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Ed Yeates ReportingThere was an unusual graduation today in a place you would never expect to find one. The Utah County Felony Drug Court was in session today but not in its usual location. That's because Judge James Taylor was doing more than handing down sentences. He and his staff also awarded the court's own version of diplomas, reprieves, to 13 men and women who completed an intensive 12-month drug treatment program.
Edward Wills was one of them. When he appeared before the bench a year ago he was a different man. "I was subculture. I mean something you wouldn't step on because you didn't want it on your shoes. But today, I've got self-esteem and self-worth because I've been shown that I am worth something," he said.
This marks the 10th anniversary of Utah drug courts. Eighty-nine percent of the graduates have not come back to court.
Some, like Lacey Cox, have come back but only to work in the program. "Now I have a job. I pay my bills. I have a brand new car that I drive around. I'm a happy 24-year-old that goes out on dates. I like to make myself look good now in public and other places, whereas with drugs, I didn't care what I looked like."
Edward now plans to buy a home and go back to school. He says he wants, "to find out who I am, what I like, what I don't like. My upsides, my downfalls. To become more familiar with myself, something that I haven't known in 17 years."
Judge Taylor says watching the graduates is very rewarding. "This is probably the most fulfilling, because you do see the changes. You see the families coming back together."