By Linda Looney-Bond
Carla Bolden smiled with pride Tuesday as her son's name was called during the graduation ceremony for the Clayton Day Reporting Center.
Twenty-two-year-old Terry Caradine, of Hampton, is one of 21 graduates who received diplomas Tuesday night for completing the 6-9 month prison alternative program.
"This has been a rough road," said Bolden, 43. "I'm thankful that the program is in place. I've seen major changes in him. I just pray that he continues on this path. This program has brought him a long way,"
"I was out there smoking weed, selling weed, trying to get money," said her son, Terry Caradine. "The program gave me patience. It was out there." Caradine was ordered to complete the program after he violated parole by testing positive on a drug test. He is serving parole, following a felony conviction for residential burglary.
The Day Reporting Center (DRC), located at 1331 Citizens Parkway in Morrow, is one of 11 such facilities in Georgia, operated by the Georgia Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
DRC's are non-residential drug- and mental-health-treatment centers. They are designed to offer judges viable, more cost effective options for dealing with criminal offenders.
"They're all probationers, and they can either be sentenced here, or they violated their probation and signed a waiver to come here," said Chris Austin, acting center administrator for the Clayton facility. He said all of the participants are convicted felons.
The program keeps a tight reign on participants, according Austin. "At the very least, they'll be here three days a week. If they're not working, they're here, or at community service," he said.
Unless a participant is scheduled to work, he or she must observe a 9 p.m., curfew, which is monitored by a surveillance officer, according to Austin. Drug testing is conducted at least two days per week, and sometimes, randomly, Austin said.
Participants are required to take classes that include substance-abuse education, drug-relapse prevention, anger management, job readiness and GED training.
"It taught me patience and brought me closer to my family," said Caradine. "You learn a lot of ways to deal with the outside life. If you're there, you get a counselor. You learn ways to keep negative influences out [of] your life."
"He's participating around the house, doing responsible things around the home without being asked," said Caradine's stepfather, William Bolden, who is a lieutenant colonel, retired from the U.S. Army's military police.
"Before I came to the program, I wasn't working," said Caradine, who now works as a cashier at a discount store in Jonesboro. "I want to go to the Army to pay for college. I might ... become an officer in the Army," said Caradine, whose mother is a retired Army Sgt. First Class.
When the Clayton center opened in March of 2005, it was designed to handle offenders involved in non-violent, drug and property crimes, but Austin said that has changed.
"We run the gamut -- fraud charges, theft charges, property crime, drug possession. We have some aggravated assaults. The only thing we're not taking right now is sex charges," he said.
"It's an excellent alternative for us to be able to use," said Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier, who attended the Tuesday night ceremony held at the Divine Faith Ministries International Church, at 9800 Tara Blvd., in Jonesboro.
"This is one [program] that allows someone to receive their [drug] treatment, while they are still able to be a productive citizen. That's why I like this program," Collier said.
"It's one that provides protection for the community, because there's very strict supervision for people while they're in the program," he said.
"If you can get addicts off of drugs, you can usually stop them from committing crime," said Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Lawson, who also attended the graduation. "It's a good thing. This is a pretty tough program from what I'm told," said Lawson.
All of the state's DRC's utilize a three-step program, according to Joseph Baden, manager of the state's day reporting centers. "In the first phase, we detox and put them under very strict supervision. In the second phase," he said, "we move into teaching them how to maintain that sobriety, and they have to work [a job].
"In phase three, they go through another 6 months of follow-up," after graduation, he said.
"Of those that successfully complete the program, we've found about an 8 percent recidivism rate." He said that compares to a 30 percent recidivism rate for incarcerated offenders in Georgia.
The Clayton center graduates a new class every 6 months, according to Austin, and has had a total of 154 graduates.