Juneau Therapeutic Court to hold commencement

Alaska Supreme Court Justice Walter Carpeneti to deliver keynote address

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009

In celebration of National Drug and Alcohol Court Month, the Juneau Therapeutic Court will graduate eight students in a ceremony to be held at 3 p.m. May 15 in Courtroom A of the Dimond Courthouse.

Since its inception in 2005, the Juneau Therapeutic Court has graduated 17 local men and women, nine from last year alone. There are currently nine in the program. Graduates this year are Mary Miller, Jo Ann Lockwood, Jay S., Christina Z., James H., Kyle D., Joanne P. and Joanne H. (In keeping with Alcoholics Anonymous traditions, some of the graduates preferred their full names not be identified.)

The Hon. Walter Carpeneti, Alaska Supreme Court Justice, will deliver the keynote address, and the Hon. Patricia Collins, presiding Superior Court judge of the First Judicial District will make additional remarks. The ceremony marks the completion of an intensive 18-month program of comprehensive alcohol treatment, close supervision, and full accountability presided over by the Hon. Keith B. Levy.

Other speakers at the ceremony will be Traffic Safety Resource prosecutor David Brower and JTC graduates Mary M. and JoAnn L. All current and former Therapeutic Court participants, the general public, and the media are invited. Representatives of the legislative, judicial, correctional and treatment communities will be in attendance. A reception will follow in the lobby of the Dimond Courthouse.

"National Drug and Alcohol Court Month" is coordinated on a national level by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, which was established in 1994 to assist the planning, implementation, and operation of Drug Courts. This year marks an historic milestone in the Therapeutic Court movement reflected in May's National Drug Court Month theme: "Celebrating Twenty Years of Drug Court: Restoring Lives, Reuniting Families and Making Communities Safer." What started in a Florida court room 20 years ago has become the nation's most successful strategy for dealing with substance abusing offenders and has led to today's uplifting commencement ceremony. Drug courts, wellness courts, DUI courts, mental health courts, family courts and veterans' courts are all examples of the movement toward therapeutic jurisprudence.

"The Alaska Court System has embraced the concept of therapeutic justice by establishing ten therapeutic courts across the state with more being developed. A number of studies across the nation have shown these programs work. Through these programs many lives have been changed for the better," said Chief Justice Dana Fabe of the Alaska Supreme Court in a letter read at last year's ceremony.

Like many of the 2,301 operational therapeutic courts in the United States, the Juneau Therapeutic Court hears cases of offenders charged with alcohol related crimes. Drug and alcohol courts relieve already overwhelmed court dockets, placing offenders in an environment where they undergo treatment and counseling, submit to frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, make regular appearances before the judge and are monitored closely for program compliance.

Graduated sanctions, including jail time, are imposed for noncompliance. Conversely, incentives are applied for continual compliance. And, like the other 2,301 operational Therapeutic Courts, this court works better than jail or prison, better than probation, and better than treatment alone.

"Today, my life has never been better and I have a clear head to plan my goals, hopes, and dreams. I know this program asks a lot of us and takes most of our time but the rewards are greater than you now realize. This is your chance to take control of your life and to finally close the 'revolving door,'" said Jeremiah M., the first graduate of the Juneau Therapeutic Court, in a letter to new participants in the program.

The Juneau Therapeutic Court is a collaborative effort of the Alaska Court System, the District Attorney's office, the Public Defender's Agency, the Juneau Police Department, the City and Borough of Juneau, Rainforest Recovery Center at Bartlett Hospital, Gastineau Human Services and the Juneau chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. It is funded in part by a grant from the Alaska Highway Safety Office.

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