Drug court helping to “change lives”
A Brooklyn Park man credits an innovative drug program with helping to save his life. Kevin Sexton was facing serious jail time with four felony drug charges. He chose to get his life back on track by participating in the Hennepin County Drug Court program.

"I said enough is enough, I need to make changes," said Sexton.

Sexton admits his recovery is a work in progress. Two years ago he hit rock bottom. Faced with a lengthy prison sentence, Sexton chose the Hennepin County Drug Court program over going to jail.

But going through Drug Court is no easy feat. It's intense with a lot of supervision and accountability. Participants have to do a minimum of 12 months and they undergo frequent drug testing, meet with a probation officer, and enroll in a long-term treatment program. Sexton did 18 months.

"Drug Court didn't get me sober and didn't cause the changes that I've made in myself. But it provided the impetus and the accountability."

Judge Marta Chou presides over Drug Court and participants have to check with her regularly. She says the goal is to reduce crime and help get folks back on the road to recovery.

"We take felony level drug and property cases where the underlining issue is drug addiction and we work with folks to have an alternate path," explained Judge Chou.

But Drug Court is not for everyone. Almost half of the people who enter Drug Court won't succeed. The time commitment and rigors of the program are too much for some people.

"We're looking to save your life. We're looking for you to change your life," said Judge Chou.

Those who do make it say it's life changing. Sexton, along with 24 others, graduated from the program in February.

"I have the best relationship I've had with my family in 15 years," said Sexton. "I've had the most freedom and peace and serenity in my head as a human being that I've had in 15 years."

Judge Chou says Drug Court has also made a difference in her life.

"I get every day to watch these stories unfold, to see people change their lives. There's not a more rewarding assignment as a judge, that I think you can get than being the presiding judge of Drug Court."

The program is only available to non-violent offenders who are at risk of re-offending. Participants in the program also get help with life skills, such as job training, education and family counseling.

Since the program started in back 1997, 900 people have graduated.

Sonya Goins, reporting



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