As students graduate across the country this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at a different kind of commencement event, a recognition ceremony for drug court graduates.
Holder spoke somberly in Washington, D.C., today as he commended the graduates for completing what he said was most likely a difficult path, and an "uphill battle." He described the drug court program as an "alternative to traditional probation and incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders."
"For each of you, this program presented an opportunity - and indeed a challenge - to be honest with yourself, your family and your friends," Holder said the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program. "Today's graduates have made it as the result of months of hard work, perseverance and dedication. Those who are still progressing through the program have demonstrated their willingness to confront problems with addiction and work to reclaim their futures."
The drug court program is part of the Obama administration's effort to reduce drug use not by putting users in jail but by helping them recover from addiction.
In his commencement speech, Holder boasted some facts from the drug court program, which he said was designed to be difficult: 75 percent of people who graduate have avoided being arrested again for at least two years; it can reduce crime by 45 percent more than "other sentencing options"; and for every dollar spent, three tax dollars are saved.
"Even more critically, you're illustrating that they can reunite families, help communities feel safer and more secure - and make lives whole again," Holder said.
He concluded: "I know this program is strict, and that it's extraordinarily difficult to get through. But that's why I am so proud to celebrate the progress that today's graduates have made, to recognize the achievements of those who are continuing to move along the path to recovery, and to encourage every drug court participant to keep fighting. Keep working hard. And keep up your efforts to reclaim your lives, rejoin your communities, and strengthen our great nation."