Drug court alumni praise program

Effort marks 5th year of encouraging treatment

May 13, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Some compared the mood inside the Baltimore courtroom to a church revival.

The crowd of more than 200, dressed in their Wednesday best, laughed, cheered, cried and offered an occasional amen as six speakers talked about how their lives have been affected by drug court.

Drug court, a program that lets nonviolent offenders exchange jail time for drug treatment, celebrated its fifth birthday at Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East yesterday.

In addition to many of the graduates, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend offered her views on the program.

"It stops the debate between do we need more punishment or more treatment," Townsend said after standing with State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, local judges and others, to shake hands with the 30 new graduates.

Dermon Adler, one of the graduates, said she lived on a diet of heroin and cocaine for more than 20 years. Adler, 37, produced a criminal record of theft and drug possession and, like many drug addicts, refused help until she was ready.

"One day I prayed to God for help, and he helped," she said.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said "for a lot of these offenders" drug treatment is more frightening than jail.

"All of these people were headed toward jail or the division of corrections," he said, adding that most drug court participants have been charged with shoplifting, theft and selling drugs.

"Considering many or most of these individuals have had long drug histories, six months in jail is nothing to them," Sipes said.

Adler was joined by her boyfriend Donovan Adams and her mother, Theresa Fatherly, who agreed that she is more responsible and able to take criticism since dropping her drug habit. Adler said she is enrolled in a job training workshops, and wants to become a computer programmer.

"I've seen a lot of changes and personal growth," said Adams, who works at a Baltimore dry cleaners. "I'm surprised she survived."

Fatherly, a janitor, said she is much closer to her daughter now. "It's hard to say I love you, but I don't like you," she said, adding that she both loves her and likes her now.

Pub Date: 5/13/99

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