13 Dec A Dream Come True
Donning caps and gowns, the men and women who had successfully completed rigorous drug treatment programs marched into Judge Karen Ackerson Gauff’s courtroom in Compton while the Pomp and Circumstance graduation tune played in the background.
After persevering through residential and out-patient treatment programs tailored especially for each of them, they graduated from the Community Collaborative Court/Drug Court program and were on their way to renewed lives.
“Thank you for allowing me to take this journey with you,” their devoted Deputy Public Defender Francine Logan told them. “I am so proud of each of you.”
Community Collaborative Court (CCC) is a highly effective treatment program available as an alternative to prison. The post-conviction program is designed for felony clients who are veterans or are suffering from substance use disorders, chronic homelessness, mental illness, or are victims of human trafficking or age of onset youth. Part of CCC, Drug Court clients each have a sincere desire and commitment to get clean and sober. Upon completion, participants earn a charge reduction and/or dismissal if available. Their fines and fees are waived.
“It’s amazing to see them when they’re graduating,” said Logan, a 22-year public defender veteran. “The judge really understands how difficult it is. They may relapse and come back again, and not all make it. When they slip, it’s heartbreaking. But when they succeed, it’s amazing.”
Logan said the collaboration to get the client well includes their family members, whom she gets to know well.
“I get to know them not as clients, but as people,” she said. “I was in tears at the end of the first graduation I attended it was so moving. They are the ones doing the hard work. I’m with them for the journey.”
During the ceremony, each graduate spoke of their journey, some spoke of relapsing, then finding the strength to recover, one had a child amid the program, many praised their family, their attorney and other collaborative partners for their solid support. All stories were filled with productive plans for the future.
“The program changed my life completely,” one graduate told people in the courtroom. “This whole journey has been like a dream come true.”
Public Defender Ricardo García attended the Dec. 11 graduation to give his support.
“By being here today you bring something beyond yourselves, you may not know but only in your own hearts,” he told the soon-to-be graduates. “And that is you set an example. You set that example because there are many men and women of all ages who wonder and struggle with the same things you struggled with. They wonder if they can change and move their lives forward. And by being here today you show them that they can.”
Logan said she was thrilled that the pendulum in society is swinging toward restoration rather than prison.
“Now we need the resources to get more collaborative courts up and running,” she said. “There should be one in every courthouse. It can change so many lives.”
Please check out the Public Defender Facebook items about this incredible graduation day. https://www.facebook.com/LACOUNTYPD/ Love, like and share!