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A path to sobriety

A path to sobriety

Court programs help drug, alcohol abusers take back their lives

Michael Kiefer
The Arizona Republic
May. 27, 2006 12:00 AM

They had been to hell and back, or at least to jail. One had lived on the street and found nothing wrong with that. Most had lost jobs. One even lost her teeth.

These were the testimonials of men and women who had successfully finished the Maricopa County Superior Court programs called Drug Court and DUI Court and were served up by the court at a ceremony this week in downtown Phoenix to provoke sober thoughts before the Memorial Day weekend.

Though they take place in county courtrooms, these are really court-ordered probation programs that pit motivation against punishment. The participants are praised when they succeed and punished when they relapse.

"The program works if you want to work at it," said Jesus Cantero, who was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia but managed to kick his habit and get a job.

Offenders sent to Drug Court or DUI Court can expect to stay there at least a year.

"It's very rare that anyone gets through it without a problem," said Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, who runs the Spanish DUI Court.

When she awarded a certificate to one of her graduates, she told him in Spanish: "It's important that you maintain your sobriety." Then after a pause, she added, "And that I don't see you again in this court."

At the end of last month, there were 603 participants in Drug Court and 281 in DUI Court.

The defendants have all been convicted, and some have served jail sentences. Among the terms of their probation, they must attend meetings, wear bracelets to

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