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Big Island Drug Court celebrates 68th Graduation Ceremony

Posted on Nov 13, 2023 in Featured News, News & Reports
Two Big Island Drug Court graduates stand with Judge Wendy DeWeese in a courtroom, Keahuolū Courthouse, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 10-23, 2023.

Kona Drug Court Presiding Judge Wendy DeWeese (center) celebrates with the two graduates who completed the Big Island Drug Court Program on October 23.

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaiʻi — The Big Island Drug Court (BIDC) celebrated its 68th graduation ceremony at the Keahuolū Courthouse in Kailua-Kona on October 23. Two graduates were recognized for their diligent efforts and accomplishments in the intensive court treatment program.

Kona Drug Court Judge Wendy DeWeese shared her thoughts with the graduates that were both informative and inspiring.

“Treatment courts work. They work to save money. They work to rehabilitate people. They work to prevent recidivism,” she said. “The United States has some of the highest rates of recidivism in the world with 44% returning to prison within the first year of release and 68% getting rearrested after three years. Three-fourths of those who return to incarceration meet the criteria for substance abuse disorder, but only 7-17% receive treatment while incarcerated.”

Judge DeWeese recalled her experience at a recent conference where the speaker asked the audience, ‘What is justice? Retribution? Right a wrong? Punishment? Restitution? What part of justice means that when someone touches the court system, they come out better than they were when they first came in? What if they left healthier, happier, more successful? What if among things, justice meant building healthier communities?’

Judge DeWeese said that the speaker challenged them to think about person-centered justice, both for victims and offenders.

“I believe that in our treatment courts we do that. We make sure victims receive restitution. We can in some instances provide them a measure of closure,” said Judge DeWeese.

She added that itʻs important that we hold offenders accountable for their actions, while also making sure they receive the support they need, such as drug and mental health treatment, and even educational services.

The Big Island Drug Court has started to provide life skills classes, such as teaching participants how to write a resume, interview for jobs, and how to manage their finances.

Judge DeWeese concluded by saying, “Graduates, you are examples of what people can accomplish and how they can rise above the wreckage of their past. You make us, your families, and our community proud. You are now part of our healthier community and it is all the better for it. Congratulations on your success today and I wish you many more.”

For more about the Big Island Drug Court program, contact the Drug Court Probation office in Hilo at 808-961-7566, or the Drug Court Probation office in Kona at 808-443-2200.