ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska's therapeutic court system was designed to give DUI offenders a chance to get treatment in order to prevent re-offending.
Aaron Gonzalez entered Alaska's therapeutic court system 20 months ago. He faced a felony assault charge and misdemeanor DUI. He says he had a long journey of relapse and recovery. He recently graduated from the program as one of its youngest participants.
Gonzalez says his relationship with his 2-year-old son was a strong incentive to complete the program.
"When he was born I was only there for a little bit and I left," Gonzalez said. "It really hurt when I got sober because I realized what I left him with."
Gonzalez's felony charge was dismissed upon completion of the program.
The Alaska court system says in the last 8 years, 93 percent of those graduating from addiction courts in Alaska have not committed another DUI.
Program administrators and even other court participants congratulated Gonzalez and told him they were proud of his progress in the program, though emphasizing that his graduation from the program was not the end game, but the start of a process to get where he needs to be, and that a network of people are standing by to support him if he needs it in the future.
Judge Catherine Easter said she hoped not to see him back in front of her, except as an alumni participant and role model. "I really hope that I never, ever see you again in the box," Easter told Gonzalez. "Oh no, you won't," he replied.