Largest group graduates from Oswego County Drug Treatment Court

by Nicole Reitz

Twenty-two participants have successfully completed the Oswego County Drug Treatment Court — the largest graduating class since the program began in August of 1999.

“Tomorrow is a fresh opportunity to make it better,” said Drug Court graduate Tracie Ormsby.

Drug Court is structured to give non-violent offenders with a history of substance abuse a second chance at life outside of prison. Those who are accepted into the treatment court program receive intensive supervision and monitoring by the court and are also required to complete addiction treatment programs.

Those selected for the alternative to incarceration program are required to stay in drug court for a minimum of one year.

In the first four months, people in drug court are required to go to weekly court sessions. After those four months, they must appear in court every two weeks and so on. Some must make payments towards restitution.

Drug court members also need to complete 25 hours of community service. In order to get to graduation, participants must also have a significant amount of clean and sober time under their belt. In their speeches at Friday’s ceremony, several people mentioned their sobriety date.

Although these 22 people made it through the program, not everyone does.

Program administrator David Guyer said that the completion rate is between 50 and 55 percent, which is in line with the state and national average for drug court programs. The most common reason for this is either the person absconds or is arrested on new charges.

“We don’t terminate a person just for a relapse,” said Guyer. “We attempt to work with people through their addiction. Our ultimate goal is to rehabilitate people.”

As always, there were more male than female graduates, but Guyer said that dynamic is changing. Over the last 14 years of the program, the number of women arrested for drug charges has increased significantly.

A majority of the graduates are in their late teens to early 30s. Guyer has found that 16 and 17 year olds are not as successful in the program, but they have other avenues for turning their lives around.

“We once had a guy who made it through that was 77 years old, but that’s a rarity,” said Guyer.

Before entering drug court, many of the graduates were facing felony convictions. Most of these cases have since been reduced to a misdemeanor. In addition to the legal benefit, those in the program become healthier, get jobs, an education and pay taxes.

“This group of people worked hard,” said Guyer. “These people will hopefully go on to lead healthy and productive lives.”

Drug Court also works alongside the probation department, treatment providers such as Harbor Lights Chemical Dependency in Mexico, and Judge James Metcalf. Many graduates thanked Metcalf specifically for his “tough love” approach, and showed their gratitude for counselors that listen and shared their wisdom.

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