NJ Drug Court Saluted for Helping Addicts

Keith Jones stood at a podium in a Passaic County College auditorium in front of friends, family, police officers, prosecutors and judges to proudly declare that he has a job, he has credit and he has respect. The reason, he said, was that he had turned his substance-abusing life around, thanks to the state Superior Court’s county-based drug court program — on Wednesday, the 45-year-old grandfather was one of 24 people graduating from the program that day. “I learned how to be responsible,” Jones said. “I was a 40-year-old man living with my parents. I took the opportunity to change my life.” He’s now a truck driver for a company in Wayne. He worked up to that position during the past two years. He started as a package handler and then as a machine operator. “I have credit,” Jones said as his voice boomed over the packed room. “I bought two new cars in the past year … it’s just from paying my bills on time.”

It’s successes like Jones’ that lead many involved in the drug court program, like Judge Rudolf Filko, to declare, “Drug court works.” Statewide, there have been 3,400 graduates from state drug courts, and 379 of them have come from Passaic County, Filko said. What’s most important, said the judge, is that 144 parents have regained custody of their children and 286 drug-free babies have been born to drug court alumni. The county’s drug court is one of three programs set for a mandatory expansion next year under a law signed by Governor Christie that requires non-violent drug offenders to be sentenced to treatment programs instead of prison. The Atlantic and Cape May counties joint court and the Mercer court are the others. The full expansion will be rolled out over five years.

Christie, who has made drug-offense prosecution one of the corner stones of his administration, was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s graduation. Speaking before Jones made his presentation, Christie noted the need to stop the cycle of drug abuse and incarceration, which puts the same people in front of the same judges time and again. He said the solution to the state’s drug problems cannot be to put them out of our sight “and feel that we’re fixing the problem.”

“They don’t want this,” Christie said referring to addiction. “We have an obligation as a society to help them get over this.” Regardless of the humanitarian reasons for drug court, the governor said there are financial considerations, too. Keeping a drug offender in jail for a year costs about $49,000. Rehabilitation for an addict costs about half as much. It helps people take control of their lives and gets them off the streets and back to work.

Jones called the opportunity to go through drug court a blessing. He was either drunk or high when his two older sons, now 25 and 22, were growing up. Jones has been able to rebuild a relationship with them, he said. His oldest lives in Virginia with his four children, and Jones has the opportunity to drive there and see his grandchildren. “They will be able to know me,” Jones said. “I can be there for them.”

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I’m finally back!

Wow, well it’s been quite some time since I have updated my site. I want to sincerely apologize! My laptops charger and battery gave out on me, and I didn’t have the money to replace it, BUT my father brought me a new laptop for my birthday so I can finally continuously update everyday again.

It’s been a very stressful couple of months! I had finally found a job and was hired in November. Just this week I was recently suspended from my job at Chipotle Mexican Grill and was placed in a new drug treatment program due to my own safety. So let me being to tell you… I started my new job just last week. I had missed one day of training on Thursday (12/12) due to a problem that came up at my program. I was on line waiting for the program to open up and there was drugs everywhere! Benzos and heroin to be exact. There were kids on line with their parents, and all this drug use and buying/selling was going on! I don’t appreciate someone banging a bag of dope right in front of me, so I called him out and reported him to security. (Along with the drug dealer too.) Everyone started to riot and get out of control. They called me a snitch, a rat, they said they were going to slice my throat, I was going to die, they went as far as saying they would kill my kids and I would have to watch it all happen. It was complete and utter CHAOS.

I felt like I had to say something though. I knew it would happen, but everyone keeps their mouth shut, and it keeps on happening. I’m not the one to keep my mouth shut.. what If someone drops a bag or a pill and a child gets it and eats it?! The child may die! I think about things like this. I felt like my own personal recovery was on the line as well. It’s going to keep going on if nobody says anything. It’s not right. I don’t understand how they can enter a treatment facility, but still get high, continuously fail their drug tests, but the clinic still keeps them there.. knowing that they are still using and there’s no end in sight.

I had to take a day of training off, which was Thursday. On Friday I was scheduled for 10am till 3pm. I called my GM and asked if I can come in early so that I can make up for the day I missed and try to catch up. She said ok and scheduled me for 8am. When I went to my program in the morning, I had a bunch of angry addicts waiting for me, so I had to speak to the program director and manager about placing me in a new clinic, and someone escorting me to the train station so that nothing would happen to me, because they were all on kill mode. They wanted me dead for ratting out their dealers. I had to call my GM and tell her I might be up to an hour late. She said it was fine and to come in when I can, and I did. I arrived at my job at 8:15!!! I was ONLY 15 minutes late! She spoke to me and said that I need to handle my personal business first and she will allow me to join the team at a later time. I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t. No warning. No nothing. She said everything was okay and it was fine, but when I arrived and got there it was a totally different story. So I’m unemployed again for who knows how long now. I just want my boys to have a good Christmas, and they will now, but I can’t but them all I wanted to. I need to make some cut backs because of this.

This all happened because I really tried to do something good. I’m totally against selling drugs, using drugs, etc. I’m in recovery now and I don’t want to be bothered by that sort of stuff. Seeing that can make someone in recovery run right back out to the same things and back to active addiction. Oh well, at least I got 2 drug dealers off the street! Almost got killed for doing it, but that’s 2 less dealers East Harlem, NY has to worry about.

So that was my week to hell.