Six graduate from Calcasieu Drug Court

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It was an emotional night as Calcasieu's latest drug court graduates took the stage to share their story.

"I feel like I have been in drug court forever. But once I got it started it wasn't too bad. It wasn't bad at all," said Jesse Reynolds.

It used to be real bad - 18 months ago, all of them were on drugs or in jail.

"I was bad. I don't know if anyone was out there like me but I was real bad. I hurt everybody I came in contact with," said Casey Callais.

Including their families who watched helplessly.

"It's a scary thing as a parent, when your child doesn't come home for a few days and when you do see them, you almost don't recognize them," said Daniel Callais, Casey's father. "I would like to thank the drug court team as well for doing something that the rest of us couldn't do as family members."

The 14 Judicial District Adult Drug Court is a last chance to change things around.

"I had lost all faith and all hope in myself. There wasn't that much to begin with. Any little bit that I had, I had lost it," said Jennifer Cacio.

With the support of the drug court staff, Cacio has regained her self-respect, her children and her life.

"The people that make this program up are wonderful people to take their time to deal with people like me and never give up," said Cacio.

Judge Mike Canaday and Judge David Ritchie run the drug court. They say the program is successful but not for everyone.

"It's a stringent program an intensive program, random drug screens throughout the week and other meetings. It's not an easy program. There are people who say you know I'm going to try it on my own because they are not serious about really trying to beat their drug addiction they have," explained Judge Ritchie.

"On March 3, 2008... My life turned upside down," said Christy Guinn.

Arrested and charged with 19 felonies, she was facing up to 97 years in prison.

Christy said, "I was scared."

So was her mother. "I couldn't believe my eyes. I saw my daughter walk in wearing orange and in chains," recalled Linda Whechel.

But Linda never gave up on her daughter. More than a year and a half later, Christy is working and going to school. She's even earned her family's trust.

"Two years ago, I had to take away my key to my house because I was having things missing and this is the key to my home," said Whechel. "Giving her back the key is a very big thing because my house is my kingdom and I'm showing her that I welcome her back home. I've got my daughter back and she's happy, peaceful, full of joy and it's great. It's going to be a great Christmas."

Still struggling with addiction, future graduates are required to sit in on the graduation. For them Christy has a message: "Give it up. Because it is not worth it."

This is the fourth graduation since the program started three years ago. Once they complete the program, graduates continue to have to meet with probation officers and are randomly drug tested.

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