A new class of drug court graduates found success on May 22 in Charlestown Municipal Court – with Police Commissioner Willie Gross encouraging them and the community for supporting the graduates.
“The village is taking care of the village in Massachusetts,” he said. “We shouldn’t be shunning you because you have problems. We should be helping you…Today is a good day. I don’t BS and I tell it like it is. I’m proud of each and every one of you. People have doubted you and called you all kinds of names. The things you have gone through with your family. You didn’t start out that way…I see you and I see my brothers and sisters. I’m not a separatist. I know you’re trying hard…Everyone would think the community would be like ‘Get them away. Get them out of here.’ No. This is really unique here. You are part of our village. We don’t want to ostracize you, criticize you and get you away. We want to help you.”
The Charlestown Addiction Recovery and Treatment (CHART) Drug Court Program graduation took place at the Charlestown Municipal Courthouse on May 22. CHART was first established in August 2012 and is conducted by a Probation Officer Michelle Williams and presided by Judge Lawrence McCormick. The ceremony was well attended by Public officials, supporters, friends and family members – including Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey, Councilor Annissa Essaibi George and State Rep. Dan Ryan.
Gross told the graduates that times have changed since he first started as a police officer in Charlestown – eventually moving on to other parts of the city. He said officers are now taught to find out the back story of folks that are facing challenges, not just lock them up.
“You can’t just forget that when you go into law enforcement,” Gross said. “You have to know the back story, and you have to know no one was born with a gun or drugs in their hand. You have to know that something happened along the road in life that either someone failed them, we failed them or society failed them. People handle these things in different ways and some become dependent on drugs.”
He praised the graduates, as well, for taking the negative things and turning them into a positive victory – one that required them to do hard work and meet the criminal justice system halfway. That, he said, is precisely why Drug Court finds so many victories.
You’ve taken the problem head on and addressed the issues,” he said. “Whatever negative things led you to dependency, you have used positive voices around you and your positive voice to go forward in celebration and a new start…You’re not alone…In the old days, we lock you up and bring you to the judge and it’s a vicious cycle. No one was asking how we could help. As we have progressed into the 21st Century, so has looking at the challenges in life – especially dependencies. Now we know what’s up and we know your backstory. What we love is you’re meeting us halfway. We’re meeting here, no one’s giving up on you and then we progress forward. That’s the celebration.”