Public defender Natasha Coleman recently asked King County Superior Judge Cheryl Carey if Drug Court graduates could share a talent at their graduation ceremony. The judge agreed, and the first such performance will happen this week when rapper Shelby Allen – a 22-year-old man and one of Coleman’s clients – shares his story through a rap he wrote.
For Allen, whose rapper name is GT500, it’ll be a moment to shine.
“I’m excited,” he said of his upcoming performance, his second such performance before a live audience. “I’m really happy I get to do this.”
Allen has had a rough life, which landed him in juvenile detention as a youth and jail as an adult. He was facing felony charges for possession of a stolen vehicle – a crime driven by his drug addiction – when he was diverted into Drug Court last year. After embracing the rigorous program, which included weekly drug tests, classes, counseling, and more, Allen says he is clean and sober and ready to give back. He’s attending school in an effort to get his GED. He’s also the father of a 4-month-old baby.
“I want to stay connected with the good people who are in my life, and if I can be of any help, I’d like to do that,” he said. “I want to stay connected so I can continue to be an ideal example of someone who changed his life.”
Coleman, who works for the county’s Department of Public Defense, is pleased that Judge Carey was receptive to her idea of allowing clients to share a talent at Drug Court graduations. She proposed the idea, she said, because she has seen the need to boost clients’ confidence as they’re leaving the tight-knit community of Drug Court and entering the real world.
“When graduates need to attend interviews or apply for schooling, they should have the confidence to achieve their goals through sharing who they truly are as human beings,” she said.
She has already seen that shift in Allen, who entered Drug Court has a high-risk young man.
“Shelby’s self-confidence has improved dramatically,” she said. “He went from being a shy and reserved kid to a much more confident young man, a man who wants to be involved in his community and to give back in any way he can. It’s been wonderful to work with him and to see him grow.”
Shelby Allen will perform his rap during the Drug Court graduation at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 13, in E-942 at the King County Courthouse. (Update: Watch coverage of Shelby’s performance on KING5 and listen to it on KIRO radio).
The mission of the King County Adult Drug Diversion Court (KCDDC) is to combine the resources of the criminal justice system, drug and alcohol treatment and other community service providers to help substance-abusing offenders address their substance abuse and change their lives. Drug Court diversion is offered at no cost to participants. King County also offers Juvenile Drug Court for minors.
For more information, contact Department of Public Defense Public Information Officer Leslie Brown at Leslie.Brown@kingcounty.gov.