GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Sixteen men and women are celebrating a clean slate and a new beginning.
They graduated from drug court.
Shante Sauls is among those celebrating freedom from addiction. She poetically described her transformation over the past three years during Thursday’s Second Circuit drug court graduation.
“Let’s drop the excuses in which we use. Let’s stop blaming others, the drugs and the booze," she said as she read her poem to the crowd.
“I just entered a dark spot in my life, and I gave up. Luckily, I’m happy that I was caught. Somebody came in saved me, and I was welcomed to this program," Sauls said.
The drug court program is for non-violent first-time offenders with a substance abuse problem.
“This program gives them an opportunity to have the resources that they need. They provide treatment. We have a treatment counselor. If they need residential treatment we find that for them, and it gives them the tools hopefully that they need," said Judge Robin Midcalf of the Second Circuit drug court.
Ultimately, at the end of the program, participants have their criminal records wiped clean. The program is intense, and completing it is a proud achievement for Tommy Doolittle.
“It was something I needed, and I’m just glad to have accomplished this task," Doolittle said.
Drug court not only gave him a second chance but it also saved his marriage. His wife Janet couldn’t be more proud of him.
“It’s worth it. I’m so glad," she said. “It is an accomplishment. It’s not like graduating high school, but this is something. I mean, if you haven’t gone through it, you don’t know what it’s like."
Now, after years of hard work, a brand new future awaits these graduates.
“I can’t really predict the future, but I know that I’m ready for a better life. A new chapter," Sauls said.
Thursday’s graduation was held differently than in the past due to COVID-19.
Each graduate had their own individual ceremony and was allowed to bring four guests in order to allow for social distancing.