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Drug court graduation gives second chance

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POSTED: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 11:11pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 1:03pm

The 19th Judicial District Court honors six graduates of their adult drug court program.

Drug court offers people with drug charges a chance to get their lives back on track and avoid going to jail. The program also aims to help reduce the number of repeat drug arrests and curb crime.

For recovering heroine addict Daniel Breland drug court saved his life. " I had no idea who I was before this program," said Breland, "I had no idea how to react in certain situations other than to run and hide behind a bottle."

Every potential participant comes into drug court as a convicted felon. The district attorney's office recommends candidates to drug court. Then a drug team weeds out those candidates who are clinically illegible, and judge makes the final verdict who's in and who's out.

The program can take up  to three years to complete. In order to graduate candidates must make multiple court appearances; take random drug tests; and attend hours of rehab every week.

The program is extremely demanding, but for graduates like Charles Beraud completing drug court comes with a lot of rewards. Beraud has been sober for two years thanks to the program.

"You get a lot of respect from your family," said Beraud, " More and more people start to trust you. They see your doing the right thing."

Judge Anthony Marabella, Jr. serves as the judge for drug court. He says participants usually come in looking for a way to stay out of jail. But a few weeks into the program, participants begin to see the bigger picture.

"Some where around 5-10 month mark," said Judge Marabella, " Something changes in their eyes. They're doing it not because they don't want to go to jail, because they love the life their leading now."

Drug court also offers first time offenders with an otherwise clean record, a chance to have their record's expunged when they graduate.

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