug treatment, regular meetings with the judgeand required attendance at Narcotics Anonymous or AlcoholicsAnonymous meetings. He said the area program remains the “flagship”Drug Court for the state.

Taylor touted more than $90,000 in restitutions, fines and feesthat have been paid to the three counties by participants, but healso acknowledged that some participants have failed.

“The program’s not magical,” Taylor said. “Not everyone whostarts the program gets to see this day.”

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, a former area district attorney whowas Monday’s keynote speaker, echoed Taylor’s comments. He recalledDrug Court’s humble beginnings and success that has led to 11felony-level Drug Courts formed in the state.

“The more successful this program was, the more people wanted tobecome a part of it,” Lampton said.

Lampton quoted state Audit Department estimates indicating over$5 million could be saved by having 500 participants in DrugCourt.

“It’s more than just saving money. It’s saving lives,” Lamptonsaid.

Monday’s ceremony at Southwest Mississippi Community Collegefeatured eight graduates, 27 moving into Phase Three and 23 intoPhase Four. Phase Three involves a year of monthly reporting whilePhase Four is a year of nonreporting participation untilgraduation.

Calvin Pounds, 40, of Magnolia, is looking forward to his finalyear in the program. After a misstep that landed him in Parchmanfor 11 months, Pounds is back in Drug Court and makingprogress.

“When I came here, I had my mind made up to do the right thing,”Pounds said after the service.

During an earlier testimonial, Pounds recalled his Drug Courtjourney and how he have now started an assistance program forfellow addicts. He said helping others helps him.

“I was hard-headed at first,” Pounds said. “I can’t be thankfulenough for what Drug Court has done for me.”

Other participants and family members expressed similarsentiments.

“I feel like I’ve gotten my daughter back,” said the mother ofone participant, who has gone back to college and is making As andBs.

Jayess resident Jimmy Thomas, 49, who graduated to Phase Four,said Drug Court is a “selfish program.” However, he said Drug Courtparticipants have to take care of “number one” first before theycan be of benefit to others.

“We’re not good to anybody else if we’re not doing the rightthing,” Thomas said.

Court officials reminded participants that maintaining sobrietyand a drug-free life is a journey and not a destination. Taylorencouraged participants to continue their journey and to serve asexamples of Drug Court success.

“Sadly, a lot more people will need this program,” Taylor said.”We owe it to them to prove it works.”