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SD Drug Court Changing Lives, Expanding



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As of Wednesday 12 people have graduated from The Second Circuit Drug Court. The program was designed to help drug and alcohol addicts, who face prison time, sober up outside of prison walls. Now the life changing program is expanding state wide.

Drug Court started as an experimental program. In February, Senate Bill 70 was signed into law by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Now judges can send those facing felony drug charges to Drug Court, instead of prison. The results have been extremely positive for those who have completed the program. With the cost of just one inmate running at $25,000 a year, it’s saving the state money too.

"I had grown up into a world of drinking and drugs and it was really hard for me to get out of that," said Deanna Eagle Horse, a Drug Court Graduate.
   
Twenty-nine-year-old Eagle Horse said she thought graduation day from Drug Court would never come.
 After already being in prison once, Eagle Horse yet again found herself facing possibly more time after being charged with possession. But instead of being locked up in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, she was given the opportunity to do Drug Court.
     
 “It would have been easier to go back to that (prison) but I wanted to do something more for my life," said Eagle Horse.   

 Eagle Horse said she didn't want her daughter to grow up in a home with drugs and alcohol like she did.
     
Wednesday marked 605 days of sobriety for Eagle Horse.

"We hope to have at some point, both an alcohol and drug court in every town in South Dakota that is large enough to support them," said Chief Justice David Gilbertson, South Dakota Supreme Court.

Gilbertson said the program is about to expand to Mitchell and Watertown. The program in Sioux Falls and Rapid City will soon have both a drug and alcohol court.

"Contrary to what some may think, we don't take any joy in sending people to the penitentiary. I take even less joy seeing them go back into the penitentiary over, and over, and over again because of addictions," said Gilbertson.

Gilbertson said the program 'stops the revolving door' of addiction. The program gives nonviolent offenders, who face felony drug charges, a chance to sober up in the real world and have responsibilities.
    
For these four graduates, Wednesday marked a new beginning in their lives, because of a program that will soon give many more the same thing.  

“You have to find your own hope," Eagle Horse said. "You can’t depend on everyone else to give you that hope, and that guidance. You have to believe in yourself and go after what you want."

Eagle Horse said she hopes to one day own a horse ranch outside of Sioux Falls. There she would like to help others overcome their addictions.

While in Drug Court, participants have to do three urinary analyses a week and attend Drug Court once a week. They also must attend AA meetings. Other requirements include having a job or going to school, and maintaining some type of residence. Failure to do these may result in prison time.
 
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