Alumni Update: Molly Laughlin Honored by Council of Accountability Court Judges

University Honors Program alumna Molly Laughlin received the prestigious Tommy Day Wilcox Leadership Award at this autumn’s Accountability Courts Training Conference.  Laughlin (political science ’11, MPA ‘12) was honored for her work in an Adult Felony Drug Court in the Enotah Drug Court (south) that serves Lumpkin and White counties in north Georgia. This is quite an honor for Laughlin as it is the Council of Accountability Court Judges who recognized her for her hard work and dedication.

In her current position as the coordinator of Northeast Georgia Adult Felony Drug Courts, Laughlin manages the variety of steps that offenders must take as part of their sentencing, such as drug screening, attending Superior Court, home/job visits, attending twelve step meetings for addiction, and participating in substance abuse counseling.

“All of the moving parts that make up the programs for participants are managed by my case manager and me. We manage their cases for the twenty-four months they are in the program, refer them to other service providers, and are available on a daily basis to help them in any way we can. I am currently in charge of scheduling the lives of sixty-eight people. I also have all fiduciary responsibility for the program, and I apply for grant funding, secure state certification, and draft/oversee all contract provision that the program uses,” she said.

Laughlin insures that each participant gains the most out of the program. The length of the program allows for continued involvement so the participant can overcome the addiction rather than continue in the cyclical cycle of arrests.

Laughlin credits her experience in the Honors Program, both as a student and as a graduate assistant, with preparing her for the rigors of her work. The honors courses, the thesis, and the opportunities such as the program’s study abroad trips to Egypt and to Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. “That opportunity with the Honors Program gave me the chance to experience a new culture in Albania, from the beautiful landscapes to the genuine people we met,” she said.

Dr. Steven Engel, director of the Honors Program, remembers Molly as dedicated student and equally dedicated student worker. “Having had Molly in class and on our team at Eidson House, I am not at all surprised that she won this award.  All of us in the program are delighted for her,” he said.

Working for the Honors program gave her the necessary skills to use after her graduation. As a graduate student, Laughlin worked for the Honors Program, analyzing applications from new/current students, forming statistical data for the current Honors population and helping at Honors events. Laughlin attended two classes, studied for her comprehensive exam, and finished two self-directed readings with Criminal Justice and International Studies professors while working twenty hours a week at the Eidson House.

“Being a Graduate Assistant for the Honors Program, helped me to think critically about problems and respond, rather than react when barriers arose. You will also be faced with deadlines and have to conduct triage, so I learned to work on critical projects and manage my time before I garnered a position away from the University. I also learned how to manage my personal/academic life while working two jobs and still retaining my strong work ethic,” Laughlin said.

While completing her graduate degree in public administration at Georgia Southern University, she participated in an internship associated with the DUI Court in Bulloch County. This internship was her first experience working in an accountability court.

“I like that this court exposed a good side to involvement with the Criminal Justice system. Most offenders who come through do not have a good experience and are offered no services that will benefit them in their everyday lives. And, even if they have access, it is only for the time that they are being supervised. For the offenders who will be arrested over and over because their underlying issue is substance dependence, I get to see the change in them and help them attain sober living,” she said.

This experience allowed Laughlin to understand the necessity of continued treatment for offenders of substance abuse.

“I have a great amount of intrinsic motivation in this position; I get to see families reunited and people attain careers they may have never gotten if they were in active addiction. Most of all, I am exposed to former addicts being empowered to take control of their lives, take responsibility for their actions, and gain the self-confidence and pride. You honestly get the sense and see tangibly how you are helping people regain what they have lost or build something new, and that’s what makes it worth coming to work,” she said.

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