PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - For seven people in Pascagoula, Tuesday was the beginning of their second chance. All graduated from Drug Court. The graduates could have been in the courtroom under different circumstances. All faced some kind of drug charge that could have sent them to jail.
For most it was a long and hard climb to complete the state-run rehab program. Circuit Court Judge Robert Krebs guided them through it.
"You take all these individuals as individuals. They're going to mess up. You can't do cookie cutter drug court just like you can't do cookie cutter justice," said Judge Krebs.
Many in the program saw Judge Krebs as a father figure. The rules were strict and he enforced them with an iron fist. For graduate Danny Davis, that was exactly what he needed.
"I'm glad that he is the way that he is because I needed structure in my life and he provided that for me," said Davis.
Where this program differs from others is in the incentive for the graduate. It's a trade out for freedom. Once they complete the program, they don't go to jail. Graduate Gavino Martinez said jail wasn't the only place he could have ended up.
"You know, the other option is the graveyard," said Martinez.
The fastest route to drug court graduation can take at least two years. Martinez took a bit longer. Tuesday's graduation marked six years since he's been in the program. He said it was just a matter of tearing down his own walls.
"I just was stuck in my own mind; I wanted to do what I wanted to do. You know, I didn't want to listen to anybody else tell me what to do," he said.
Like the other graduates here, finally listening has given him a chance at a new life.
"I thank the Lord every day for this program."
Judge Krebs said the program was a win-win for everyone. For the graduates, it means staying out of jail and getting a second shot. For taxpayers, just these seven graduates alone saved more than $245,000 by not ending up behind bars.