The First Circuit Drug Court recently held a graduation unlike any in its 24-year history. Traditionally, these events are held in the Hawaii Supreme Court courtroom with family, friends, and distinguished guests. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the court celebrated the achievements of 16 graduates by broadcasting the in-person June 15 proceedings to special guests who participated remotely through video conferencing.
First Circuit Drug Court Judge Matthew J. Viola worked closely with staff for several weeks to develop a ceremony that included proper social distancing, masks for all attendees, and other measures to protect everyone’s health and safety. When the 72nd proceedings convened program staff and graduates were able to gather safely in the courtroom, while the Hawaii Drug Court Prosecutor, Public Defender, private and court appointed attorneys, along with other court staff and families of the graduates viewed the ceremony from a separate location. One graduate who couldn’t be there was still able to participate thanks to the video connection.
The First Circuit Drug Court is an 18-month program that offers a less costly, more effective alternative to incarceration. Its in-house certified substance abuse counselors administer intensive outpatient treatment to all participants, who also receive mental health and medical follow-up, frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, random home visits, and strict curfew monitoring. The program provides clients with assistance in obtaining employment and housing, frequent review hearings before the Drug Court judge, along with incentives for those who maintain sobriety and attend school or training, or are employed.
Since the program’s inception in 1996, the Oahu Drug Court has had 1,022 graduates.
For more about the program, contact the First Circuit Court Adult Client Services Branch at (808) 539-4500.