Two years ago, 33-year-old Tyson was living on the streets of Edmonton and addicted to meth. Today, he’s sober, works as an outreach worker, and has reconnected with his daughters.
And it’s all thanks to drug court.
“In the beginning I doubted myself, I didn’t think I’d make it this far” he says. “Drug court has given me the opportunity to go forward in life and be stronger than I ever was. It has taught me a lot of things: compassion, being vulnerable.”
Tyson chose the two-year drug treatment court program instead of going to jail. At an emotional courtroom graduation, he was surrounded by many supporters who offered words of wisdom, gifts, and sang Aboriginal songs. He was represented by Legal Aid Alberta staff lawyer Sonia Haer.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in our program, that’s had so much grief to go through,” the judge said. “You have been a pillar of strength.”
Besides making new lifelong friends, drug court gave Tyson the coping skills he needed to deal with the deaths of his two brothers and uncle, who died while he was in the program. He stayed sober in the face of hardship and continues to set an example for his friends and family on the Saddle Creek First Nation where he grew up.
“I appreciate everybody who’s helped me along the way. You’ve become a part of my life so much you made a permanent dent in my heart, soul, spirit.”
The Provincial Court of Alberta started a drug treatment court in 2005. The program is intended to break the cycle of criminal behavior driven by drug addiction, by offering participants a chance to avoid prison and complete a drug treatment program in the case of non-violent offences. The program is comprehensive and aims to reduce the number of crimes committed to support drug dependence through judicial supervision, drug abuse treatment, frequent drug testing, incentives, sanctions and social services support. Calgary and Edmonton have a drug treatment court program.