St. Landry Drug Court graduates complete 2-year program, plan for future

Instead of facing criminal sentences that would likely require several years of incarceration, 15 people who left the St. Landry parish courthouse on Wednesday are preparing to start their lives over.

Now that their court cases have been thrown out, many of those who went through a two-year sobriety program under the supervision of three state court judges have talked about building businesses, maintaining or initiating relationships. stable family relationships and to continue working after agreeing to participate in the program. drug diversion program.

John Miller, a drug court graduate, said the chance to avoid jail time after his arrest was a rewarding experience.

“I was risking maybe three to five years for crystal meth,” said John Miller, who left a 27th Judicial District courtroom with his wife Katie, son Kade and daughter Lilly. “It was a serious charge, but once I got into the (drug court) program, I was able to open up to other people, ask for help. moment, it became something I looked forward to.

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Although St. Landry’s drug diversion program previously dismissed drug abuse charges from 354 people over a 20-year history, specialty court coordinator Norman Rene said the graduation ceremony of Wednesday was somewhat unique.

“Most of those here (Wednesday) were representing a different kind of group,” Rene explained. “They started in March 2020 and that’s just when COVID hit. We had to use a short Zoom setup for our support meetings and manage their restrictions that way.

Rene said 11 of the graduates entered the state court system on drug-related charges, while another was in the Family Preservation Program, where people facing jail time face also lose contact with family members.

Three of those who also left the courtroom after state court judges Greg Doucet, Gerard Caswell and Jason Meche ordered their cases dismissed, had faced DWI charges before agreeing to participate in the sobriety program.

State Court Judge Ledricka Thierry, who presides over family preservation cases, was not present at the ceremony, where a large audience barely crowded the second-floor courtroom.

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Doucet said the drug court program is normally not easy to complete.

“You knew it was going to be long and you had your ups and downs, but it’s one of the best programs we have in the justice system,” Doucet said at the ceremony.

Miller also addressed the court before his case was dismissed by Assistant District Attorney Glenn Marcantel and defense attorney Abbie Williams.

“The scholarship from this program gives you a purpose and it has become very personal. I appreciate having another chance,” Miller said.

Treatment director La’Pearl Simmons said the process for people wanting to enter the various diversion programs is not easy.

“There are five phases that lead to the phase we have today. Once they accept the program, the people we have undergo treatment, drug testing, court appearances and meetings with their group,” Simmons said.

Rene said the program requires individuals to show abundant dedication and the will to do the right thing.

The Sobriety Court also partners with the St. Landry District Attorney’s Office and Marcantel acts as a liaison with the District Attorney’s Office.

After receiving their certificates, those who completed the program attended a reception with a gift bag that also contained what Simmons described as a post-graduate survival kit.

Gabrielle Pitre, whose potential four-year prison sentence for drug trafficking was overturned on Wednesday, was eager to flaunt a t-shirt which she eagerly removed from the bag.

“Look at the back of the shirt,” Pitre said as he shared the message of the start of a new lifestyle projected onto the fabric.

Pitre said she learned a lot of lessons during her 24 months in the diversion program.

“I learned responsibility. In the beginning, the program for me was really difficult, because I constantly failed drug tests after having used drugs all my life. I had to attend meetings four times a week, random (drug) tests seven days a week, and constantly received warnings about failed drug tests. I was at a point where I had everything to lose. It scared me, so I decided to go ahead and accept what I had to do,” Pitre said.

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