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JUNEAU - What's the difference between Ebenezer Scrooge and a recovering alcoholic? Well, unlike Scrooge, whose Christmas Eve transformation changed his life very quickly, alcoholism can't be cured overnight.
Juneau Therapeutic Court graduates celebrate recovery from drug and alcohol addiction 052009 NEWS 2 CCW Staff Writer JUNEAU - What's the difference between Ebenezer Scrooge and a recovering alcoholic? Well, unlike Scrooge, whose Christmas Eve transformation changed his life very quickly, alcoholism can't be cured overnight.

Photos By Libby Sterling

Kendall Merry and Jo Ann Lockwood dance with the Yaaw Tei Yi dance group, led by Andy Ebona, at the Juneau Therapeutic Court commencement ceremony on May 15 at the Dimond Courthouse. Merry is the JTC program coordinator and Lockwood is a graduate of the 18-month program.


Photos By Libby Sterling

Kendall Merry and Jo Ann Lockwood dance with the Yaaw Tei Yi dance group, led by Andy Ebona, at the Juneau Therapeutic Court commencement ceremony on May 15 at the Dimond Courthouse. Merry is the JTC program coordinator and Lockwood is a graduate of the 18-month program.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Story last updated at 5/20/2009 - 11:05 am

Juneau Therapeutic Court graduates celebrate recovery from drug and alcohol addiction

JUNEAU - What's the difference between Ebenezer Scrooge and a recovering alcoholic? Well, unlike Scrooge, whose Christmas Eve transformation changed his life very quickly, alcoholism can't be cured overnight.

Judge Keith Levy spoke of Charles Dickens' character from "A Christmas Carol" last Friday at the Juneau Therapeutic Court (JTC) commencement ceremony, which took place at the Dimond Courthouse. Levy began acting as the presiding judge of the JTC upon its inception in 2005. On Friday he shook the hands of eight new graduates of the program.

JTC is a voluntary program for individuals whose alcohol or drug abuse has led them to commit criminal acts. Participants work for 18 months with a team of counselors, treatment providers, case managers and legal authorities to address their substance abuse rather than simply serve their sentence. According to Levy, some of the program's participants chose the program over sentences of as little as 20 days in jail.

JTC is operated by a team of people from Gastineau Human Services, Rainforest Recovery Center, the Department of Law, the Public Defender Agency, Juneau Police Department, the City and Borough of Juneau, the Alaska Court System, and a number of other community partners. The Alaska Highway Safety Office is a major funder for the program.

Similar programs exist in other parts of Alaska, and on Friday, programs in 33 other states held commencement ceremonies similar to Juneau's. In all, seventeen people have graduated from Juneau's program since 2005.

JTC is intensive and its participants are closely supervised and subject to daily urinalyses and Breathalyzer tests during the first few months. They are also required to attend recovery meetings, make regular court appearances and participate in outpatient treatment and counseling sessions. They must live in safe and sober housing and maintain employment at a minimum of 32 hours per week.

On top of it all, the program's participants have to attend all of these meetings and sessions without a driver's license. According to Levy, most have been charged with driving under the influence.

The program uses sanctions and incentives to encourage participants to follow all the rules and regulations. If a participant is found to be out of compliance, discharge is the most extreme sanction, but Levy said that rarely happens and that the program has had "an amazing success rate" so far.

"Alcoholism is a disease," Levy said. "It takes more than just wanting to be sober. A lot of it is willingness to accept the support and structures around you that are available. We provide a structure that helps them."

Jo Ann Lockwood, a JTC graduate, said it's that structure that allowed her to succeed in kicking her drinking. She was first arrested for drunk driving 13 years ago. Around that time, her and her husband's alcoholism forced their son into foster care. Since then, she has had periods of sobriety and periods of relapse, but after her last arrest, she decided that it was time to make a change.

At Friday's ceremony, Lockwood received her completion certificate as well as the Judge Keith B. Levy Award for Community Involvement. She has plans to form an alumni group for graduates of the program to keep in close contact and continue to support each other.

"For me, being alcohol free is freedom," Lockwood said. "Drinking takes you down where you don't get God's energy."

Lockwood said that while all the different elements of the program are good, it is the combination of all of them that provides the level of structure that is necessary for change.

"Now, my family is awesomely strong," Lockwood said. "It took a lot of work to get it out of that dumpster, though."

Lockwood is so thrilled with her life change, she even invited the first officer who arrested her to the commencement ceremony.

"I can see it's dramatically life changing for them," Levy said. "Typically when people first come to court, they're enthusiastic about it and they are ready to make a change in their lives. Then they go through a period when they realize how difficult it is. It's a really phenomenal thing they're doing."

In addition to a completion certificate, Levy awards a copy of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to each graduate of JTC. He said both Scrooge and JTC members change their life through different methods of introspection.

"It doesn't happen overnight," Lockwood said.


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