The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

August 12, 2013

Drug courts serve a vital function

The Daily Star

---- — What does society do with a guy like Camden Palmeter?

Raised by a single mother, at 14, he was already into alcohol and marijuana.

“I just had connections,” he said.

After making the varsity football team at age 14 or 15, he decided he didn’t like his mother’s boyfriend, so he moved out, eventually winding up living with his grandmother, who didn’t give him a lot of supervision.

“I was living the party lifestyle,” he said.

While in the 11th grade, he dropped out of school and spent time drifting aimlessly on the streets when he wasn’t playing sports.

He got his General Education Diploma at 18, but a year later, he was busted for marijuana possession, got put on probation, then violated his probation with an open container violation, leading to a couple of weeks in jail.

He was surly, with limited, if any, family support, seemingly on his way to a life of drugs and prison. What, indeed, does society do with this guy?

Too many times, society gives up on him. But society didn’t give up on Camden Palmeter. It gave him a choice.

“I could go to prison or go to drug court,” Palmeter recalled being told by Leo Giovagnoli, assistant to Otsego County Judge Brian Burns, who is in charge of the court.

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Drug Courts are the most effective justice intervention for treating drug-addicted people. Drug Courts reduce drug use. Drug Courts reduce crime. Drug Courts save money. Drug Courts restore lives. Drug Courts save children and reunite families.”

Palmeter, now 24, has lived up to expectations, and more. While attending the State University at Cobleskill, he supported himself with a job at Walmart. Now, he’s a health science major at the State University at Brockport, where he’s on the varsity football team.

When the Oneonta summer park-league basketball program was on the verge of folding, Palmeter took it over, and it has sprung back to life. Judge Burns’ son plays on one of the teams.

“(Palmeter) has put aside his anger and replaced it with a joyous attitude towards life,” Burns said. “I am very proud of this young man.

“Camden comes back to the treatment court now and then to talk to the people in the program,” Burns said. “He’ll tell them: ‘Hang in there. You can do it.’ He has completely turned his life around.”

What does society do with a guy like Camden Palmeter?

It makes sure there is a drug court option all over the country, so that society can help produce a lot more Camden Palmeters.