‘Thank you for saving my life’

LIHUE — Marianne Hooker, anxious to return to her home on the Big Island, said when she graduated from the University of Denver 25 years ago in social science, she never thought she would be on the other side of the law.

“I had 20 charges against me when I entered drug court,” Hooker said. “Including a felony charge of breaking into my own house. I didn’t realize that I was the victim.”

Hooker said with the help of Kauai attorneys Dan Hempe and Michael Soong, she put her life back together, apologizing to the Kauai Police Department, and the community of Kauai, for the obnoxious behavior she displayed when confronted.

“Kauai Drug Court saved my life,” Hooker said. “They gave me, me. Thank you for saving my life.”

Hooker, David Perreira Jr., Dexter Matsushima and Bonnie Lee Perreira were the most recent, “saved,” graduates — a distinction they recited during the 25th Kauai Drug Court graduation Friday at the county court house.

The other graduates had similar stories, getting help from the staff at the Kauai Drug Court to turn the tide against the addictive power of alcohol and drugs.

“Everyone deserves, as the mayor said, ‘that second, third, and even fourth chance,’” said Mel Rapozo, the Council Chair and a board member of the Friends of Kauai Drug Court. “I became a police officer in 1985, and for most of my police career, I said, ‘You guys did something bad — you need to go to jail.’”

He said over the years, he realized that everyone deserves another chance.

“I know one of you, I went to school with another,” Rapozo said, looking over the graduates. “Drug court is the best place for those who make mistakes. It is a place where you can reset the clock. Don’t go backwards, don’t waste the opportunity you have before you.”

May is National Drug Court Month and the theme this year is “Drug Court Saves,” Joseph Savino, Kauai Drug Court administrator, explained.

“This is the proof of the theme — these four graduates, and the 165 graduates before them,” he said.

Savino added that the state’s judiciary branch does not put in a penny for the service projects, refreshments, and other items needed for the drug court’s programs. The Kauai United Way provides between 80 to 85 percent of the funding for these items. The remainder is provided by the Friends of the Kauai Drug Court, and the Visitor Industry Charity Walk.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe, one of two Drug Court judges on Kauai, said the program not only saves the individuals, it saves their families who are often not highlighted in the stories of recovery.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said it gives the successful graduates a second, third, and even fourth chance at life.

“I am proud of you,” Carvalho said, presenting a proclamation celebrating Drug Court Month to the court at the graduation. “As I was coming in, I saw the rainbow and it brought me back to the football field as a Rainbow Warrior. You are all on the field at the 50-yard line. Ahead of you is the end zone and you march, hash mark by hash mark until you reach the end zone.”

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