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From jail to the courts
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Parole Board Members David Herring and Jacqueline Bunn, Suzanne Kilgore (speaker), Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard, Parole Board Member James Mills and Parole Board Vice Chairman Brian Owens - photo by Submitted Photo

ATLANTA — A woman once found guilty on drug charges in Walton County now is working to help others who’ve faced the same issues.

Suzanne Kilgore is a case manager with the Rockdale County Accountability Courts, working for Superior Court Judge Robert Mumford and State Court Judge Nancy Bills.

But Kilgore was convicted in 1987 on drug-related charges in DeKalb County, receiving five years’ probation. She got five more years of probation after another drug-related conviction in Walton County in 2003.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned her in November 2017. Kilgore spoke to that board Tuesday, detailing her life of substance abuse and eventual recovery.

“God’s plan for me was to use my story and my ‘lived-experience’ as a vessel to help others who suffer from addiction that they too can find recovery, have a life that is second to none, gain successful careers, even as convicted felons,” Kilgore said.

Kilgore went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and become a certified addiction recovery empowerment specialist, helping others who suffer from addiction.

“That’s what a pardon does: helps to restore that former offender and assist in the continuation of that person’s success as a contributing member of society,” Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard said.

The Parole Board may grant pardons if the offender has met all requirements, including at least five years of no criminal involvement after all felony sentences have been completed, including parole or probation sentences. Any fines and restitution also must be paid in full.