Sobriety Court celebrates graduation day

CARO (WJRT) - (11/09/18) - The Thumb Regional Sobriety Court celebrated graduation day on Friday.

Three of the eight men who finished the 18 month program welcome family, friends and other community members to the ceremony at the Tuscola County Courthouse. The men come from Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.

Retired Judge Harvey J. Hoffman was the keynote speaker. He created the sobriety court concept more than 20 years ago in Eaton County after seeing repeat drunk drivers end up in his court.

Hoffman spoke of the good days and bad days that lead up to graduation day. He said for many the day they were arrested or arraigned may be the worst. "Can remember the feeling of those bracelets on their hands. Remember the sound of the jail cell door slamming behind them," he said.

In the Thumb Sobriety Court participants go before 54th Circuit Court Judge Amy Grace Gierhart. "The idea is to do things in a different way. I mean we've been incarcerating people for years and obviously people are reoffending," she said.

During the program participants deal with everything from finding the root cause of their actions to daily sobriety testing in an effort to stop the cycle.

Matthew remembers his worst day that lead him to the program. "Unlike some people you know I didn't get the just the lights behind me and handcuffed up. I was in an accident. Should have been dead," he said.

Matthew said if not for the TRSC and the people involved in it his life would be completely different. "I would have took the easy way out, did my 180 days, been back out doing what I was doing."

Robert remembers struggling through the first several months of the program. "Once I finally started to get sober and get clean, and become a person, my life has changed. I changed everything," he said.

As part of the ceremony each graduate was given a flower and asked to give to someone who helped them along the way. Scott gave his to the Judge Gierhart.

"It was special that I received one of those today," Gierhart said.

Current TRSC participants were in the audience today to show them it can be done.

"There is life after DWI/sobriety court. It can happen. You can make it," Hoffman said.

"I've become a productive person in society and I have this program to thank for it. I love you guys, you changed my life. Thank you," Robert said.

Since 2013, 81 people have complete the program.

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