“How are you today?” asked retired Circuit Judge Susan Whitlock, chairwoman of the new Culpeper County Drug Court during the April 12 hearing.
This is how she frequently begins her interactions with drug court attendees.
“Looks like you had a great week,” Whitlock said. “25 days without substance.”
Applause in the gallery of the drug court team for participant “Brandon”, a 21-year-old white man. He was about to move into phase two of the five-phase structured program, which focuses on providing a variety of services and consistent supervision for people struggling with addiction, instead of the incarceration.
“I’m excited,” Brandon replied. “Actually, I started to like going to class. It’s good to talk about it. »
Part of being in drug court is attending regular treatment offerings and meetings through community and other services. Emphasis is placed on building trust with the drug court team and on honesty.
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“Are you going to the gym?” Whitlock asked.
Not this week, replied the young man, saying he played basketball instead. Brandon said he doesn’t go out of his way to talk to people, especially former associates.
“I want to focus on myself,” he told the judge. “A lot of people are still drinking and smoking…don’t want to be in that crowd right now.”
It’s a good decision, said the judge.
History and futureBrandon opened drug court in early March on a 2020 drug possession charge of sedatives and Xanax-like pills.
He admitted to drug abuse after police found him slumped over a steering wheel in the parking lot of a local business. Brandon told cops he used the highly addictive opioid, OxyContin, according to court records.
He has met the requirements for a referral to drug court and has been assessed as high risk/high need and has a moderate to severe substance abuse disorder. Brandon must meet 15 requirements, including not owning or being around people with drug addictions, random drug testing and not owning or using a firearm.
William, a drug court participant, on the program since February, is a 56-year-old black man and an ex-con in the system for some time, most recently for a drunk in public charge and possessing PCP, in 2019.
“I’m fine,” he told Judge Whitlock, who asked him how he was doing during the April 12 hearing.
She said: “You did really well – 33 days without substance.”
Applause from the podium. The team granted her permission to go on vacation for a few days at a local ski resort with her daughter.
“You’re about to move into phase two as well,” Whitlock said of the 14-month program.
William said 2022 was going to be his year, that he was starting his own business.
“I design mountain bikes,” he told the judge. She replied, “We are really proud of you.”
“I have become a convert”Retired Charlottesville Circuit Judge Edward Hogshire replaced Whitlock in drug court on May 2 with the registration of William and Brandon, and a new registered participant, Wayne, 29, a white man with a background of drug addiction.
Hogshire, who works as a lecturer at the University of Virginia School of Law, recalled his 16 years as president of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Drug Treatment Court. He said he didn’t believe in the program at first.
“But after a year or two or watching people grow and change and have a life, I became a convert,” Hogshire said. “I’m so excited that Culpeper has a drug treatment court.”
He praised the participants, saying it was taking the difficult route with the hassle, testing and liability that drug court entails.
Hogshire said it was worth it, especially with access to treatment and care options. He cited 400 graduates of the Charlottesville program.
“The majority continue to have productive lives that they never would have had without the program,” Judge said. “I encourage you to stay with him.”
Encouragement, support and focusBrandon told the deputy judge that he was trying to help himself, that he lived in Richmond before he checked into drug court. He said he spoke with a mentor weekly and traveled to the Outer Banks with his family.
“Do you want to stay away from people, places and things that could be problematic?” asked the Hogshire.
“Yes,” Brandon replied. “They know my situation and supported me,” he said of his family.
Hogshire came off the bench in the General District courtroom to present the 21-year-old with a certificate for completing the first phase of the program. The judge shook his hand. “Congratulations,” he said.
Culpeper County Criminal Justice Services Director Andrew Lawson, Acting Drug Court Coordinator, stood up in the courtroom to tell Brandon how proud everyone is of him for the progress.
“You did really well… You were really honest with people, you tried to help each other, and it shows,” Lawson said.
Two months ago, Brandon didn’t think it was possible, commented a social worker on the drug court team.
He was responsible and easy to work with, added defense attorney Monica Chernin, a member of the drug court team.
Hogshire encouraged camaraderie among drug court attendees, saying they can offer strength when the going gets tough.
Returning from vacation via video conference, William spoke to Brandon: “I’m proud of you man, I love you man, be safe.”
“It sounds like you’re working hard on the program and staying drug and alcohol free,” Hogshire addressed the television screen.
William replied that he was trying to get his life back. The 14-month program will be accomplished together, as a group, he added. He mentioned his young daughter and said he just got his driver’s license back.
“Trying to be a better father to my child and a member of society,” William said. “I love church, I’ve been in NA (Narcotics Anonymous) for years…just trying to stay focused for the rest of my life.”
Hogshire wished him well on the program and said he looked forward to his future success.
Freedom, demandsThe last to check into drug court was newbie Wayne. He told the retired judge that he wanted to live a sober life and be a productive member of society.
“Freedom, being able to see my kids whenever I want is the best thing in the world,” said the 29-year-old, who spent time in jail for a 2017 heroin possession conviction, court records show. . Additional charges from 2015 include accepting stolen property and another probation violation for using opioids, LSD and fentanyl, according to court records.
Wayne said he was grateful to be in the drug court program and attend recovery classes 12 hours a week. He completed the program at Boxwood Recovery Center in Culpeper, 30 days, following a probation violation in 2021.
“It works if you work,” Wayne said.
“Good for you,” Hogshire replied. “This program will need you to help with others. You will help each other, because it is not easy.
The social worker pointed out that if the participants are committed, they will do very well.
The three participants in Culpeper Drug Court remain in compliance with the program as they progress to the next level.
In the final chapter, phase five, participants attend court every month and continue to deal with treatment, supervision, medical needs, and the progress of people, places, and things.
In the final phase, participants continue to review their case plan, with monthly office visits and team visits to their homes. They must maintain housing, undergo random drug testing, participate in a criminal reflection program, develop an ongoing care plan, and maintain prosocial activity and a sober network, according to the participant manual developed by the crew. Vocational training, parental and family support and vocational training are also covered in this phase, before graduation.
In addition to recognition from the drug court team, as stated in the hearings, other incentives are gift certificates, medallions, movie passes, sobriety coins, and early release. from the program. Penalties include reprimands, essay writing, volunteer hours, curfew restrictions, and increased surveillance and drug testing.
According to the manual, drug court participants also waive Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
This is the second in an occasional series following the progress of the Culpeper Drug Court and its participants, whose real names are not used.