NYC Drug Court Initiative
Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court (QMTC)
Naima Aiken

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QMTC Graduates

Congratulations on your successful completion of QMTC! This is a big accomplishment that we do not take lightly. You made a serious and earnest commitment to change your life by putting down the drugs and picking up a new life. I heard someone say on television that your decisions define your destiny. As you continue to navigate through life experiences, please remember that at the end of the day, you have the power to change your life experiences. Please know that if QMTC can assist you in any way, do not hesitate to contact myself or any other staff member.

Naima Aiken,
Project Director II

 

In Desperate Need

As the Presiding Judge of the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court (QMTC), I feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to hear, on a daily basis, the poignant stories of recovery of those whose lives have been radically transformed by the intervention of drug treatment. As a Judge attempting to dispense justice in a New York City courtroom, there is really nothing more satisfying than seeing someone slowly but surely overcome drug addiction. Consider the transformed life of Milan Jurcec.

Mr. Jurcec was referred to QMTC when he was 27 years old. At the time, he had already accumulated one felony conviction, and 5 misdemeanor convictions, including a conviction for criminal possession of a controlled substance and a conviction for driving while intoxicated. Apparently, during this period no one intervened in Mr. Jurcec’s life to address his drug and alcohol addiction. Yet, his life was quickly falling apart and unraveling at the seams. His common law spouse was on the verge of leaving him and he managed to get fired from his well-paying job as a counter person in an automobile parts store. Although he had two sons (one year old and five years old) and was the step-father to an adolescent daughter, he knew that he was not being much of a father to them.

His life was miserable; he was becoming estranged from his own family and he was incessantly tormented by the chains of his powerful addiction. In March 2006, Mr. Jurcec was arrested again, accusing of resisting arrest and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree (two misdemeanors). The allegation was that Mr. Jurcec dropped six bags of heroin on the ground as he saw the police approach, and, when stopped by the police, he resisted arrest.

Fortunately, the Judge in arraignments that date was able to discern that defendant needed drug treatment intervention and she referred defendant’s case to QMTC. The Judge’s endorsement in the court file – that “defendant [was] crying and asking for help” – gave me a glimpse into Mr. Jurcec’s heart and mind: it told me that QMTC needed to place Mr. Jurcec in treatment immediately, while his heart was still soft and while he recognized his desperate need.

Two days after his arraignment, Mr. Jurcec, in jail on $2,500 bail, appeared before me in QMTC and was assessed for a treatment program by one our case managers, Donna Teekasingh, who was very impressed with the sincerity of Mr. Jurcec’s interest in treatment. The assessment report indicated that defendant begin using drugs and alcohol when he was only 15 years old. The recommendation was that defendant be immediately placed at an outpatient treatment program, Daytop Village, in Brooklyn.

When Mr. Jurcec appeared before me for the first time, he struck me as someone who was deeply grieved by the ugly turns that his life had taken, but also deeply appreciative that a new direction was being set before him. During our interaction, I could see the torment in his eyes and could hear the hoarse desperation in his voice. Mr. Jurcec was crying and bursting with emotion – to the point where at times he simply could not speak.

After accepting Mr. Jurcec’s guilty plea and informing him that I was going to release him from jail so that he could begin treatment, I asked him a very pointed question: why was he seeking treatment at this point in his life. As he fought back tears, Mr. Jurcec talked about his two sons and his fiancee again and said, “I want to do it for myself, Your Honor.”

For the next nine months in Mr. Jurcec’s life, Mr. Jurcec continued to take a long, hard look in the mirror as he went into battle against his addiction. During his recovery, Mr. Jurcec exhibited extraordinary integrity and honesty, as well as extraordinary bravery and humility. Mr. Jurcec quickly obtained employment at another automobile parts’ store and reconnected with his children and his fiancee. I was personally so impressed with the genuine and heart-felt nature of his recovery that I took the unprecedented step of asking him if he would speak at our next graduation ceremony – as a current participant, however, not as a graduate.

Mr. Jurcec has remained drug-free for nine months and on January 11, 2007, I had the great pleasure of vacating Mr. Jurcec’s guilty plea and dismissing his case. At the time of the dismissal, Jurcec expressed his extraordinary gratitude for the help that QMTC offered him. In his dismissal application, he wrote: “Before I entered treatment I lost contact with my children. I lost sight of what I had. My life in treatment has turned my life around. I’m back home with my kids and soon-to-be wife. Treatment also helped my career move forward and keeps me focused. . . . I wake up everyday and think back to what I was willing to lose for drugs. That keeps me focused.” Mr. Jurcec is scheduled to get married in April, 2007.

By Joseph A. Zayas,
Judge of the Criminal Court
of the City of New York

 

 

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

In Grads Words

Prior to graduating from the QMTC, participants are required to complete a Dismissal Application. The Dismissal Application asks participants to explain, in writing, the progress of their recovery and how their lives have changed as a result of the participant’s treatment and recovery. The following are several quotes from the Dismissal Applications of some of our prior graduates:

 

"Before I was homeless. [Now] I have a place to live. I see my children every weekend. I have a very good job. Most of all I am happy and ‘drug free.’" 2005 Graduate

 

"I was homeless, unemployed and unemployable. I was unreliable, irresponsible and undependable with no vocational training. Today I have an apartment, received my commercial driver’s license and living free from alcoholism and drug addiction a day at a time through the grace of God." 2006 Graduate

 

"I have come to realize how the use of drugs have had me doing all types of unethical things, from stealing to not even being sanitary (clean). I have changed my outlook on life and feel that it’s time to start living my life in a positive manner and the only way I can accomplish this is without the use of drugs." 2006 Graduate

 

"At this present time my life is different because I can now see which way I went wrong. By coming to this program it made me focus on my family, children, employment. It made me be more responsible to my family and children like a son, brother and father should." 2006 Graduate

 

"My life has changed. I see myself differently now. I now have a family who supports me and a son that’s proud of me." 2007 Graduate

 

"I have remained drug-free, I was very instrumental in my recovery, my crime committing days are over, I’m thankful for the opportunity to go through QMTC instead of jail time because my whole outlook is so bright now, and I feel right now I can be and will remain a productive member of society." 2005 Graduate

 

"I am back on track. I learned that being in recovery is very important. I have had a rude awakening and now that I am no longer drinking or using drugs I can finally live my life. Now that I am drug free I have my sons back in my life. Also, I have a strong network of good friends. . . . My recovery is very important to me." 2006 Graduate

 

"I would like to thank the Court and staff for allowing me to participate in this program. . . . I am going to stay on the right path. I will not go backwards and will continue to remind myself what I have gone through and the lessons I have learned. I also need to be here for my wife, children and grandchildren as they are all very important to me. I know I will never make the same mistakes that I have made for so many years." 2006 Graduate

 

Graduation Pictures

Judges Joseph A. Zayas speaks to graduates

Judge Judy Harris Kluger speaks to graduates

Judge Zayas and graduate

QMTC graduation refreshments

Court Office sings the roof off court room

New York State Unified Court System Lady Justice
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