Drug Court graduation marks new beginning for participants - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Drug Court graduation marks new beginning for participants

Thirty-four participants where honored on Thursday, something Judge Dodson says is reason to celebrate. (Photo source: WLOX News) Thirty-four participants where honored on Thursday, something Judge Dodson says is reason to celebrate. (Photo source: WLOX News)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Five years ago, Ray Johnson was facing possession of synthetic heroin charges. 

But thanks to drug court, Johnson took part in an intensive rehabilitation program and is drug-free. 

"It would have got me 16 years in prison," said Johnson. "I was breathless, it was amazing and one of the best days of my life."

At the end of National Drug Court Month, 34 participants were honored in Gulfport on Thursday for completing the program for non-violent first-time offenders with substance abuse problems.

Judge Lisa Dodson says the new beginning is reason to celebrate

"Our drug problem is just not going away and this is one of the best tools we have to deal with it," said Dodson. "It's also a celebration of them reclaiming their lives and regaining the trust of their family and friends."

For Shawna Hover, completion of the program wouldn't have been possible without a strong support system. 

"Grateful that I have support and friends. To know that I have backup, people that I can call," said Hover. 

Once graduates walk across the stage Judge Dodson thinks chances that they'll stay clean are good. 

"It's very strenuous, but once they finished they should be drug-free and they should have all the tools they need to deal with their addiction," said Dodson. 

Now that Ray has his record expunged, he plans to be a positive example for others. 

"I chose drug court and it made it for me, so it can make it for everybody else," said Johnson. 

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