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James Taylor in Drug Court?!? (Only to Salute "Fellow Addicts")

By Dirk Hanson 05/31/11

Taylor added star power to the graduation of his longtime backup singer, Valerie Carter.

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James Taylor congratulates new grad Valerie Carter.
Photo via tampabay

Musician James Taylor made a surprise appearance at the graduation ceremonies for Judge Dee Anna Farnell’s Pinellas County drug court in Clearwater, Florida, last week. Referring to the 100 grads as “my fellow addicts,” Taylor was on hand to celebrate the graduation of his longtime backup singer, Valerie Carter, 58, who was arrested in 2009 for cocaine and, two months later, for crack. Carter ended up not in prison but in drug court, where the sentence is rehab. Taylor paid the tab for the three-month rehab stint in Texas that qualifed her for a graduation certificate. Defendants who finish treatment, test drug free, and have dealt with any other legal obligations finish drug court without a felony conviction on their record.

Taylor spoke briefly, saying he was amazed to see a drug court advocates come together to care “for those of us who have the disease of addiction.” Taylor was addicted to heroin for 18 years. “I thought the day I ended up institutionalized was the low point of my life,” he said. “The possibility that it would open up a whole new life hadn’t occurred to me then.”

One such advocate is Judge Farnell, who says that drug courts save Florida taxpayers $4 million a year in incarceration-related expenses. The judge told the St. Petersburg Times that about 13% of her defendants are rearrested on drug charges after three years, compared to recedivism rates of 32% or more for those who don’t participate in drug court.

The judge, quoting some James Taylor lyrics, said that her grads had learned “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” Taylor responded with a laugh. “I was high when I wrote that,” he said.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]

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