THIBODAUX — Lafourche Parish’s drug court participants must hold themselves to a higher standard in order to graduate from the program.
There can be no drugs or alcohol; a person must be employed or be in school. If unable to work, they have to volunteer. They also must attend regular counseling, Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meetings and court appearances. And they have to pay fees.
Four people who’ve done that have been recognized for making it through the program.
Summer Brown, 32, of Raceland, had been in the program for three years. The mother of three with another baby on the way says graduating means being able to care for her children again.
“She cooks, she cleans, she works, she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing,” said Ida Brown, her mother. “The person she was on the drugs was not the person she was before the drugs. … Now, I can go to bed, and I know her kids are taken care of, they’re fed, they’ve had a bath, they’re ready for school. Before, a lot of the responsibility was put on me and her dad.”
Brown said she started using after her sister and fiancé died. But it was the 2011 death of her 4-year-old son, Logan, that made her realize she needed to stop using, she said.
Logan Brown died when he fell off a tractor and into the mower blades in a field along La. 1.
“Drugs took me away from him so much,” she said.
Brown’s 15-year-old daughter, Kelly, was at her graduation Monday. She said she’s glad to have her mother back.
“I’m so proud of her. … It makes me glad to see how far she came,” she said.
Drug Court Administrator Fred Duplechin said defendants eligible for the program must have committed a nonviolent, nonsexual crime. They must plead guilty, pass drug tests, attend all required meetings and file required paperwork. If all the criteria are met, their crime is wiped from their record. If not, they face jail time.
“That’s a huge motivator,” Duplechin said.
Countless studies have shown that drug court is an effective way to treat people who commit crimes because of addiction, he said.
“It has consistently proven to be effective in helping people recover by providing effective treatment, reducing recidivism in crime and reducing costs to the community. It costs so much to put a person in prison,” Duplechin said. “There’s a huge correlation between substance abuse and criminal activity. … Once you get into drugs and you start adopting some of the distorted beliefs in the drug culture, then your values and your whole social consciousness gets warped, altered, and people start doing things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
The people behind the program maintain that drug court helps the community too.
Derrick Usey, 27, another graduate, said his life likely would not have changed if he had to do the time associated with his crime.
Usey used to sell and use cocaine and Ecstasy.
The drug court rules and meetings “focus you to stop living that way,” Usey said.
Now he’s studying industrial instrumentation at South Central Louisiana Technical College in his spare time from construction work.
Still, trying to reform drug addicts is heart-breaking work, officials said.
“When you’re a part of the program — counselors, treatment administrators — being part of failure is a part of the job,” said Judge Jerome Barbera III, who presided over drug court for three years before Judge Walter Lanier III took over three months ago.
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