PASCAGOULA -- A program that has saved the state more than $245,000 also has helped Jackson Countians begin new lives.
Seven people graduated from the Jackson County Drug Court Program on Tuesday. Circuit Judge Robert Krebs said the two-year program, which began in 2004, is for people convicted of nonviolent drug-related crimes and requires a lot of involvement.
Those enrolled must obtain a G.E.D. and driver's license, participate in two hours of community service each week, read one book a month from the library, check in with the court daily and hold a 40-hour-a-week job. If they complete the program, and a year of sobriety, their record is expunged and they are no longer felons.
"It gives them a new lease on life," Krebs said. "They turn away from an old, drug-addicted lifestyle and become useful citizens. It's one of the most viable alternatives to the criminal justice system."
Krebs said the county has collected $34,788 in fines from the group and the state saved $245,280 by placing them in the program and not prison.
"In the beginning, I was reluctant to do the things I had to do," graduate Danny Davis said. "This program is not a curse, but a blessing."
Linda Mizell was incarcerated for drugs a number of times, but while in jail without her family she realized she needed a change.
"This program gave me hope in my life," she said.
Stephen Digman said he earned his G.E.D. while in the program.
"It changed my life," he said. "It taught me how to be a productive citizen."
In addition to Davis, Mizell and Digman, other graduates were Justin Trochessette, Jason Kimsey, Lincoln Hardison and Vino Martinez.