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Brooklyn’s Treatment Court celebrates its 20th anniversary

May 25, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s Treatment Court celebrated its 20th anniversary during a special ceremony at the Kings County Supreme Court on Tuesday. Pictured from left: Valerie Raine, Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic, Hon. Lawrence Marks, Hon. Jo Ann Ferdinand, Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler and Hon. Judy Harris Kluger. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Treatment Court (BTC) celebrated its 20th anniversary on Tuesday with a ceremony at the Kings County Supreme Court that highlighted its more than 3,500 patients who have successfully received treatment through the BTC.

“I remember 20 years ago when we opened the Brooklyn Treatment Court, I turned to all of you and said, ‘help!’” said Hon. Jo Ann Ferdinand, presiding judge of the BTC. “Today, I say to you all — thank you.”

Judge Ferdinand; Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler; Hon. Matthew D’Emic; Hon. Judy Harris Kluger; Hon. Michael Pesce; Steve Hanson, associate commissioner of the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services; Carson Fox, CEO of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals; Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs; and Joseph R. Madonia, director of the BTC, were among the dignitaries who gave speeches during the ceremony.

During the event, Chief Administrative Judge of the NYS Courts Lawrence Marks said that even though a court of this type makes sense today, it was a big step for the courts to take in the 1990s, when crime was just starting to descend from record highs.

“The pressures on police and prosecutors, and even judges, to crack down on crime was overwhelming,” Marks recalled. “At the time, there wasn’t much of a track record for a drug courts, so it took considerable courage and foresight. Fortunately, Brooklyn had a judge and a team with a vision for doing things [differently]. It also had expert guidance from the Center for Court Innovation and a chief judge in Judith Kaye [who] offered her full support.”

Dozens of the court’s graduates were in attendance for the event. Graduates Monica Holmes and Ranji Lachmansingh were bestowed with the Damon Fuseyamore Awards, and graduate Daniel Noren received a special recognition award.

“Damon embodied everything a drug court tries to instill in our participants,” said Madonia. “Unfortunately, Damon passed away in 2013. Today we remember Damon for his truth, his hard work and his passion with this award in his name that is given to people who demonstrate that same strength that Damon did.”

The event closed with graduates from each of the last 20 years getting up and giving a quick speech about their lives. It was then that the court’s impact was truly felt, as one woman recalled getting hit by a two-by-four and losing 25 teeth before she found help through the court. Another said that he tried to sell his kidney for drug money before getting help. All said they would have continued down their harrowing paths had it not been for Judge Ferdinand and the BTC.

“I remember talking to Judge Ferdinand about whether she wanted to be the first presiding judge of this court,” Judge Harris Kluger recalled. “She said, ‘well, maybe I’ll do it for a couple of years.’ Well, thank you, Judge Ferdinand, for staying a bit longer and for the great job you’ve done.”

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