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DeKalb County drug court recognizes graduates

Group also presents officials with ‘mentor court’ placque

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2014 11:39 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, May 2, 2014 12:07 a.m. CST
(Katie Dahlstrom –
Penny Hammersley, 33, waits to speak during her graduation from DeKalb County Drug and DUI Court: Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program during a commencement ceremony Thursday at the DeKalb County Legislative Center.

SYCAMORE – For years Penny Hammersley was driven by drugs.

She woke up daily with an elaborate plan for how she was going to get the money for the drugs she needed to get through the day.

It was stealing a stranger's credit card so she could buy things and sell them for drug money that landed her in DeKalb County jail.

“It was exhausting,” Hammersley said. “I always felt like I was losing my mind.”

She entered the DeKalb County Drug and DUI Court: Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program. Although she relapsed about six months into the program, she eventually found her way back to sobriety. Now finding a job and maintaining that sobriety drives Hammersley, 33.

“I'm at peace,” Hammersley said. “I'm not going to bed at night and having 50 million thoughts about how I'm going to get the next one.”

Hammersley was one of five to graduate from the drug court program Thursday, thanking loved ones and DeKalb County staff for their support.

The county's drug court program provides treatment and counseling for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems. Participants that successfully complete the typically year-long program have their charges reduced or dismissed.

DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert applauded the graduates for their work, wishing them strength as they move beyond drug court.

“They are all aware that lifelong sobriety will be a continued challenge for each of them,” Stuckert said. “They have all, however, demonstrated a willingness to face changes, face their demons and gather the tools that will assist them each and every day.”

The program also was recognized Thursday. Sonya Harper, the project director for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, presented Stuckert and Drug and DUI Court coordinator Marilyn Stromborg with a plaque for being named a “mentor court” by the National Drug Court Institute. Mentor courts are ones that serve as models for other courts across the country.

Graduate Scott Huddleston, 31, said his life was a blur of beer and cocaine that was spiraling toward homelessness or prison before he entered the program a year ago.

He's planning to move to Florida, which he said is all because of the second chance he was given.

“They basically put structure to a wild kid,” Huddleston said. “This program has completely changed my life.”

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