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BOLIVIA— Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis gave 10 new graduates of the latest treatment courts some advice on their last day in the programs.
“Stay out of my court,” Lewis said.
She was joking, but only in the way someone with the power to put a person in jail can.
Lewis created the treatment court in 2009 to find a way to treat alcoholics and drug addicts who repeatedly appeared in her courtroom.
On Thursday, she could joke with former defendants who made her proud because they completed the program
“This is what I know. I know each and every person under the sound of my voice who is participating in this program is working very diligently,” she said, not only to the graduates, but several current members who were in the audience.
Lewis told graduates if they want to be successful, the treatment court is there to help them. It’s a safety net.
But she added they need to put in the effort.
“‘Put your shoulder to the wheel,’ as my grandma said,” Lewis said.
She said the new graduates are equipped to live clean and sober lifestyles.
As an example, Robert Benton, the first person Lewis enrolled in the treatment court program, was the day’s guest speaker.
Benton said he always had a rough time with alcohol.
“It was so bad it carried me to jail many times,” he said.
Alcohol and drug use led Benton to trafficking in marijuana, cocaine and guns.
“I was a dope addict, a drunk and mostly an idiot who thought I could get by the law,” Benton said.
Benton said his only way of seeking help was to break the law until he got caught.
“Thank God for people like Judge Lewis and Dr. (Carrie) Menke,” he said.
Benton said if they had not seen he was seeking help and put him in the treatment court program, he would be dead.
Benton, 52, said alcohol and drugs cost him 10 years. He said he was in jail for six of those years, mostly six months at a time.
“I have gone 1,336 days without a drink,” Benton said. “I am a proud man right now.”
But he told graduates it takes help from family, friends and other participants to avoid the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
“If you feel you need a drink, come to them—Judge Lewis, Dr. Menke or any of these law enforcement officers,” he said. “They will talk to you. They know problems too.”
Jared Snell, Eric Gushve and Kristina McGrath graduated from drug treatment court.
Jason McConnell, Kenneth Cumbee, Susan Wood, Adam Toht and Lorrie Emmons graduated from mental health treatment court.
Jordan Thompson and Fred Cooper graduated from the driving while intoxicated treatment court.
Assistant district attorney Chris Thomas presented graduates with treatment court diplomas.
“I am one of the people you will be happy not to see anymore,” Thomas said.
He told them they had reached the end of drug court, but it was not the end.
“As a challenge for every one of you, don’t let this be the end of your recovery,” Thomas said. “If you have any problems or see someone else having problems, use the skills you’ve learned over the past two years. And we are here for you. You are not in this alone.”
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.