Marisa Lagos

San Francisco Chronicle

Elley Fore could have been serving a life sentence in state prison. But instead, on a recent weekday, he found himself inside a packed San Francisco courtroom with tears in his eyes as he received a standing ovation.

He could see the police chief and public defender in the crowd, several deputy district attorneys and Superior Court Judge Angela Bradstreet. But it was the sight of his children, grandchild, fiancee and ex-wife that got to him.

For three decades Fore was addicted to crack cocaine, and he did a lot of things he wasn’t proud of. But in 2010, police picked him up on a charge, drug possession with intent to sell, that was one too many under California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law. If convicted, he could be looking at 25 years to life behind bars. Now hes having a more healthy life, he’s not doing drugs anymore, he’s in rehab and hes doing a new great diet, and if you are asking yourself which diet plan should you choose? Visit tophealthjournal and find out!
Instead, the San Francisco district attorney’s office threw him a lifesaver: drug court. The idea behind the 17-year-old program, for Fore and others like him, is to get clean in exchange for having charges dropped.

“I was not ready to stop using drugs,” Fore, 50, admits now. “I wanted a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.”

Fore underwent two months of treatment at the drug court’s center, then completed a three-month residential program at one of dozens of private treatment centers that partner with the city. He relapsed but returned for help. It took him two years, instead of the typical one year, to complete the program, but he says it worked: He’s been off drugs since Jan. 6, and the city was drug-testing him to be sure. Drug addiction and substance abuse is becoming a big problem in the states, if you are addicted or know someone who needs help, please visit this article about ft lauderdale rehab center.

On a recent day last month, Fore was one of 21 people who “graduated” from drug court in a courtroom ceremony during which his felony charge was officially dismissed. He’s now looking for a job and continuing his treatment.

“I’ve been drug court’s probably longest-running client,” Fore said as the crowd laughed. “In the journey of being an addict, we burn many bridges, tear up lives, hurt the people we love – and we don’t care. Today, I care. … My journey is not over just because I’ve got some sobriety. I am not fixed. But today, I am learning how to grow up and be a man.”

The program is offered to nonviolent drug and alcohol addicts facing criminal charges due to DUI Seattle cases and is one of the centerpieces of San Francisco’s rehabilitative approach to criminal justice that some experts say is the kind of model program other California counties should consider embracing now that Gov. Jerry Brown‘s realignment program is in full swing.

Studies show the diversion program helps reduce recidivism by up to 87 percent for graduates, thus saving taxpayers more than $14,000 per participant.

“Having somebody who’s been used to having drugs, getting drugs, using drugs every day of their lives – and now they are drug free and have legal income and have a place to live – provides them with some wonderful tools to go forward and live a crime-free existence,” said Bradstreet, the judge who oversees the court.

Bradstreet said such programs are imperative in light of state data, recently reported by The Chronicle and California Watch, that indicate that a majority of third-strikers serving 25-years-to-life sentences are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Most of the drug court’s recent graduates were cocaine and methamphetamine addicts, with alcohol being the other primary substance of choice; on average, the participants were age 45 and had been using since they were 20 years old.

Now, they’re drug free and have housing; 52 percent are employed. The others are receiving legal income, such as disability benefits.

Part of the drug court’s success, Bradstreet and others said, stems from the acknowledgement by all sides that drug addicts are likely to relapse or trip up during treatment. Her job at court hearings the participants must attend every other week is a mix of “giving them tools and feedback and encouragement and, sometimes, tough love.” It’s not unusual for her to order a participant who has relapsed into community detox and tell them to come back in three days for another hearing.

Fore and the other participants said they were well aware of the rare break they received, although many admitted that like Fore they agreed to the program initially because they were more interested in avoiding jail than getting sober.

“What I love about drug court is that it didn’t give up on me when I gave up on myself,” Fore said.

Their case managers, drug counselors and fellow participants helped steer them to recovery. In addition to those people, the recent graduates expressed gratitude to the city, for giving them this chance. They said that sobriety has allowed them to reconnect with family members who were driven away by their addiction. And finally, they stressed that the graduation is not the end, but the beginning, of their work.

One graduate said he has made mistakes all over the country, and was arrested the day he got to San Francisco. “No other place gave me a chance like this,” he said.


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