Pubdate: Sat, 17 Jun 2006
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2006 The News-Gazette
Author: Mary Schenk  
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


URBANA - It took Jeanine Wright a little longer  than her teachers had
hoped, but on Monday she will  graduate from one of the toughest
schools in the world  – Champaign County's drug court.

Wright, 30, of Urbana is among seven – the  largest class
ever– to have completed the program  designed to get people
whose crimes are linked to their  drug addiction back on the straight
and narrow.

"She has had numerous issues – mental health,  family, medical,
medication. We have gotten her through  all of that, and she told me
yesterday she's gotten a  job," Champaign County Judge Jeff Ford said
earlier  this week of one of his pupils.

"This is someone we thought would never work. Her  daughter has
medical issues, and she was able to get  her daughter to the doctor
and handle it. She's been  able to really take control of her life,
which she  never really has before," Ford said of the 30-year-old 
woman who's been in drug court since February 2003.

Ideally, those in charge of the program would like  those sentenced to
it to get through in a year. But  that's not realistic for many.

The class graduating Monday is the 13th to go through  since Champaign
County launched drug court in March  1999.

Five men and two women will be honored by Ford for  their efforts to
get their addictions and the rest of  their lives under control.

Of the graduates, the one who spent the least time in  his courtroom
every Monday afternoon made it through in  14 months.

Mike Carey of the probation office, who supervises the  drug court
clients, said there are currently just more  than 40 people in drug

In its seven-year history, 57 have made it through the  program.
Assuming all seven graduate Monday, that will  bring the number of
success stories to 64.

"When we first started this program, someone asked,  'What would you
expect?'" Ford said. "My answer was, 'I  just want someone to
graduate,' because with our  criteria, it's a tough program. There's
probably  attorneys who don't like it because it's too tough. We  want
these people to succeed, and we give them the best  chance to succeed.
Sometimes we get people who  self-defeat because they're afraid to
move on. We've  just got to help them through."
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