The annual Drug Court graduation celebrated the achievement of two graduates on Tuesday, and the continued efforts of 23 others in Sturgis. Tuesday’s ceremony featured Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender and the story of the two graduates.
Graduates Donnie Lindsey and Dani Hermanson shared their journey in the program, saying it was much harder than the alternative of going to jail and serving their time behind bars.
“The judge gave me a choice,” Hermanson said. “I could go to prison for four years or I could go to drug court. I was deathly afraid of prison, so I very willingly chose drug court. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.”
Hermanson said she arrived at that point after being arrested in 2009, and charged with two counts of controlled substances. She was later charged with just one count of controlled substance and completed a rehab program, returned to using drugs again, violating her probation twice in one month.
“Drugs and alcohol were never something that I did for fun,” Hermanson said. “They were things I knew that I needed to get through the day.”
Hermanson remembered thinking that as long as she got through the program, she could go back to her daily life of use, but the program required that she change her way of life, not just her habits. After spending a week in jail because of a bad attitude, Hermanson realized how serious the Drug Court team really was. She has been sober for two years now, which she said is exhilarating.
“I can now say I am successful and happy and hopeful,” Hermanson said. “This has given me a life worth living. Just to know that I am loved and cared for, that’s not something you think about when you are using. All you think about is yourself. I’ve worked so hard for this and it’s all worth it.”
Hermanson has been out of the program, working at Charolette Russe, for four and a half months and said her life is going well. She plans to finish school at University of Colorado to receive a degree in business merchandising and accounting.
Getting out on his own is what Lindsey said will be the hard part of the program.
“I’m just looking forward to the next part of my life,” Lindsey said. “This has been the easiest part. The hardest part is going to be going out without supervision. That will be the real test.”
Lindsey entered the program in June 2010, and said the program has given him back his family as well as tools he needs to regain his life.
“I am proud of myself and my self control,” Lindsey said. “I have been given a new lease on life and I am embracing it with an open heart.”
Allender told current Drug Court participants and graduates about a small town in Alabama that built a statue in honor of the boll weevil. The bug had destroyed the town’s cotton crop, so the town turned its economy around by planting peanuts, and the town thrived more than it had with cotton.
“It’s a reminder that good comes from bad,” Allender said. “That sometimes in defeat comes victory. That tragedy can produce opportunity. Are you able to build a monument to your boll weevil?”
Allender told the graduates that they are an example to those currently in the program and those around them.
“I hope you realize the gift you have been given. I hope you realize when you leave here that you’re proud of yourself,” Allender said.
Drug Court is an alternate option for those facing jail time in the wake of multiple drug-related offenses. The program provides rigorous supervision and gets those struggling with drugs back on their feet and off drugs, without putting them in jail.