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Five men complete Drug Court ordered rehabilitation

Family, friends and dignitaries gathered in Magistrates' Court yesterday to celebrate the latest five graduates coming out of Bermuda's Drug Treatment Court (DTC) programme.

Dignitaries including Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, Senator and Junior Minister for National Security Jeff Baron, Attorney General Trevor Moniz, Director of Public Prosecutions Rory Field, and others applauded as the five men were commended for their commitment to the programme and had the criminal history that brought them under court supervision formally expunged.

The DTC is touted by those involved as the most effective court on the Island, with only seven percent of participants reoffending while in the programme.

The court addresses the “causal root of criminal behaviour” — addiction — in non-violent drug offenders which leads to a higher rate of success in rehabilitation.

The numbers show great progress in reducing recidivism for the criminally addicted, but the truest marker of success may be found in the stories the graduates told to those gathered.

While most spoke of the speed bumps they overcame to get to this point and the joy of being clean, one of the graduates, Kevin Howard, had a more philosophical and deterministic view.

“I'm a living testament,” Mr Howard told Magistrate Juan Wolffe, “if you want change, it's possible.

“You have to keep it simple and take it day by day. Tomorrow never really comes, [because] tomorrow is always today. I came from sitting here in orange.

“I wasn't a good candidate for [DTC], according to what you know of me and my past. When I did something I did it to the extreme. Today I do it in the opposite way.

“I find myself in a much better space, around much better people. I have a network of people that hold me accountable.”

Mr Howard and the four other graduates have all secured either permanent or temporary employment, are working proactively to mend damaged relationships and — perhaps most of all — are looking ahead to paying it forward.

One of the men, a serial thief, said that although he will never be able to replace the items he stole in order to feed his addiction, he has found untold pride and joy in volunteering and charity work.

In working with children suffering from autism, he said the simple act of putting a smile on their faces gave him a sense of pride he had never found before.

“They saw the work I was doing and they were just, ‘Wow'. I was proud of myself.”

Prosecutors and defence attorneys all spoke of the mens' journey, their “road to redemption” as Mr Wolffe put it, and offered words of encouragement to them and the current DTC clients gathered in the courtroom gallery alongside friends and family.

In the end, there were smiles, and songs, and poetry, and cake — a far cry from the usual scenes that unfold within Magistrates' Court — but perhaps most importantly, there was optimism, for both the graduates and the men and women that form the DTC team.

The court's high rate of success, which is estimated at between 75 and 80 percent, underscores what courts across the world are coming to learn: therapeutic jurisprudence rather than jail time is far more potent and cost-effective in preventing future criminal behaviour.

While the graduates themselves can attest to the good work DTC is doing, the success of the programme is not lost on lawmakers.

“There's definitely lessons to be learned,” agreed Attorney General Trevor Moniz, “this is fabulous [and] it's going extremely well”.

“At the present, we're looking at extending it from a Drug Treatment Court to also having a Mental Health Treatment Court, so we're taking the programme further.”

The faces of the Drug Treatment Court Team made up of lawyers, court services, drug treatment professionals and magistrate Juan Wolf (center right). (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published June 26, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 26, 2014 at 2:25 am)

Five men complete Drug Court ordered rehabilitation

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