• Lynda Cohen

Recovery Court celebrates legislation opening jobs to graduates


Recovery Court participants, officials and court staff filled the jury room Tuesday.

Luis Hernandez wasn’t buying into drug court when he first started the program four years ago. “I couldn’t stand y’all,” he told a crowd at the Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse on Tuesday. “But I would not be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for y’all.” On Tuesday, that place was as one of three success stories who spoke at a special session celebrating legislation that allows those who have successfully completed the drug court program to get their key casino licenses. “The casino industry is in 100 percent, because we need your help,” said Steve Callendar, president of the state Casino Association. “It’s a great opportunity to move up through the industry,” he said, noting he started out his career as a dealer. “No casino has ever said no to us,” said Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson, who heads the drug courts — renamed at his urging to Recovery Court. Now, the legal obstacles are lifted as well. “We’ve passed so many bad laws, sometimes I’m afraid to come home,” said state Sen. Chris Brown, the bill’s primary Senate sponsor. “But here we passed a great one.” Assemblymen John Armato and Vincent Mazzeo sponsored the house version. Recovery is almost impossible without re-employment, officials noted. “It’s a big step to stabilize housing, to stabilize work,” said Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler, a vocal proponent of recovery over incarceration. “I have learned to be responsible again,” said Kevin Roylance, who has been in Recovery Court for a year and works security at the Hard Rock. The 41-year-old Galloway Township man has his driver’s license, casino license and is certified in CPR and IED. “The person I was wouldn’t even recognize the person I am or the man I am becoming,” he said. Scheffler marveled at the coming together of so many on the state, county and local levels from the Casino Control Commission to the Attorney General’s Office. “This is amazing, it really is,” he said. “This is not just drug court,” said CCC Chairman James Plousis, whose 40-year law enforcement career has included serving as Cape May County’s sheriff for six terms and as a U.S. marshal. “They’re helping you in every way they can.”

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