At 1:30 p.m. today, approximately 70 people gathered on the north sidewalk of the Wright County Government Center to celebrate a participation recognition parade for three graduates of the The Turn program.
In 2016, The Turn – an alternative program also known as Adult Drug Court that serves as an adult treatment court for Wright County residents – was established. Graduating from the program is an achievement and a commitment to turning one’s life around.
Anybody who comes into the criminal justice system that is charged with a non-violent felony offense and is a Wright County resident is screened to see if they’re eligible for drug court. The Turn targets those deemed to be at high risk to re-offend and are in high need of services, such as those that deal with chemical dependency.
The program lasts up to two years and is extremely rigid. Those who graduate from The Turn need to be steadfastly committed to sobriety and making a positive change in their lives, because graduating requires diligence and perseverance. There is frequent and random drug testing, regular mandatory court appearances, frequent appointments with their probation agent and a significant amount of treatment hours.
Since its creation four years ago, 45 Wright County residents have been in The Turn program. There are 13 people that are still in the program and 17 participants that have graduated.
The Turn isn’t a “get out of jail free” program by any means. Unlike probation, where meetings with probation agents are infrequent and regularly scheduled, participants in The Turn are constantly being tested as to whether they’re living up to their end of the agreement.
Those who participate in the program are aware ahead of time how stringent the requirements are, but also the benefits that come with successful completion of the program. Those on probation meet with their probation agent approximately once a month and know in advance that they’re going to be drug tested. By the time participants graduate from The Turn, if they’ve been in the program for two years, they’ve been taking urinalysis tests at least twice per week – about 200 times. Participants come to court every week at the beginning of the program, every other week as they progress and finally come once a month at the end. They see a judge 50 times before they graduate.
Judge Michele Davis of the Tenth Judicial District Court based in Buffalo said the graduates who were honored today have earned the distinction of completing the program, which was only possible by a single-minded determination to reclaim their lives.
“These graduates have a lot to be proud of,” Davis said. “When they enter the program, they know they have to complete a long process to prove themselves worthy of graduation. It’s an honor to see those who make it through the program graduate. It’s taken a lot of effort and they’ve displayed that they want to have a better life, which is what the program is all about.”