Drug courts have proven their worth to Missouri officials, but it is the graduates of the program that know its true value.
Ask Andrea Berin of St. Louis what impact drug court had on her.
“It definitely saved my life,” Berin tells the Missourinet. “Without it, I was doing nothing: homeless, jobless, on drugs, not really living.”
That changed through the drug court’s abstinence program, its random drug tests, the 12-step meetings, treatment and the help of a sponsor. Berin landed in jail on a drug charge and listened as a cellmate talked down the program, warning her not to enroll in drug court. But, then she heard a different message…from judicial officials.
“When they said, ‘You can get out today if you sign up for drug court’, I signed up for drug court, because I didn’t want to sit in jail,” Berin says.
Berin says she asked to go to drug rehabilitation, because she had run out of options; no place to live, no money, nowhere to turn.
“I didn’t see it until afterwards, the opportunity that was given to me,” says Berin.
She says she doesn’t struggle as much against addiction as she once did. Spiritual principles, the 12-step program and her sponsor help as do her children who she says are very important to her
Drug courts provide an avenue for non-violent drug offenders to stay out of prison. The courts guide a participant through a year-long program of treatment, which includes counseling and job training. Participants are subjected to frequent drug testing. The goal of the program is to reduce drug-related crime and keep the offender from going right back out and being arrested again.
Legislators have appropriated $5.5 million a year to drug courts, which have requested between $9-and-10 million. More money means more treatment. The treatment assigned by drug courts costs $2,000 a person.
Another St. Louis resident, Richard Rainey, can’t really remember not being involved in alcohol and drugs. He chose drug court after being arrest for possession.
“Come to find out, I had 20 years coming, just in case I didn’t want to stop. So, I said, ‘Hey, I think I better start doing what’s right,” Rainey says.
Rainey nearly threw his shoeshine business away, because of drugs. He found success in drug court.
Drug court helped Rainey break addictions to alcohol, marijuana, PCP, crack…addictions that started very early in his life.
“I was like 6 years old when I took my first drink,” Rainey tells the Missourinet. “It was one of the most horrific events in my life, but that was then. There is nothing I can do about that.”
What Richard and Andrea found through drug court is that they could break the addictions and take back their lives.