By Katelyn Cordero
Newburgh Courtroom one was filled with leaders in the Orange County Community and friends and family ready to support the five individuals graduating from Drug Treatment Court on May 15. One by one graduates of the program made their way to the front of the courtroom to receive their certificates and for some their one year sobriety chips.
For Michael Cross this program was the change he need in his life to steer him in the right direction. The veteran was arrested a year ago on his birthday for driving while intoxicated.
“I had gotten away with it for years, this was the first and last time that I got caught,” said Cross.
When Cross was arrested and brought to the New Windsor Police Department, he was released on his own recognizance, when he met with his court appointed lawyer that gave him his options, one of those was to go to Drug Treatment Court, where he would take part in the year long program to recovery. There he would meet weekly with a team, including Judge Williams and Linsday Fruscianti, DTC Coordinator.
The Newburgh City Drug Treatment Court program is a special part of the Newburgh City Court, that gives non-violent misdemeanor offenders and veterans with a history of substance abuse a second chance. They must be willing to participate in the program, where at graduation their charges will be dismissed or reduced.
The court is run by Judge E. Loren Williams who learned through DTC training to treat the whole person rather than just the crime.
“In Drug Treatment Court the idea is different. Usually, the person will plea and is found guilty, in drug treatment court we try to treat the person,” said Williams. “We are slowly trying to change the culture surrounding incarceration. We’ve come to learn that if you put a person in jail with no treatment they don’t lose their desire to use. In our court, the crime is dismissed or reduced in the end but you end up with a better person that is a productive member of society, and you save money by keeping them out of prison.”
When looking at who to accept for his program Williams looks for participants with a willingness to complete the year-long program. He has been pleasantly surprised through the years with some participants he didn’t anticipate to complete the program coming out successful and optimistic for their future.
Michael Cross was one the successful participants Cross was able to graduate from his program. Cross turned to alcohol when he was young serving in the military. The veteran used drinking as a crutch to get through the things he saw as a young man in the military.
He had this crutch for years but it wasn’t until his birthday that he would get caught by the New Windsor Police Department driving from a bar to get Chicken and Waffles down the road.
“Four dollars could have saved me from all of this, I never even made it to get my chicken and waffles,” said Cross. “When they tested me I was two times over the legal driving limit. I got away with it for years, my drinking started when I went into the armed forces. It wasn’t my first time drinking while driving, it was the first time I got caught.”
Cross is grateful for the Drug Court Program, if he never ended up in the program he would have never pushed himself to get sober. In the program, he was able to earn his one year sobriety chip and got married to his wife by Judge Williams.
“Now is where the difficult part starts, I’m done with this chapter but I have a ways to go,” said Cross. “The hard part now will be staying on the right track without DTC on my back making sure I do the right thing.”
Two of the five graduates were Michael Cross and Adrianna Donnolly. Other graduates have plans to open businesses of their own, and jobs lined up to continue on the right track.
“We came together to produce certain results and that is to show someone that they can do it. I ask critics of this program, what do we expect when we just put people back in jail? We should expect the person to re-offend if we don’t teach them how to make better decisions,” said Williams. “All that happens here is we as a community come together and help a person that is willing to make a change.”