Drug court graduation honors judge, uplifts graduate

Aug. 12—VALDOSTA — Husband. Father. Grandfather. Drug offender. Convict.

Kevin Satterwhite has been all of those.

Wednesday, he was the sole graduate in the current class for the Lowndes County Accountability Court, commonly known as drug court.

“By the grace of God and my attorney … I got drug court instead of prison,” he said.

Satterwhite, 43, said he has been convicted six times for drug-related offenses. He wound up in prison for the first five.

The charge that got him into accountability court was possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, he said.

The court, founded in 2015, provides substance abuse offenders with programs and classes meant to help them avoid prison. The court was started by Judge James Tunison, said Southern Circuit Judge Greg Voyles, the court’s current judge.

“New arrivals in drug court are a little hesitant at first,” he said. “Then they see there is a different path in life.”

The program offers “innovation and intervention for those who would otherwise wind up in jail,” said Diane Holliman, a social worker.

During the graduation, representatives of the Valdosta chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness presented Voyles with a judge’s gavel in a presentation box for his work on behalf of the program.

“I didn’t have (a gavel) before,” he said.

When the graduation broke up for refreshments in an adjoining room, Satterwhite walked out of the courtroom with a couple of toddlers in tow. He has four children and five grandchildren. He was grateful for the support of his family.

Terry Richards is the senior reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times.

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