Berkeley County drug court graduates earn clean record
BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Six Berkeley County Drug Court participants graduated from the recovery program, earning their freedom from jail time and the removal of charges from their record.
The program helps participants get sober through a series of requirements.
To earn their way to a clean record and to continue enjoy life outside of jail, participants must get a job, meet with a sponsor weekly, go to group meetings, get randomly tested and report in person to a judge every week to share their progress. They also must pay all their court fees and any restitution to victims in full.
If they fall short in certain areas, especially a relapse, they may have to spend a short time in jail or treatment.
Charlene Dorothy is a mother of three who graduated after 579 days in the program. She avoided a five year sentence but said the real reason she signed up for the program was to get sober for her kids.
“Addiction took my kids from me. It took a mom from them. They did not have a mother when I was using and yeah now today, they do, they can depend on me, my family depends on me,” Dorothy said.
She was one of six who each thanked the court, counselors, judge and variety of staff who helped them through the weekly check-ins and hard times.
“It gives you an opportunity to go in front of the judge and have good things to say versus going and being scared that you’re going to jail. Once you accept that drug court is something that can change your life versus an inconvenience of having to do testing all the time and go to these groups, it works wonders in your life,” Dorothy says.
“I feel like I won a Grammy,” Dorothy said as she shook Judge Dale Van Slambrook’s hand and accepted her expungement paperwork and graduation certificate. Her little brother was in the courtroom to watch, and he also shared how proud he is of her as well.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson of the 9th Circuit started the program in 2017. Judge Van Slambrook says it’s a rewarding day when he and the entire staff get to see a group through to graduation.
“It’s an incredible transition because you see folks and sometimes it’s as easy as looking at the mug shots and how awful they look in a mugshot compared to how you see them down the road- six months, eight months, a year, two years down the road and how they’ve changed and blossomed,” he said.
The judge and Sheriff Duane Lewis reminded the graduates that this is not the end of their journey though. For them to remain free and healthy, they must continue recovery efforts outside the courtroom.
For Dorothy, she said she remembers being in a bad place and does not want to go back to the pain drugs caused her.
“It took my stepmother from me, and I was right there behind her. I was overdosing almost every time I used before I got clean,” she shares.
Now, she thinks of the program participants like her family members who understand each other’s struggles and share in each other’s success. Dorothy said she is ready to take full advantage of her second chance.
“I like who I am today. When I look in the mirror I like who I am. I like the accomplishments I’m making. I like the future that I have. And my kids being happy is more than motivation, it’s what they deserve,” Dorothy said.
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