Offering rehab instead of jail time, ‘Drug Court’ gives some a second chance

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CHICAGO — Chris Aubert lost count of the times he's had to stand in front of a judge to face yet another jail sentence for drug possession.

"Everyday I wake up and think to myself the things I've gone through and what my family has seen me go through," Aubert said.

In and out of prison for 10 years, his wakeup call was stepping in front of Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Carmen Aguilar. Her courtroom is one of just a handful that offer Cook County criminal defendants an intense two-year drug rehabilitation program instead of more jail time.

"I get that some of these people have had bad breaks in their lives and I just can't understand locking someone up for basically a disease, cause that's what it is," Judge Aguilar said.

Since Cook County's implementation of drug treatment court, nearly 90 percent of the graduates have no arrests after completing the program. Aubert graduated from "Drug Court" last week.

"It's a godsend. It really is," Aubert said. "This is the answer. The help so many of us need that are out there, asking the question, 'how can I get there?'"

They are given not only a second chance, but also all of their earlier charges are dismissed.

"This is one of the hardest schools of redemption that exists," Aguilar said. "For me as a judge, there is nothing better than graduation day."

There are two graduations every year. Not everyone makes it through, but for those that do it's life-changing. Aubert has been clean now for over two years, reunited with his family, his girlfriend and has a new auto business.

"It's the best high anyone could ever feel," Aubert said.

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