An easily recognizable Hollywood villain, Danny Trejo, flew to Visalia just to attend the Tulare County Drug Court graduation Tuesday.
Trejo has played dozens of "bad guy" roles in major movie like Heat and Conair. His tough appearance is perfect for his parts often as a convict or killer. And his decades of sobriety, following severe drug use and prison time, is perfect for his role as celebrity key note speaker.
"Sobriety is the key to everything," Trejo said. "There's being clean and being sober, it's really simple but we miss it. With drugs and alcohol, every problem you have is going to get worse. That's a fact. Without drugs and alcohol every problem you have is going to get better."
The 18-month recovery program offers these convicted criminals a choice of being locked up or getting help. "If somebody shows you that they really truly believe in you, then how could you not believe in yourself," Vincent Peyron said.
After more than 25 years of drug use Peyron, 36, finally chose a new path.
"I got tired of lying to myself and lying to everyone, saying my kids are important, but never being there," Peyron said. "I finally decided it's time for me to step up and show them. I grew up without my real father being there. And my kids have an opportunity for me to be there for them, so I'm going to be there for them."
Peyron took the stage as a graduation speaker. He says he first used drugs when he was nine.
The vigorous program connects the graduates with counseling and drug testing. But, getting the life-saving opportunities, a chance at freedom, still costs participants. They each pay about $4,000 for their treatment.
"I don't think the average person off the street understands that if you send someone to prison for two years it costs us $50,000 or $75,000.
As the group celebrated they also encouraged those in the program right now, who were invited to see the change from addiction to recovery. The judges who run the program say it saves taxpayers $16 million a year.