Until just a few weeks ago James Raines didn’t smile.
“But now I smile all the time,” said the Dawson County father of three, all under the age of 8.
Raines admits he has a lot to smile about, but was hesitant to let anyone see his teeth.
“I started smoking pot when I was 12. I quit school at 14, and I found meth at 15,” he said.
Now in his mid-20s, Raines is serving time for his methamphetamine addiction, but rather than being locked in a prison cell, his sentence is served in Dawson County Drug Court.
“Drug Court has saved my life,” said Raines, who is expected to be one of three graduates from the 24-month program in November. “Without drug court, I’d still be on meth.”
And he would not be able to smile the way he can now.
“The meth — it eats you from the inside out. My teeth looked like your everyday meth head’s,” he said. “They were horrible.”
On Oct. 5, Raines will have been clean for three years.
Drug Court administrators say he is a model participant in the program.
“He’s done good. He’s a good guy,” said Sgt. Tim Murdock, a narcotics investigator that works with drug court.
Bob King, director of drug court, has also taken notice of Raines’ drive and determination to make a new life for himself and his family.
Earlier this summer, King learned Dawson County Drug Court had been awarded a grant to help drug court participants get back on their feet.
Knowing methamphetamine offenders often had trouble finding work because of their appearance due to meth corroding their teeth, King said he met with a local dentist who agreed, if he could remain anonymous, to take on the project and give back an offender his or her smile.
“Bob came to me and said, ‘You’re doing so good, I want to give you something in return. I want to help you get your teeth fixed,’” Raines said.
The offer was a dream come true.
“I remember one time at a father-daughter dance my daughter said, ‘Don’t smile daddy.’ That hurt my feelings, but I knew what she meant.
“I looked terrible,” he said.
Now, with near-perfect teeth, Raines smiles all the time.
“I’m so grateful to drug court for helping me out,” he said. “Drug court truly turned my life around.”
King said Raines’ story is one that needs to be told.
“He’s done a lot in his life, and he’s made the change,” he said.
King said he would love to see others in the program benefit the way Raines has.
“I started this dental program so participants could overcome obstacles in their lives,” King said. “I have a great dental staff helping, but there is a greater need than just one dental office and the grant from Amicalola EMC can provide.”
Established under the guidance of Superior Court Judge Jason Deal in 2006, Dawson County’s hybrid drug and DUI court, the first in the state, created an innovative alternative to jail time for drug and DUI offenders. The program focuses on creating positive life choices, increasing family relations, employment and fiscal responsibility, in addition to decrease criminal behavior recidivism, substance abuse and health risks.
The drug court track is for first time felony drug offenders, who voluntarily enter a guilty plea and accept two years of treatment, consisting of drug screenings three or four times each week and group meetings.
At the successful completion of the program, the felony drug charges are dismissed.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.