Dec 18, 2007

In Their Own Words

Each Drug Court graduation, we compile a "snapshot" of the graduating class, attempting to capture their personal, individual and difficult journies in some sort of track-able and standardizable way. We ask each Drug Court graduate to fill out an "Exit Questionairre," answering questions like: "What was your income source when you entered Drug Court?" and "What is your income source now?". Responses are honest and blunt; many check the boxes "Theft" or "Drug Sales" or "Prostitution" as their income source upon entering Drug Court. Though some may enter with jobs, or on Disability, or General Assistance or SSI, most do not have a steady source of income. We use this data to track Drug Court success stories. In addition to being clean and sober, upon graduation, Drug Court's goal is to have each client housed and employed.

Though limited, it's important to remember the data "snapshot" at graduation. While watching the clean, well dressed, and smiling graduates come to the front of the room yesterday, accept their certificates and speak to the audience about their path to recovery, one can forget that upon entering, 52% of them were homeless and 17% were marginally housed in temporary shelters -- today, all are housed. One might forget that nearly 40% of the graduates entered Drug Court with no steady income source, 30% relied on selling drugs, prostitution, panhandling or other illegal activities, and 26% were on disability or general assistance. Upon entering Drug Court, not a single client was employed (legally) -- today, 48% have steady employment, and the rest have all been enrolled in general assistance or SSI. At graduation, we are witness to a group of 23 clients who have struggled with long, difficult addictions to Heroin (35%), Cocaine/Crack (35%), Methamphetamine (22%), Alcohol (4%) and Marijuana (4%), found themselves in the criminal justice system, and finally had the strength to challenge their addiction. Four clients have returned to school, and over half of those participants with children have reunited with their families. This data is telling; it speaks to the overwhelming odds of failure these graduates have struggled against, and beat, and to the difficult work and challenges of getting back on track.

But one thing the data can't show is the individual, each different and each remarkable in his or her courage and dedication. So, instead of going through what happened at yesterday's Drug Court graduation, and talking about all of the words of congratulations that the Drug Court team, Commissioner Albers, or San Francisco's District Attorney Kamala Harris, had to say, I'm going to post a few of the things the graduates had to say:

"I definitely wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for this program."

"When I first got in, all I wanted was to get clean. But recovery is so much more. I wouldn’t be here if Drug Court and Good Shepard weren’t in my life."

"I had been homeless for 20 years. Drug Court has done so much for me. I’m now indoors, and employed."

"This is the first thing I’ve completed in my whole life."

"When I came into Drug Court, I was six months pregnant and a mess. Today, I have a healthy five month old. Drug Court was the best thing to ever happen to me."

"I want to thank the Drug Court team for giving me a healthy foundation and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself."

"Judge Albers, I like you. You know why? When I came to court each month, you never gave up on me."

"This aint just the end. This is the beginning. Stay strong."

"This has been a long hard road for me and I finally made it. Thanks to Drug Court."

"Drug Court has introduced me to this whole concept of recovery. It’s been a beautiful experience."

"There’s not enough roses to give to the people who stood by me and helped me out. When I got to Drug Court, I was looking for ways to get out of jail. I was unemployable, but now I’m employed. Good things happen if you stick to the program."

"When I started Drug Court, I was in pieces. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t even know I was in pieces."

"My life is in the right direction. I am extremely grateful."

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