GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Drug Court program has helped dozens of people turn their lives around by providing an opportunity for a clean slate.
This week, another class saw that dream come true. The 19th class of the 2nd judicial drug court graduated this week. It's a program that graduates admit is intense.
"I feel pretty great," said graduate Randy Melilli. "I've got my letter over there of expungement, so that's the best part because drug court's really really strict with the drug test, the scared straight type thing I was telling you about. But it's so strict because it does end with an expungement."
Melilli was on a bad path 5 years ago. "My journey started off with taking drugs recreationally, until finally I was addicted and couldn't get off of them," he said. "I knew that at some point, I would have either died or completely wound up in prison."
He says even at his lowest point, he still had support.
"When you're taking drugs, or your a drug addict, I guess sometimes you feel like you don't deserve anything," Melilli said. "You feel like you don't have that support. If you could have seen it then you may not have gotten into that trouble. But at least for me, I had the support. So I just didn't know it was there."
William Amacker's path through Drug Court created new relationships and bonds that he knows will help keep him clean. "I regained the trust that I lost with my drug use from my family," Amacker said. "I gained new friendships that didn't have to do through drugs. I became a father and I basically got my responsibilities in check."
The program has given him what knowledge he needs to move forward with his new life. "It gives you the tools that you need to learn how to cope with any urges that you have," said Amacker. "It deters you from wanting to do drugs. You build relationships with the employees in the program that are life long."
Melilli knows the support from his circle will keep him strong. "It's definitely a good thing when you have that support from your family and friends. To know if you fall they're still going to love you, they're still going to be there to help you through those times," Melilli said.
For these 16 graduates, a fresh start on life is not one that they're taking for granted. Upon completion of the drug court program, the criminal record of participants is expunged.