Highlights from the 2013 All Rise America! Tour
CELEBRATING NATIONAL DRUG COURT MONTHFollow us coast to coast!
Highlights from the 2013 All Rise America! Tour
Anyone who has been to Time Square in New York City knows that it is a constant hub of activity. The atmosphere is electric 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not exactly the place you would want to drive an RV, but just the place we found ourselves on the last day of All Rise America! We were in New York to close out National Drug Court Month at the Brooklyn Treatment Court, one of the most successful programs in the United States. We were making a stop in Time Square to check out our massive Drug Court PSA running on the iconic 3,685 square foot ABC SuperScreen. You’ve probably seen it, it’s the screen just behind the ABC studios where they film Good Morning America and several other ABC programs. We had secured time on the screen thanks to our incredible sponsor, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics.
We navigated the RV through the height of rush hour and met up with the staff of the Brooklyn Treatment Court. All eyes focused eagerly on the big screen waiting for our message to appear. Suddenly, there it was. All Rise America! looming over Time Square. The graphic slowly dissolved into another image, this time the face of All Rise Ambassador Matthew Perry with the words ‘Drug Courts Save Lives.’ Underneath: When one person rises out of addiction and finds recovery, we All Rise. It was incredible to see this message of hope beautifully displayed for what felt like all of Manhattan to see.
We cheered, high-fived and took pictures. We even managed to get the RV in a couple of shots. Our friends at Siemens were just as thrilled as we were. We can’t thank them enough for making this true Drug Court first a reality.
The staff of the Brooklyn Treatment Court wanted a ride in the RV so we all packed in to make the short trip across the bridge to the court. The tour wasn’t over just yet; we still had a graduation to attend.
The Brooklyn Treatment Court was established in 1996 and is one of the great programs in the United States. Judge Jo Ann Ferdinand and her unbelievable team have a model program and have been instrumental in spreading Drug Courts across New York. A few years ago a Veterans Treatment Court was launched with Judge Michael Brennan now presiding. The day’s event would honor graduates from both programs.
The Brooklyn Treatment Court had pulled out all the stops for the final All Rise America! event. Judge Jo Ann Ferdinand opened the proceedings following the presentation of the colors. “We are very proud today to represent the conclusion of this important trip,” she said. “We believe fiercely in the meaning of All Rise. Every one of today’s graduates, every one of our 2,500 alumni have shown the world when one person rises out of addiction and finds recovery, we All Rise.”
Many of the alumni she spoke of were on hand and one by one they took to the podium to say thanks. Each of them started by giving the year they graduated; 2012, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2002…..The final three alumni represented the court’s first three years of operation.
“I graduated in 1998 and I have been working for the Brooklyn Supreme Court for fourteen years.”
“Hi everyone, my name is Elizabeth and guess what? I’ve been clean since 1997!”
“My name is John and I am a graduate from 1996. Brooklyn Treatment Court is the best thing that ever happened in my life because it saved my life.”
It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the emotion of a graduation and forget about the long-term impact Drug Court has on the lives of those who complete it. Drug Court does is not a temporary fix; it equips people with the tools to get live the rest of their lives in permanent recovery.
The parade of alumni had been arranged to inspire the day’s graduates but to also pay tribute to a few of the pioneers who had helped build the program back in the mid-nineties. Before John Feinblatt began working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg as his Chief Policy Advisor, he was a driving force behind the creation of the Brooklyn Treatment Court. He was on hand to be honored by Judge Ferdinand and NADCP. During his remarks he spoke about the tie that binds everyone involved in Drug Court.
“What’s remarkable is that everybody who is part of this court has something in common,” he said. “Whether you come here as a defendant who is addicted to drugs or as a judge who presides, a prosecutor, defense attorney, clerk, or court officer. What everybody has in common is a willingness to ask a basic question: Is there a better way? Is there a better way to lead my life? Is there a better way to prosecute? Is there a better way to be a judge? This is played out day in and day out in Drug Court.”
It was soon time to get down to the business at hand. Judge Ferdinand made the announcement everyone in the room had been waiting for: “To the twelve people who completed their mandate, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this court no longer as defendants but as alumni and visitors. The charges against you are dismissed and the records are sealed.” As thunderous applause filled the room the graduates assembled in the front to accept their certificates and their hugs, and give thanks to the program that had saved their lives.
“I was saved. I am blessed and loved,” said the first. It was hard not to think that we are all being saved in some way by this program. The success achieved by the graduates of this court, and of every court in the country, benefits all of us. It makes it that much harder for anyone to argue that treatment doesn’t work, that people shouldn’t be given an opportunity to change their lives. It brings us one step closer to putting a Drug Court within reach of every person in need. And it makes it possible for us to believe that we will get there.
The celebration lasted long after the last graduate had given thanks. We stayed as long as we could taking pictures, talking to staff and graduates, and thanking Judge Ferdinand and her amazing Project Director Joe Madonia for all they did to make the final stop so fitting. Eventually we piled into the RV. It was overcast and getting dark when we pulled away from the courthouse and headed south towards home.
We capped our tour through Pennsylvania with two great rallies in Lewisburg and Scranton. The Lewisburg Drug Court was established in 2007 and has thrived in the years since. A testament to its value to the community it serves, the court packed in hundreds of guests for its National Drug Court Month rally. We were escorted into town by the local police department. We pulled up to an old renovated theatre with a classic marquee that announced the All Rise America event. The theatre is owned by Bucknell University who had graciously allowed the court to hold its event in its newly renovated space.
Judge Harold “Tut“ Woelfel served as master of ceremonies for the event. Judge Woelful presides over treatment courts in the 17th Judicial District of Pennsylvania which include Drug Court and DWI Court serving Snyder and Union Counties.