Drug court grads start new, clean life

Published 12:02 am Friday, June 29, 2012

ROD GUAJARDO / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Drug court graduates Ashleigh Biglane and Deon White hold up their right hands taking an oath to live a clean and full life after graduation. Thursday’s graduation ceremony featured four graduates and one posthumous grad.

NATCHEZ — Athletes have been known to kiss hard-won trophies.

But the envelope Josephine Montgomery held up to kiss Thursday afternoon was more precious to her than the Lombardi Trophy or the Sprint Cup; it contained the papers saying she had finished drug court, and any charges against her were expunged.

Montgomery, along with three others, was one of the graduates from the Adams County Drug Court program Thursday. A fifth graduate, Cedric Morgan, was awarded a posthumous drug court graduation.

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“I graduated high school, I graduated college, but this is the (graduation) that means the most to me, because this is the one that turned my life around,” Montgomery said, visibly displaying emotion. “It has helped me regroup.”

Participants in the drug court program must undergo intensive, long-term treatment and counseling, and must make frequent court appearances. When they complete the program, charges against them may be reduced or set aside entirely.

Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders said Montgomery was a “non-traditional” drug court participant because she had a college degree, but she was a model one, taking her time in drug court to volunteer as a GED counselor.

“She was like a mother hen to the other participants,” Sanders said. “She would direct them; she was always there. While she may not have agreed with my decisions or some of the other decisions, she always kept smiling.”

The greatest thing about drug court, Montgomery said, was that it existed.

“I had no idea of how to go about getting help,” she said. “That was my second chance, and I have not taken it for granted.”

While in the drug court program, graduate Ashleigh Biglane completed the requirements to get a GED and an associates degree.

She, too, said she was grateful for the program.

“Drug court works if you work at it and don’t try to play around with it,” Biglane said. “I am thankful for my family that has helped me and supported me. You have jut got to stay strong and remember where you’ve been.”

Graduate Deon White said finishing drug court wasn’t easy — for him, it meant spending one Fourth of July behind bars because of a courtroom outburst — but it was worth it.

“They helped me a lot, they calmed me down a lot,” White said. “It was hard, and I want (everyone) to know it is not over for me.”

Morgan’s posthumous graduation was awarded because he was killed during a robbery gone wrong in October.

“Cedric always had a smile on his face,” Sanders said. “He was a special participant, and we will miss him dearly. He was killed by no fault of his own while attempting to buy food.”

Morgan’s recognition was accepted by his wife, Crystal, who thanked everyone for remembering her husband.