Drug Court graduates 23rd class

LIHUE — Six candidates graduated Friday from the Kauai Drug Court as the program’s 23rd class.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano presided over Drug Court this past quarter and officiated the graduation.

“These six graduates are living proof that Drug Court works,” said Kauai Drug Court Administrator Joseph Savino.

The graduates each addressed the court and their loved ones about where their addictions were leading them. They talked about how Drug Court, which addresses an underlying addiction issue that led to committing a criminal offense, and how it helped them regain health, confidence, employment, homes and families.

“It is an honor and privilege for me to be here to participate in this Drug Court Graduation ceremony,” said Thomas Jay Shigemoto, a Drug Court graduate. “I can’t begin to describe how moving it is for me to be here and for what Drug Court has helped me with. Without this program I would probably still be using drugs or be in prison.”

Fellow graduate Ashley Nakaahiki, thanked the Drug Court staff and judges for the sanctions she called appropriate and when she needed them most.

“It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Nakaahiki said.

Drug Court started in 1998 in a response to the crack cocaine epidemic in Miami. Today, there are over 2,840 Drug Courts in all 50 states and territories, along 23 other countries. Kauai Drug Court has now graduated 148 participants, or 74 percent of all clients who were accepted to the program. Last year the Kauai Drug Court gave back 475 hours to the community in the form of three community service projects.

“Out of the graduates, 96 percent will not recidivate,” Savino added.

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