CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Five drug-free Kanawha County citizens happily displayed their certificates Thursday in the ceremonial courtroom of the Kanawha County Courthouse, all products of a program officials say has been wildly successful at weaning criminal defendants off drugs and saving the county money on its jail bill.
Harold Lee Battle, Alan Mason, Michal "Betsy" Raines, Marisa Martin and Mona Tignor took turns speaking to a crowd of family, friends and law enforcement that came to cheer their graduation from the county's yearlong drug court program.
The drug court acts as a diversionary program for people who are addicted to drugs and have been charged with relatively minor crimes. In lieu of jail time, participants take an extensive testing, counseling and community service program run by the court system to help them control their substance-abuse problems. If they complete the program, prosecutors agree to dismiss their criminal charges.
"I have no regrets," Battle said. "I can speak now in clear language and I can see now with clear eyes."
Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey, who leads the drug court, said during Thursday's graduation ceremony that the court has graduated 38 participants. Only 13.8 percent of those participants were arrested again after they completed the program, she said.
In all, the county has saved $2,362,000 on its regional jail bill, the judge said.
Battle served in the U.S. Navy during 1991's Operation Desert Storm and was honorably discharged.
Mason is a father of two, a cook and a Dallas Cowboys fan.
Raines had all clean drug screens during her time in the yearlong program. She works as a carrier for Charleston Newspapers and as a cashier at Go-Mart.
Tignor, who also had all clean screens, presented a certificate of appreciation Thursday to the officers who arrested her. They changed her life for the better, she said.
Martin, an energetic aunt, broke into tears as she thanked family and friends for supporting her through her time in drug court. She is a cashier at Family Dollar.
All the participants spent several minutes thanking law enforcement officials and family members for helping them through the program.
"I have this right here," Battle said, holding his certificate in the air. "That's what this is all about."
Reach Zac Taylor at zachary.tay...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.