Offenders graduate from SF drug court

April 13, 2009 6:51:28 PM PDT
Thirty four people will graduate on Monday afternoon from the San Francisco Drug Court program.

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In a San Francisco courtroom on Monday, there were tears, a lot of hugs and a whole lot of hope.

Most of the 34 graduates once used crack, many were once homeless -- half had no legal source of income. They say 'Drug Court' changed their lives.

Steve Sitton is 51. He began using drugs in the 6th grade. He's was arrested for drugs, car theft and burglary. But now he's clean and sober.

"Yeah, it feels good. I have control over what I'm doing," said Sitton.

But like many here, Sitton relapsed just before he was supposed to graduate last summer.

Faced with a stiff prison sentence, he went back to drug court. He now has a job driving a van, taking patients to a kidney dialysis center.

Shedrick Ferguson owns the van service. He too was once a drug offender.

"Somebody gave me a chance and it's been 13 years ago, and I feel the same way. We all need a chance," said Ferguson.

Sitton has found a place to stay and he's re-united with his two children.

"It's nice now that I have a front door they can come knock on," said Sitton.

Public defender Jeff Adachi calls these graduates heroes.

"Not only do they become productive citizens, but they are able to help and counsel others," said Adachi.

After one year, 21 percent of graduates have been re-arrested.

Sitton knows that staying sober will be tough.

"Today I know I'm going to be clean and sober," said Sitton. "Tomorrow is a challenge when the sun comes up."

But tonight, Steve Sitton says he'll celebrate in a bar. That is -- a salad bar.

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