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BENTONVILLE -- Gov. Asa Hutchinson described drug courts as a place of hope and second chances for people.

Hutchinson was the speaker at Friday's graduation for Benton County Veterans Treatment Court and Drug Court graduation. "Our efforts in drug treatment courts is about hope and second chances," Hutchinson said. "Hope and second chances. There's nothing more precious than that."

Anniversary

It was the drug court’s 10th ceremony since it was founded in 2001 and the first graduation for the veterans program. More than 60 men and women are expected to be among this year’s graduates. The ceremony marks their completion of an intensive 15-month program of comprehensive drug treatment, close supervision, and full accountability.

The graduates handwork in completing the year long program should give them hope for the future, Hutchinson said.

He praised the graduates for their hard work in completing the program, but he also advised them their work isn't over. Hutchinson urged the graduates to have hope about their future and the opportunities that wait for them.

He also urged employers in the private sector to give graduates of drug and alternative courts a second chance. "Don't have them just check the box and don't give them the interview," Hutchinson said.

He was referring to the spot on a job applications whether individuals have to check whether they are convicted felons.

Some employers notice "the box" was checked and put it in a different stack and never get back to it, Hutchinson said "Good employers say even it you check the box we are going to give you the interview," he said. "We are going to see if you are seeking a different life. We are going to give you a second chance and an opportunity."

Hutchinson became a fan of drug courts while he was the head of the Drug Enforcement Agencies because of the success stories from the programs.

Hutchinson said he attended drug court graduations in Compton, Calif., and the south side of Chicago and the one the ceremonies had in common is many graduates would thank their arresting officers for saving their lives.

Hutchinson stressed there must be a partnership between law enforcement, education and treatment communities when it comes to drugs.

Hutchinson said there's been a reduction by 50 percent reduction in drug use in the country since he was a "young U.S. attorney" in the late 70's and early 80's. There also has been a 75 percent reduction in cocaine use in the country, he said.

More than 60 people graduated from the drug and veterans court.

Toby Roberts is one of the graduates. Roberts said drug court saved his life and the most important things in his life is now his sobriety, his wife and two daughters. "Thanks to drug court I can be the man I wanted to be and the man my wife always saw," Roberts said.

Jason and Angela Salter are married and completed the program together.

Jason Salter said he never would have stopped using drugs if he hadn't been arrested. He said he couldn't stop drinking or using drugs. "I want to thank the people who saw value in my life," he said.

Angela Salter said she now knows her husband after 20 years of marriage. "I finally know who my husband is," she said. "My kids are proud of me today."

Michelle Barrett, the coordinator for the drug court, said nearly 700 people have graduated from the program.

Circuit Judge Tom Smith also praised the graduates for their hard work and completing the program.

"The role of being the judge in this program is my dream job and I love doing it," Smith said.

NW News on 06/06/2015

Print Headline: Drug courts offer second chances

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