Drug Courts in Maryland: changing lives

White House drug policy leader visits Anne Arundel Circuit Court drug treatment court

It’s not often that someone from the White House drops in on a local graduation. But that’s just what happened in May, when National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske came to Annapolis for Anne Arundel County Circuit Court’s Drug Treatment Court graduation.

Kerlikowske said his visit was a display of the Administration’s commitment to expand drug courts. Just before his visit, in a special statement about National Drug Court Month in May, President Obama praised drug courts as a smart investment and highlighted their effectiveness at reducing substance abuse and crime while saving money.

National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske
National Drug Control Policy
Director Gil Kerlikowske talks to
drug treatment court graduates
while Judge Mulford presides.

Drug courts identify drug addicted, prison-bound offenders and place them under ongoing judicial monitoring, drug testing and community supervision, coupled with long-term treatment services. Research shows drug courts are the most successful and cost effective program for dealing with drug-addicted offenders in the criminal justice system, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

Maryland’s first drug treatment court began in Baltimore in 1984, and the program has expanded to include more than 40 drug treatment courts throughout the state. There are currently more than 2,400 drug courts operating in the United States.

Judge William C. Mulford II presided over the graduation for five people who successfully completed Anne Arundel County Circuit Court’s adult drug treatment court.

“Addiction is a terminal illness. Drugs can kill, and drugs will kill. These graduates have just completed the first step toward recovery. They have worked hard and will need to use the skills developed in the drug court program in their everyday lives to continue on a successful path,” Judge Mulford said. “I don’t want to get the call that they relapsed. I want them to do well.”

While there was a national spotlight on the event, it was still a very personal celebration for the graduates and their families.

“I was tired of letting my family down,” said Mark Cranston, Jr. “It started with prescription drugs after a car accident. I decided to listen and stop hanging with people who drag me down. I thank the whole team. I am now 445 days clean and planning to go to college.”

“I am now making sure sobriety is number one in my life,” said Stacey Deavers. “For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t achieve anything. I will never go back. This is the time to move on, achieve my goals, and be a good member of society and a good neighbor.”

Two graduates brought their babies who were born during their time in the program. Each graduate received gifts from Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles: prime baseball tickets and parking passes for the following night’s game, as well as souvenir balls and hats.

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Drug Treatment Court was launched in 2005. The program currently has 86 participants, and 83 individuals have completed the program to date.

DRUG COURT MONTH GRADUATIONS

Reported by Gray Barton, Executive Director, Office of Problem-Solving Courts

Judge William C. Mulford, II, congratulates drug court graduate Melissa Sudduth
Judge William C. Mulford, II,
congratulates drug court
graduate Melissa Sudduth.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the other drug treatment court graduations that were held in Maryland’s courts during National Drug Court Month in May:

Wicomico County Circuit Court Adult Drug Court Graduation
The graduates wore caps and gowns to this formal graduation ceremony on May 6, held at the local community college in Salisbury. A light reception was held immediately following the ceremony.

St. Mary’s County Juvenile Drug Court Graduation
This Leonardtown graduation ceremony on May 12 was followed by a reception with refreshments and a presentation of a donation to support crime victims.

Anne Arundel County District DUI/ Drug Treatment Court Graduation
Graduates, their families and friends gathered in Courtroom 4 on May 12 to celebrate.

A banner in the courthouse applauds the efforts of drug court graduates.
A banner in the courthouse applauds
the efforts of drug court graduates.

Carroll County Adult Drug Treatment Court Graduation
On May 20, graduates came to the Westminster courthouse for a graduation ceremony in Courtroom 4.

Charles County Circuit Court - Juvenile Drug Court Graduation
This graduation on May 24 was held at the Laugh Out Loud Station (LOL) in Waldorf.

Howard County Drug/DUI Court Graduation
On May 25, graduates, families and friends celebrated in Courtroom 5 in the Ellicott City Courthouse.

Frederick County Adult Circuit Court Drug Court Graduation
Circuit Courtroom 1 was the setting for the graduation ceremony recognizing five graduates on May 26.

Prince George’s County Circuit Court Adult Drug Court Graduation
On May 26, the courthouse in Upper Marlboro hosted a graduation ceremony for graduates, families and friends in Courtroom M3400.