When you walk into a specialty court graduation ceremony you know you’re entering something really special. There is excitement and optimism in the air. Families and friends are present with balloons, flowers and cake to support their loved ones. The monthly District Court graduations in the jury services room mark a point of change. Hearing Master Melissa De La Garza reminds participants to savor the moment and remember how they feel as they graduate. The grads will need that thought and that feeling to carry them through the tough times and help them to maintain their commitment to be substance-abuse free.

Hearing Master Melissa De La Garza https://youtu.be/IjM_Mdawo44

Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig https://youtu.be/jf94O1_qMt8

Each month, nearly 30 participants graduate from intensive specialty court treatment programs. Eighty-nine participants graduated from the District specialty courts programs in the past three months. Multiply that times all the people in their families and you can get a sense of the kind of impact that the programs are having on the community. That’s 89 families who have a loved one who is contributing instead of disrupting their lives. The community as whole will also benefit from this wave of people committed to a better life. At an estimated jail cost of $135 per-day per-inmate, 89 successful graduates saves $12,015 a night and more than $4.3  million a year in incarceration costs alone. The social benefits are immeasurable. The graduating class includes participants from veterans court, mental health court, the OPEN program, drug court and felony DUI court.

Kicking addiction and giving up the life that goes with it isn’t easy. “I know you worked really hard to get to this point it is just the beginning though and there is a lot of work to do in the future. It is a great time to celebrate the accomplishments you have achieved so far,” said Judge Linda Bell, who presides over specialty courts. “We really look forward seeing all the things that you do as you move on from specialty courts.”

Judge Linda Marie Bell at specialty court graduation https://youtu.be/LI45EnZ-mR4

Specialty courts take a rigorous and coordinated approach between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, Parole and Probation, law enforcement and mental health/social service/treatment professionals to make the transition possible. All work together to help participants recover, live crime-free and become productive citizens and it’s worth it. Treating addiction and related disorders has proven to be a much more effective way to address crime surround substance abuse rather than let low-level offenders revolve through the prison system.

“It’s not the end of the road for your sobriety. It’s a lifetime of sobriety,” said Jude Carolyn Ellsworth, who presides over drug court. “Now you have the tools and you know how to handle things when time get rough.”

Judge Carolyn Ellsworth https://youtu.be/oKy9-BQGxFU

Jarenie Trachier Quilts of Valor non-profit organization


Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig https://youtu.be/jf94O1_qMt8


Judge Linda Marie Bell at specialty court graduation


Judge Carolyn Ellsworth


Hearing Master Melissa De La Garza


Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig


Jarenie Trachier Quilts of Valor non-profit organization