Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Five graduate from Hinds County Drug Court

June 28, 2005

Rosita Little of Jackson recalled a time when drug addiction so consumed her that she didn’t know where her two sons were.

On Tuesday, her 7-year-old accompanied her and other family members to her graduation from the Hinds County Drug Court. She has hopes to later regain custody of her 14-year-old son, who lives with relatives.

Little, 29, summed up her Drug Court experience for program participants and their friends and families: “It has helped me get my life back together and have my child back with me.”

Little and four others on Tuesday celebrated their graduation from the two-year program which combines drug treatment, drug testing, intensive supervision and frequent meetings with Hinds County Judge Mike Parker and Drug Court staff. They must pay fines, keep a job and work toward an education. Their reward is a clean and sober life and getting the charges wiped off their records. The incentives are backed up with the threat of jail if they fail.

Sixty-four people have graduated from the Hinds County Drug Court program, which began enrolling participants in March 2000.

Judge Parker said, “When a person graduates from this program, they have accomplished something....These two ladies and these three gentlemen are excellent examples of what can be accomplished when they are committed to a task.”

Judge Parker welcomed two members of the Mississippi Legislature who have been committed to the creation and funding of state drug court programs: Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke of Jackson and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven. Drug court legislation adopted in 2003 is known as the Alyce Griffith Clarke Drug Court Act, in honor of the Clarke’s pioneering efforts and continued work to establish drug courts in Mississippi. The statute established a framework for drug courts statewide. Sen. Hyde-Smith sponsored legislation in 2004 which created a funding mechanism for drug court programs through special assessments on fines for felony crimes, misdemeanors, traffic offenses, driving under the influence of alcohol, game and fish law violations and litter law violations.

Rep. Clarke said, “We are blessed because we have come a long way.”

Sen. Hyde-Smith, keynote speaker for the graduation, recalled the difficulties of getting fellow legislators to approve a bill which involved money during a lean budget year.

“The rest is up to you,” she told the graduates. “We funded it. We provided the program for you. You can stick to it and make it happen, or you can backslide and be back,” Hyde-Smith said.

Hyde-Smith urged Drug Court participants to find spiritual support in church and to give to others not just with words but with deeds. “Think more of other people than you do yourself and be part of something that is bigger than yourself,” she said.“Do what’s right just because it’s right.”

She reminded them of the oft-repeated advice to break with old friends and old habits. “Some people we have to love from a distance,” she said.

Little knows all too well about sliding back into the same associations. Her first try at rehabilitation failed.

“That was my big problem. I didn’t change my people, places and things. I stayed with the same people,” Little said after the ceremony.

“I started drinking and smoking when I was nine years old. It went from that to weed and pills and powder and crystal,” Little said, the words pouring out in a torrent. Powder cocaine was her drug of choice, then she was introduced to crack. “I never looked back.”

She worked as a stripper, then lost that job and lived in the streets. “I would have died out there,” Little said. “I was not eating, not sleeping, doing whatever I had to do to get another piece of dope.”

“I did not know where my children were for three years because I was on drugs,” she said. “I had nothing to live for.”

She was arrested on a crack cocaine possession charge two years ago in Jackson. She landed in Drug Court.

The program requires, among other things, that participants get and keep a job. Little is a house manager at a transitional residential facility for recovering women drug addicts who have been through the criminal justice system.

Little’s work puts to use her experience of hitting rock-bottom as a drug addict. “I empathize with them. I sympathize with them. I let them know it can be done. I’m doing it,” she said.