Photo by Elaine Rackley
Clayton County Drug Court graduates Walter Sanders (left) and Scott Weaver (right) spoke with Clayton County Commission Chairman-elect Jeff Turner (center) following their graduation ceremony.
JONESBORO — Two men said they have put their lives of addiction behind them as they seek a better future.
Walter Leon Sanders and Scott Anthony Weaver were awarded their diplomas Thursday during the Clayton County Adult Felony Drug Court Graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony was held in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.
Sanders and Weaver successfully completed 18 months of the drug court intensive-probation, judicially supervised substance abuse treatment program. Drug court participants must meet eligibility requirements and plead guilty to their drug charges, which cannot later be expunged from their criminal records. Upon the successful completion of the Clayton County Drug Court program and a phase of after-care, the remainder of the participant's probation sentence is waived.
“I feel free from the bondages of drugs and from the drug court program and from all the bad stuff I have gone through in my life,” said Weaver, 40, of Morrow.
Sanders and Weaver read their graduation speeches to the crowd gathered for the ceremony. In their speeches both men said they started using marijuana at a young age. Weaver said he went from marijuana to using cocaine and Sanders said he went from marijuana to using crack cocaine.
“There have been many times I had to make a decision whether to live or die,” Sanders said. “But, I believe God is a God of deliverance and restoration.”
The men along with their families, friends, elected officials, court officials and some drug court participants listened as Clayton County Deputy Sheriff Garland Watkins gave the graduation address.
“The county jail is not for rehabilitation,” Watkins said. “It is a jail for detention. So it’s a great thing to have a drug court and DUI court, to help you re-establish yourselves. Life is precious and you can’t let it go. Everyone will have a bad day and a good day. This is your chance today to make a difference for you and your family. Keep your head up and keep your eyes on the prize.”
Clayton County’s Drug Court program consists of the participants attending three-step meetings weekly, maintaining drug court approved housing and employment, finishing family development courses, completing 350 days of sobriety and attending “pro-social activities,” said Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert B. Collier, who presides over the Clayton County Drug Court.
All of the participants are assigned to perform various community services around the county. Drug court participants are responsible for keeping a section of U.S. Highway 19/41 clean as part of their community service.
“These two gentlemen have been our program stars,” Collier said. “They have gone through the program with very few violations of the rules. That’s one of the reasons that I am so proud of them. They have been the ones to mediate different situations for the drug court participants.”
Collier said his policy has always been that each person who appears before him must “stand up on their own.” There have been times when Collier had to stop Sanders from interceding for other drug court participants, the judge added.
“As a judge, I have to be attuned to helping people out but, I also have to be aware of the security of the community,” Collier continued.
The graduation ceremony Thursday marked the fifth graduation for the Clayton County Drug Court.
Clayton County Commission Chairman-elect Jeff Turner was on hand for the graduation ceremony. Turner said he served on the first Clayton County Drug Court Advisory Board, while serving as police chief.
“People need help, the answer is not always to lock them up and throw away the key,” Turner said. “This program affords them an opportunity to get their lives back in order.”
Clayton County Drug Court Case Manager Ashley Martin said the drug court program began in 2009.
“The participants worked very hard to get to this point and their sobriety will continue,” Martin said.
Matt Sorensen, Clayton County Court Administrator, said there are advantages to having a county drug court.
“I think this is a good alternative to prison and it rebuilds ties to the community and families,” said Sorensen.