WASHINGTON — It was an emotional graduation at Fort Lincoln Park in Northeast Washington. On Wednesday, the new graduates of D.C.’s Drug Court grabbed the microphone to thank their families, counselors and a city judge.
For all the participants getting their diplomas, this ceremony means they are clean and sober. Most importantly, there are no hard feelings.
“He gave me the opportunity to save my life, to change my life,” graduate William Hawkins, of Southeast, said of the officer who arrested him.
Hawkins, already a convicted felon, was offered a choice: enroll in D.C.’s Superior Court Drug Intervention Program — also known as Drug Court — or take his chances going through the system.
“I needed it bad,” Hawkins says of the drug intervention program.
The Drug Court offers eligible defendants an opportunity to enroll in a substance addiction treatment program with the possibility of having their cases dismissed or their sentences amended.
For Gregory Jackson, the presiding Drug Court judge and guest speaker at the ceremony, this program is about offering help. “They have to make the independent decision that this is something they want to do,” Jackson says of the participants.
Those who completed the treatment say it’s not easy. Graduate Gregory Davis didn’t like it at first, “but after a while, your eyes are gonna open and you’re gonna want to change.”
Those who complete the drug intervention program can still use the social services offered and get referrals for employment and further education. The program can be completed in 24 weeks with the help of teachers and counselors, and monthly visits with Judge Jackson for progress updates.
“This is an excellent day,” Jackson said to the graduates and their families. “It is an outstanding day.”