By Seth Daniel
Those who work in the Chelsea Courthouse and those who frequent it with criminal cases know that there aren’t a lot of great days marked in the building.
It’s not exactly a place to come celebrate.
But occasionally, the smiles come out and the celebratory cake gets cut, and that one day of happiness in the Court is Drug Court graduation day.
On Tuesday, June 27, just such a celebration took place in the Chelsea Courthouse and four graduates from the grueling life-turnaround program celebrated sobriety, clean living and getting their path straight.
“Honestly, nothing good really ever happens in a courthouse,” said Judge Matthew Nestor. “One of the only good days in a courthouse like this is drug court graduation day. It’s really a great day for the participants. We’re proud to have watched them come such a long way and to see that they have accomplished a lot. It’s a day by day thing for them, but we’re proud.”
Drug Court is a special program pioneered and refined at Chelsea District Court many years ago, and a program that has been replicated in numerous other jurisdictions where drug use and addiction is a problem. Some defendants are given the opportunity to enter the program in lieu of their punishment, and strict and rigorous requirements for sobriety are enacted upon them.
Tara Fleming, a graduate, said she had been through it all – on the streets, doing drugs and making a life out of coming in and out of the court. That was until she began Drug Court in 2014. Now, she is on the right path and said the graduation day marked a huge milestone in her life.
“It has been an absolute turnaround,” she said. “I was homeless on the street. I hurt myself on the streets. I ended up in drug court after being arrested three times in two weeks. It saved my life. I’ve been fighting through it every since. I refuse to go back.”
Another graduate, Heather Harper, described the day as “colossal.”
“It’s colossal because since the age of 14 I’ve doing this – drugs and court,” she said. “Drugs, prostitution, everything. I’ve done it all. This is great right now to have accomplished this. Nov. 8, 2015 is the date that stands out to me. That’s the day I decided to start this. Eighteen months of Chelsea Drug Court and this is it. I have one thing that I like to remember, ‘Never look back unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.’”
Other graduates included Christopher Bonsai and Edward Sarmanian.