MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A judge who started the drug court program got to see the 3,000th person graduate at 201 Poplar Wednesday just before he retires.

It took 25 years to get here but Judge Tim Dwyer will tell you he hasn’t watched the clock.

“It’s been a job I have looked forward to coming every day,” Dwyer said.

In 1997, Dwyer launched the Shelby County Drug Court, an alternative approach for non-violent adult offenders with drug-related charges.

“People said man you’ve got enough to do don’t take that on. I am glad I did. I thank god I did it,” Dwyer said.

Instead of jail time, the offender enters an 18-month intensive program that offers treatment and counseling
If they complete it, they get the charge cleared from their record.

On the last day on the bench, 5 more graduated from the program, including Luke Miracle.

“I feel like I get another chance,” Miracle said.

He said his wife had a baby while he was in the program and he’s ready to be a part of their lives again.

“To be able to become a successful member of society. I wasn’t. This program is wonderful,” he said.

The program reports that after 5 years, only 22 percent of graduates are convicted of a crime. For those not in the program, studies say that the recidivism rate is more like 70 to 80 percent.

A rewarding career that Dwyer fought back tears just thinking about it. The emotions carried into the ceremony as Dwyer’s final day presiding over the program ended with a milestone.

More than 3,000 have now graduated from the program. To him, it’s the perfect sendoff.

Judge Dwyer said he’s going to take some time to unwind but stay involved in the court’s nonprofit, the Shelby County Drug Court Foundation.

WREG’s Jessica Gertler is also a member of the board.