MARION COUNTY — On Monday the Marion County Drug Court held the sixth graduation since its 2011 launch, honoring eight graduates in front of a packed courtroom, along with the many people who helped make those graduations possible.
Jonathan Gardner, Jonathan Dunahee, Richard Bowlby, James Tidwell, Zachary Hanks, Dale Sanders, Justin Wise, and David Rivera could have been sent to prison for the charges against them.
Instead, they were entered into the Drug Court program, found jobs and completed the demanding program that requires intensive probation, including drug testing, counseling and community projects.
Judge Ericka Sanders, who presided over the ceremony, noted the graduates faced a combined 65 years in prison and would have cost taxpayers over $1 million in taxpayer money for housing costs while incarcerated. Drug Court, however, only costs a few thousand dollars per participant over the 2 1/2 year term, as the participants are responsible for many of the expenses.
Sanders also noted that like Centralia, Salem will be opening a half-way house for drug court participants who don’t have suitable housing that is drug and alcohol free.