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Wake County Court Wants To Break Cycle Of Habitual Drug Offenders

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WAKE COUNTY — Instead of throwing convicted criminals in jail, new courtrooms are offering a different kind of verdict. Drug courts in seven state districts give offenders a chance to change their lives, instead of putting them behind bars.

Nicole Ross, 20, was arrested for marijuana possession. She has been in and out of jail and rehab, but after a year in theDrug Treatment Court Program, she says she is finally clean.

"I think it really is a better approach in dealing with drug addicts, because it is a disease. It's not something we can help by ourselves," she says. "I feel real good about myself, real confident about achieving things. My whole attitude has changed."

More like a proud parent than a judge, Jim Fullwood praises those who make progress and even shakes the hands of the graduates of the program.

"I think that is a tremendous, tremendous step forward in recognition of the problems," he says. "We're dealing with drug addicts. You live on pins and needles about their conduct, and we want them to succeed."

Randy Monchick heads up North Carolina's drug treatment court program. He says it is working so well in seven judicial districts that the state may add nine more drug courts.

"This is the most powerful intervention we have ever come across for treating drug addicts," he says. "It's not a magic bullet or a silver bullet, but it's already shown it's more successful than anything we've ever done in the past."

To stay with the program, participants must attend three counseling sessions a week, six support group meetings every two weeks and complete 50 hours of community service.

Every two weeks, participants must appear in front of the judge. If they fail to keep up their end of the deal, they go to jail.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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