Pubdate: Tue, 22 Oct 2002
Source: Enterprise-Journal, The (MS)
Copyright: 2002 The Enterprise-Journal
Author: David Bruser, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


MAGNOLIA - Jan Kincade used to pretend she was a doctor's nurse when she 
phoned in fake prescriptions to pharmacists.

Her deception landed her in Judge Keith Starrett's 14th Circuit drug court, 
where she was exposed as a painkiller addict.

After three years of humility and sobriety, Kincade, 45, of Brookhaven, 
experienced one of the happiest days of her life Monday when she graduated 
from the drug court program.

She stood up, teary-eyed but steadfast, and thanked the drug court for 
giving her life back.

"I never thought I would walk up and hug the judge," she said. "I'm 
different. I'm a totally different person. I have confidence."

Kincade's story is one of many that Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice 
Ed Pittman said makes the 14th District drug court the best in the state. 
Circuit Court Judge Mike Smith and the District Attorney's officials also 
participate fully in the drug court program.

Pittman attended the graduation ceremony at the Pike County courthouse in 
Magnolia Monday that at times took on the feel of a revival. He will refer 
to Pike County's drug court as a model when he asks the Mississippi 
Legislature next session for a statewide drug court system.

"Judge Starrett, about four years ago, he started doing a little mission 
work, if you will, with me about drug court," Pittman said. "He started the 
first. It's no longer the first, but I can assure you it is the best, most 
successful, most productive drug court in Mississippi."

Pittman's proposed drug court system would be composed of 10 regional 
courts, each representing about eight counties and each staffed by a 
full-time drug court judge recruited from the senior ranks of state judges. 
Under the proposed plan a drug court coordinator would take charge of 
record keeping and administrative duties.

"I'm not trying to build judicial bureaucracy," he said. "Don't you know if 
we need a drug court over here in Pike County, we need one in Hattiesburg?"

He urged the graduates to cherish their certificates and continue their 
fight against addiction.

"This court is a meritorious court and a meritorious idea," he said. "I 
came down here to say: Keep on caring. The community cares about you. ... 
This is a new slate. When you get your certificate, you look at it and say, 
'This is a new beginning.' "

Shouts of "amen" could be heard from the audience throughout Pittman's 
speech. Afterward, as each graduate received a certificate and walked 
through a procession of handshakes, family members hollered encouragement 
and congratulations.

"There are a lot of exceptional people here today; a lot of hard work has 
gone into what will happen here today," Starrett said. "Don't underestimate 
what has happened in the lives of these people. ... I wish I had a 
before-and-after picture - folks weren't smiling when they first appeared 
before a judge."

For Barry Harrell, a recovering cocaine abuser and drug court graduate, the 
day was especially poignant.

"This is the best birthday present I received. Today is my birthday."

"Pike County finally got it right," one man said of the program.

But the convivial atmosphere turned when Starrett encouraged graduates and 
family members to stand and speak to the audience and drug court 

Many told somber but triumphant stories of how the court saved a loved one 
from the scourges of drugs, how kids got back their father or mother and 
how sobriety salvaged personalities once wrought unrecognizable.

Another graduate, who tried but failed to curb his emotions, summarized his 
drug court experience in one tear-choked sentence.

"I've never been more embarrassed as when my name got smeared all over 
McComb, and I've never been as proud as I am today getting this certificate 
in front of the same people."

As each graduate praised the compassion of the court, Pittman transcribed 
their words. He plans to submit the testimonials to the Legislature when he 
asks lawmakers for the statewide drug court system.

Rep. Jim Barnett, along with Reps. Clem Nettles of Pike County and Kenny 
Moore of Columbia, who also were at Monday's graduation, are among sponsors 
of the legislation. Barnett predicts it'll pass next year.

Pittman told the graduates, "It's embarrassing to have to go through drug 
court. But isn't it great ... to earn the certificate here today, with the 
idea that my people, my friends, are proud today? They're not here to post 
bond. They're down in the courtroom to say, 'You've done good.' "

Pittman lauded the ideology driving the court to see in each offender not a 
prisoner but a potential productive member of society.

"Remember that every human being has an intrinsic value, and that in the 
drug court as we feed and develop that intrinsic value, you begin to bloom 
like a flower," he said. "There is good in you, and the court has been 
nourishing it."

"Now, the first intrinsic value I want you to recognize is yours," he told 
the graduates. "Don't lose that. Because of your success ... you know we 
might walk out of here and start these courts in all the counties."
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