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Two decades of changing lives: 40th JDC Adult Drug Court celebrates 20 years

LAPLACE — The 40th JDC Adult Drug Court of St. John the Baptist Parish was recently recognized for 20 years of service at the Louisiana Association of Drug Court Professionals’ annual convention.

Albert “Ali” Burl III of the 40th JDC Adult Drug Court said the program provides a helpful tool for bringing families back together and subverting crime in the community.

“Treatment courts are the most prevalent intervention in our nation’s history for facilitating people living with substance use and mental health disorders out of the justice system and into lives of recovery and stability,” coordinators said in a press release.

Drug courts gained traction in Florida after an influx of drug-related crime threatened communities. Treatment aimed to decrease the criminal population. The 40th JDC Drug Court was made possible by the diligence of Judge Madeline Jasmine, who observed the national trend at a drug conference and made it a priority to operate an adult drug court in St. John Parish. Her efforts paved the way for the graduation of more than 250 clients who are now better prepared to lead successful lives.

“It’s important in this area because, with the opioid epidemic, we are seeing a rise of methamphetamine use, and most of the nonviolent crimes are being committed by addicts who are trying to fuel their use,” Burl said. “Beyond crime, it deteriorates families. Sometimes babies are born addicted to drugs. Families get divorced. People aren’t able to pay their bills. Drugs affect our everyday lives. I think it affects the quality of life for the community as a whole. We’re striving to make St. John Parish better.”

According to a press release, the Adult Drug Court ensures the accountability of its clients by promoting “efficient practices, thorough treatment, help finding gainful employment, assisting in acquiring their GED and securing affordable housing.”

The court-appointed service has helped participants find meaningful careers in local industry and other lines of work. Burl has seen numerous clients receive college acceptance letters and go on to become managers in their respective fields. Some graduates were employed by restaurants and have worked their way up the chain of command. Others are managing car dealerships.

In a single graduating class of 11 graduates, six became first-time homebuyers. Additionally, several mothers have gotten their children back from state custody.

“It’s been very helpful at bringing families together,” Burl said.

Graduates from throughout the year are recognized with a ceremony during National Drug Court Month in May. The drug court’s record of success is proven through the low recidivism rate of graduates and a higher amount of drug-free births.

Adult Drug Court is offered through the support of St. John the Baptist Parish Government, St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Supreme Court, the Drug and Specialty Court Office and several state and federal partners.

Drug Court staff works with treatment facilities in the community, as well as the River Parish Addictive Disorders clinic in LaPlace, to assess clients and refer them to the best resources.