Putnam drug court honors new graduates

Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Joeseph K. Reeder and Putnam County Adult Drug Court Probation Officer LaKeisha Barron-Brown applaud the accomplishment/graduation of Stacy Casto Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicial Building in Winfield. Casto was quoted by Judge Reeder as she was being introduced saying, “Judge, I’m gonna graduate and I want my picture in the paper with you.”


Putnam County Drug Court Graduates Lindsey Eddy and Stacy Casto sit relieved and all smiles at their accomplishemnt Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicail Building in Winfield. Bob Wojcieszak/Daily


With a picture of his mug shot on the screen before him, Putnam County Drug Court Graduate Craig Owens goes through the circumstances in his life that forced him to take a long look at where he was going and what made him seek out Putnam County Circuit Judge Joeseph K. Reeder to sign up for drug court and change. Having been arrested twenty one times in his past, Owens used the Putnam County Drug Court to change his life. Behind him is Judge Reeder. Bob Wojcieszak/Daily Mail


Having been involved with drugs since the age of twelve, twenty-year-old Putnam County Drug Court Graduate Lindsey Eddy looks at a composity picture of who she was when she was arrested and what she looks like clean and sober during Putnam County Drug Court Graduation ceremonies Wednesday at the Putnam County Judicial Building.

A drug addict of more than 30 years, Stacy Casto was facing felony drug charges when she was given a second chance in Putnam County’s new adult drug court program.

Putnam Circuit Court Judge Joseph K. Reeder met with the first class of offenders more than a year ago to explain how intensive drug court would be; constant drug testing, home visits, counselling and curfews.

“(Casto) was the first person who spoke up, and when she did, she said ‘Judge, I’m going to graduate and when I do I want my picture in the paper with you,’” Reeder said.

Casto, of Hometown, was among the first five graduates of Putnam County’s adult drug court program. Casto, Lori Hodges, Craig Owens, Lindsey Eddy and Jacob Pauley were honored during a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

Family and friends packed a courtroom as Reeder spoke about each graduate’s transformation. Many admitted they believed they would have been dead today if it weren’t for drug court.

Lindsey Eddy, 21, of Hurricane, starting using heroin when she was 12 years old. She had been through the juvenile court system and was most recently arrested for violating her probation order from felony drug charges she received when she was 18 years old.

As of Wednesday, Eddy had been drug-free for 221 days.

“Before, my life was hectic,” Eddy said. “I was always worried about my next high or what I was going to do for my next high. I never really imagined life without drugs. I tried rehabs and regular probation and I failed at that, and until I was entered into the drug court problem, this was the only thing that’s worked for me and it’s helped me out tremendously. I’m responsible now and I have a full time job, and I’ve been sober.”

Putnam adult drug court probation officer Lakeside Barron-Brown said Putnam’s program began in November 2013. She said candidates for the program have had drug-related charges or convictions, and must be willing to work toward a drug-free life.

“Once accepted into our program, they then come into a very intensive, therapeutic setting within our court system,” Barron-Brown said. “They are placed on home confinement, and the judge determines when they should be released.”

Offenders go through three phases, each lasting at least four months. During the first phase, they’re subjected to multiple drug tests and home visits a week. They attend group and individual counselling, put in community service hours and abide by a curfew.

During the second phase, drug court offenders receive help looking for and obtaining a job. In the third phase, Barron-Brown said offenders are given “a little more room” to become stabilized for society.

Barron-Brown said all five graduates had obtained jobs during the program and are still working those jobs to this day.

“We have five graduates here that when they first started, they were apprehensive about not knowing what to expect — the same as when you go into a college class and the professor says ‘Here’s a syllabus, you have a test’ and not knowing what the test is like until you’ve taken the test,” Barron-Brown said. “I think that’s what drug court has been for our clients. It’s a test of seeing how confident they can become and seeing how much self-esteem and self-worth they can gain. Obviously, all of them have shown they can be successful and they can be drug-free.”

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Brent D. Benjamin congratulated the five men and women for turning their lives around. He pointed out that West Virginia’s adult drug court system is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and that 1,000 adults and juveniles have successfully completed drug court programs in West Virginia.

“What you’ve done is something a lot of people can’t do or haven’t done,” Benjamin told the graduates during the ceremony. “Thankfully we have a state in which you have an opportunity to do this.

“You’re in control of your lives now, and you weren’t before. And now you have the opportunity that not many people have; to turn around to the next drug court class and help them,” Benjamin said.

Reeder said offenders can get into the drug court by either entering a hybrid or conditional plea that allows for their charges to be lessened or dropped upon successful completion of the program, or by accepting drug court as a sentence in lieu of prison time. He said drug court is a good alternative to prison, but it takes a lot of work and responsibility for those who go through the program.

“I think it’s very important not just for the graduates involved, but it’s also important for Putnam County and our community because drugs have become such a problem in our society,” Reeder said. “It’s good that a program like this does give these folks a chance to rehabilitate and to get back on track.”

Casto said drug court “completely saved my life” because it gave her the ability to get help to fight her addiction ­— something she says prison time wouldn’t have done. Now that she’s sober, Casto said she would like to help juveniles who are battling addiction problems.

“I knew I had to have something in my life in order to change my life,” Casto said. “They offered counseling, they offered classes on drug prevention, they offered all these different things that I knew prison wouldn’t do for me. I’ve been a drug addict for 30 years, but during this time, I’ve started going to church, I’ve given my heart to the Lord and my whole entire life has changed.

Barron-Brown said the graduates will go through six more months of “supervised release” from the drug court program until they are completely finished with the program. She said there are 19 people in Putnam’s adult drug court program, including the graduates.

There are 24 adult drug court programs in West Virginia serving 40 counties, and 16 juvenile drug court programs serving 20 counties with 581 people actively participating in the programs, the Daily Mail reported earlier this month. As part of the Justice Reinvestment Act, which was passed last year, adult drug courts will be in all of West Virginia’s counties by July 1 of next year.

Contact writer Marcus Constantino at 304-348-1796 or marcus.c@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/amtino.

Source: http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150226/DM01/150229485/1276#sthash.TzJh3TEA.dpuf 26th Feb. 2015

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