CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin said a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation officers and counselors who participated in the state conference of drug court professionals. They gathered in Charleston Tuesday.
Benjamin helped spearhead the creation of the court, which is now in 35 counties. He predicted that will increase to all 55 counties within the next couple of years.
Drug Court works with those who have been convicted of non-violent drug-related crimes. Those who participate take part in drug treatment, mandatory drug testing, supervision and other related treatment. Benjamin said about 50 percent of those who enter the program graduate. After graduation, the recidivism rate is only between 9 to 14 percent.
“Some people can get through the program in one year, some take two years. Each one is different. But the results, we just cherish,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin shared with the crowd the story of a young woman who’d battled drug abuse for years. She got in to the program and graduated. She was clean for three weeks before she relapsed and died of an overdose.
“As tragic as it was for this young girl to die, it was also tragic for the drug court team because they had worked with her for quite some time. And there’s an investment of emotion almost like family,” explained the justice.
Not long after, the grandmother of the woman came to the drug court to say thank you to the staff. She told them, for those three weeks, she got her granddaughter back and cherished those memories.
Benjamin said while not everyone in the drug court system will succeed, for those who do, their lives are transformed.
“I think what we have to focus on is that each one of those is a life. Each one of those is a new taxpayer, a new person who’s come out to help. It’s breaking that cycle.”
Benjamin said many graduates turn out to be law-abiding, hard-working, responsible members of the community.