Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jul 2003
Source: Birmingham News, The (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Birmingham News
Author: Robert K. Gordon


April Adams described herself as the kid parents warned their children not 
to hang with.

She sold drugs. She was also enslaved to her own addiction.

Della Perkins was a good actor.

She hid her crack cocaine addiction from her family for at least two years. 
Going to jail last year revealed her secret.

Both Bessemer women spent the past year fighting their drug demons through 
an intensive drug program via drug court. Friday, they joined 20 others in 
graduating from the program.

The 2-year-old Bessemer Cutoff drug court has now graduated 200 people. The 
cutoff includes about half of Hoover along with much of western Jefferson 

Drug court is designed to keep from crowding the prison system by locking 
up those convicted of drug possession. Participants pay for their own 
treatment and are also required to perform 50 hours of community service, 
said District Judge Eric Fancher, who administers the program.

Criminal records are expunged upon completing drug court.

"We are able to keep them out of prison, and those who are unemployed, we 
help find them jobs," Fancher said.

The program is divided into two levels, depending on the severity of the 
addiction. Level one participants are enrolled for about six months. Level 
two participants receive more stringent help over 12 months.

Adams, 22, and Perkins, 46, battled their addictions for at least a year.

Adams said she was addicted to marijuana, alcohol and an array of pills. "I 
was addicted to the money and to the drugs," she said of her drug dealing 
enterprise. She dabbled in manufacturing methamphetamines.

"I'm glad I didn't get caught with that," she said.

Completing the program was not easy, she said.

"I had to go to jail a few times," she said. "I was hard-headed."

Perkins said she hid her addiction by "acting as I normally would. I didn't 
spend all my money like a fool."

Her guise worked. "I lived in the same house with my sister, and she didn't 
know," Perkins said.

She, too, struggled while completing the program, but the thought of going 
to jail for an extended period scared her straight.

"I couldn't go to jail," she said.

Recidivism, so far, has been low, Fancher said. "I can think of only a 
couple who have had to come back," he said. About 200 or so are in the 
program now.

Drug court saves the taxpayers money because those arrested for felony drug 
possession are not automatically sent to prison. Fancher said it costs $26 
a day to house a prison inmate. Six months in prison costs taxpayers about 

Six months in the drug court program comes to about $950, which is paid by 
the individual and not the state. "We're actually saving the taxpayer quite 
a bit of money," Fancher said.

Perkins said she is going to act as if she is still in the program now that 
she is finished. Adams said she is about to start her first real job. She 
starts the University of Alabama at Birmingham in January. She plans on 
becoming an occupational therapist.

It sounds like a cliche, but Adams said she would be dead or in prison if 
not for drug court. "There is no such thing as a retired drug dealer," she 
said. "I would have killed somebody, they would have killed me or I would 
be in prison."

Adams said an old acquaintance recently asked is she could sell them dope:

"I said `Yeah, I can hook you up. Come to church with me Sunday.'"
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