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Baltimore's drug treatment court sentencing grads to brighter future

7/20/2014, 6 a.m.
Samuel Gilbert recently celebrated his 48th birthday. However, for most of those 48 years, he has been on drugs.
Samuel Gilbert (far left) received his diploma during the Baltimore City District Drug Treatment Court graduation ceremony on June 16, 2014 at the Borgerding District Court Building located on Wabash Avenue. Photo by Ursula V. Battle

Samuel Gilbert recently celebrated his 48th birthday. However, for most of those 48 years, he has been on drugs.

READ MORE HERE: Baltimore’s drug court turns 20

“I was introduced to marijuana at a very young age,” recalled Gilbert. “For 40 years, I have been on some type of drug. I can’t remember doing anything but drugs. But now, I am drug-free, and know who I am.”

He added, “My children saw me in the gutter, and I didn’t want my grandchildren to see that. I wanted to do this for my grandchildren. I also don’t want them to experience drug addiction further down the road. To come through everything that I have gone through and be clean for two years is amazing. I never thought I would see a day clean.”

Gilbert is one of the newest graduates of the Baltimore City District Court Drug Treatment Court, and credits the program with helping him to overcome his four-decade drug addiction. The rigorous drug treatment court program combines judicial oversight with intensive treatment and supervision.

“The program is not phony, and it’s not a trap,” said Gilbert. “I embraced everything that I had to do. This program is for those who are willing to make a change. I was in the program for 18 months, and no longer have cravings for drugs. The program keeps you focused, and they don’t want to hear any excuses.”

Gilbert was among the graduates who participated in the Baltimore City District Drug Court Graduation Ceremony, which took place on June 16, 2014 at the Borgerding District Court Building located on Wabash Avenue.

“This graduation is a sweet sadness for me,” said Gilbert. “The closer I got to the graduation, the more I kept asking myself, ‘how will I function without the structure?’ But I have so many positive things going for me now, that I don’t see myself going back down that path of destruction again.”

Baltimore City District Judge Jamey H. Hueston and Baltimore City Circuit Judge Karen C. Friedman presided over the graduation ceremony, which also was attended by U.S. Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, and several other dignitaries. This year marked the 20th Anniversary of the Baltimore City District Court Drug Treatment Court.

Maryland’s first drug treatment courts began in 1994 in Baltimore City District Court and Circuit Court. Since then, the program has expanded to include more than 40 drug treatment and problem-solving courts throughout the state.

“The cost is to give back,” Judge Hueston told the graduates. “You have to give back to the community. All of us do. Your way is be a light to others, and to be a role model.”

The Baltimore City Drug Treatment Court was created in 1994 in response to a report by the American Bar Association that found that nearly 85 percent of all crimes committed in Baltimore were addiction driven. The objective of the program is to identify offenders with substance abuse addiction and offer them a treatment alternative to incarceration.

The program consists of four main elements: intensive probation supervision; drug testing; drug treatment; and judicial monitoring.

Harry Lennix, an All Rise Ambassador for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) traveled to Baltimore for the graduation ceremony. The actor’s many credits include “The Matrix Reloaded,” and “The Matrix Revolutions.” He is currently starring in the NBC TV show “The Blacklist.” He also starred in the Oscar-winning film “Ray," and most recently, “Man of Steel.”

“This is good for everybody,” said Lennix. “I am always obliged to do these things when I am asked. This is great.”

For more information about the Baltimore City District Drug Treatment Court, call the coordinator, Jewel Johnson at 410-878-8693 or visit http://www.mdcourts.gov/opsc/dtc/.