Ellis Caudle is not ashamed to admit that he used and sold drugs on and off for most of his life—until he entered the District of Columbia Superior Court Drug Intervention Program last year.

Caudle, 58, graduated from the program on Sept. 20, and the Maryland man is hopeful his story of redemption inspires others to kick their own issues with substance abuse.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine spoke to graduates of the District’s Superior Court Drug Intervention Program. (AFRO Photo/Lenore Adkins)

“We’re all human, we’re not perfect people,” Caudle told the AFRO after the graduation ceremony. “The only perfect one is up there in heaven.”

Caudle was one of five graduates from the in-house treatment program, commonly known as “drug court” and now in its 27th year of operation. The program is overseen by the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, in association with the Superior Court for non-violent drug offenders. Attendees spend at least 24 weeks undergoing drug treatment and are periodically drug tested—those who graduate have been drug-free for 90 days, said Paul Cummings, the program’s coordinator.

People who finish the program’s misdemeanor track get their cases dismissed, Cummings said. Those who complete the program on the felony track have a chance of receiving probation, he added.

Drug courts offer a proven track record of success, according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Nationally, 75 percent of drug court graduates remain arrest-free for at least two or more years, according to the association. Drug courts’ net cost savings range from $3,000 to $13,000 for every client. Those savings come from reduced prison costs, fewer revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.

There are more than 2,700 drug courts operating nationwide, with at least one in every state and U.S. territory, serving approximately 135,000 people a year. In D.C., 67 people graduated from the program in 2017, and 57 people in 2016.  

While graduations from the D.C. drug court take place every month, the ceremony held on Sept. 20 occurred during National Recovery Month, which the drug court recognized with a barbecue at North Michigan Park Recreation Center in Northeast D.C.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine spoke to the graduates about his own family members who have battled addiction. Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham also attended the ceremony.

Racine asked the graduates to call his office if there’s anything they need—the office, he said, will serve as informal assistants to help the graduates get any assistance they require. He also called on the “fab five” graduates to use their wisdom and potential to help others suffering from addiction.

“You all are the living embodiment of what we all here, hope we have in us, and that is the ability for when the chips are down to really turn it around,” Racine said.

Caudle said he opted for drug court after he was arrested with the intent to sell drugs. He said he had been periodically using and selling cocaine and heroin since he was 16 to cope with stress and to make extra money when work slowed down.

“Sometimes the Devil can get in your head and you make the wrong decision,” he told the AFRO.

Racine’s words inspired him though, and he said he plans to reach back and help others suffering from substance abuse. Caudle wants people to know there’s help and support out there, whether it’s drug court or group meetings. He added that he hopes to go back to school for computer training.

“It just doesn’t stop here, I do have a plan and some things I’d like to keep doing,” Caudle said.