Judge touts success of felony drug court at ACTION event


By Sean Barron

news@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The fact that hundreds of people have successfully graduated from a local drug court is a powerful testament to their hard work and strong faith and to the transformative power of God, a longtime judge contends.

“About 565 people with addictions have successfully graduated,” Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court said Thursday night. “Of the 565, over 90 percent of them have not committed a new offense.”

Judge Durkin was referring to those who have gone through the Mahoning County Felony Drug Court, which he established in 1997 and continues to preside over.

The court gives those with various drug addictions an opportunity to seek treatment, get jobs, make restitution to victims, submit to random drug testing, obtain a driver’s license and insurance and fulfill other requirements to get their charges dismissed upon completion.

The judge touted the court’s success during his keynote address at Thursday’s 14th annual ACTION banquet and fundraiser in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church’s social hall, 343 Via Mount Carmel Drive near downtown.

Several hundred community activists, elected officials, law-enforcement personnel and others attended the event, which was to celebrate the successes of Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, a grass-roots, nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling the effects of racism, poverty and violence in the Mahoning Valley.

Judge Durkin also said that God can work for those who reach crossroads in their lives, which can help them find a new direction, purpose and opportunity.

“I believe all of us can make a difference. We must work individually and collaboratively with a sense of urgency to make the world better,” he added.

Also at the dinner, the Frances Kerpsack Award was given to Sister Ann McManamon, a co-founder of the Dorothy Day House, and Pastor Roy Barnett, Ohio Valley Teen Challenge’s executive director.

The late Frances Kerpsack was a Canfield schoolteacher and an ACTION member, as well as a peace and environmental activist.

The Day House reaches out to those who have gone through the criminal-justice system, works to combat human trafficking, tries to bridge partnerships with law enforcement and seeks to “build a community of love in the city,” Sister McManamon explained.

Pastor Barnett discussed several core goals of the residential, Christian-based Teen Challenge, noting that the rigorous 12-month program tries to help residents rebuild their lives via pastoral counseling, peer mentoring, social- and life-skills development, education, community service and other means.

“There is hope for those who are addicted,” the pastor added.

Before he spoke, four men who had gone through the program offered testimonials of their drug addictions and how they sought God and worked to turn their lives around.

Making additional remarks were the Rev. Terrance Hazel, pastor of St. Michael Church; Youngstown Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd; and the Rev. Gena Thornton, pastor of Grace AME Church in Warren.

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