News Local/State

Drug Court To Honor Graduates Who Complete ‘Hardest’ Assignment


Flickr/Joe Gratz/(CC BY 2.0)

On Wednesday, four people whose substance abuse led to felony convictions will celebrate a year of sobriety when they graduate from Champaign Country Drug Court, in a 2:30 PM ceremony at the Urbana Civic Center.

Champaign County Judge Jeffrey Ford says the program demands that they make big changes in their lives and in exchange they stay out of prison. He says making those changes may be the hardest thing the participants have ever done.

“Drug court for a lot of them is a lot harder than sitting in jail or going to the penitentiary because they could just do the time real easy. But to make the changes that need to be made is very difficult for them,” Ford said.

Ford says virtually all of those who come through Drug Court started drinking and doing drugs as teenagers or earlier. Along the way most made a habit of giving up on whatever challenged them --- school, work, relationships.

Some drug policy advocates question the effectiveness of drug courts.

But Ford points to research that says drug courts lower recidivism and costs. He spends about $5,000 a year on each participant in the 18-year-old program. Locking that person up in Illinois could cost well over $30,000 a year.