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Six participants to graduate from Circuit Court of Cook County’s (W)RAP drug court program

Released On 05/19/2022

Six participants in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s nationally recognized drug court program will graduate in a ceremony at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse on Thursday, according to Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. 

Community partners, advocates, and loved ones will gather in person at the courthouse and via Zoom at 2 p.m. before the Hon. Charles Burns, room 402, for the ceremony. The graduates are participants in Judge Burns’ Rehabilitative Alternative Probation and Women’s Rehabilitative Alternative Probation, known collectively as (W)RAP. Started at the Criminal Courthouse in 1998, (W)RAP provides individuals convicted of nonviolent drug offenses with a path toward stability and recovery from addiction. 

Participants in the (W)RAP program work closely with the court and with a support team to engage in substance use disorder treatment and to work toward employment, education, and other life goals. Participating in the (W)RAP program allows individuals to stay out of prison and receive the treatment they need to recover from a substance use disorder. They are required to undergo frequent drug testing, remain in treatment, and work with their team.  

The six graduates honored at today’s ceremony have each completed 24 months of probation and have been drug and alcohol-free for at least 6 months prior to graduation. 

(W)RAP is one of 20 Problem-Solving Courts in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which include 7 Drug Treatment, 7 Mental Health and 6 Veterans Treatment courts. These courts combine intensive judicial supervision with rigorously monitored rehabilitation services, strict oversight, accountability, and a team approach to decision-making to help individuals with substance abuse and/or mental health disorders from becoming repeat offenders. 

The (W)RAP program has been recognized as one of the country’s leaders in this type of rehabilitation. In March, the program was named as one of just 10 national mentor treatment courts by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) and the U.S. Department of Justice. National mentor courts are exemplary treatment courts selected to serve a three-year term as model programs to assist new or growing courts.  The program will receive an award marking the distinction on Thursday. 

One of the six participants who will graduate Thursday said that the (W)RAP program saved his life.  Danny, 55, of Chicago, (last name omitted) said he was a heroin addict who was arrested for a theft committed to pursue his habit.  “This is like the first day of the rest of my life,” Danny said, of Thursday’s graduation. “I’m never, ever, ever, ever going back to the person I used to know.” 

Danny spent some time in Cook County Jail before being admitted to the (W)RAP program and going to the Safe Haven Foundation, where he received treatment for his drug abuse. He said the treatment gave him a clear mind and helped him make plans and have short-term and long-term goals. 

“I didn’t want to pollute my home and make it toxic again with my drug use,” said Danny, who lives with his wife of 27 years, Emma. The Safer Foundation, which works with (W)RAP, helped Danny find a job at a manufacturing company, where he has received two promotions in less than two years. 

During this time, Danny said he had to appear before Judge Burns every month for a progress report. “He’s an inspiration. His program saved my life,” Danny said. 

While drug courts like this one exist in various forms around the country, one unique aspect of Cook County’s program is the inclusion of housing resources. Through a collaboration with the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC), up to 25 Housing Choice Vouchers have been made available to program graduates. Graduates participating in the voucher program can choose to participate in relocation counseling with dedicated HACC staff to identify housing options and obtain suitable housing. 

“Having secure and stable housing is absolutely crucial for people to maintain their recovery,” said HACC Executive Director Rich Monocchio. “But in Cook County’s tight housing market it can be especially difficult for someone with a drug conviction history. We are proud to provide these remarkable graduates with the housing stability they need to continue achieving their goals and moving forward with their lives.” 

Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans has lauded the (W)RAP program as one of the Circuit Court of Cook County programs that provides individuals an opportunity to make changes in their lives that help them stay out of the criminal justice system. 

“We continue to be encouraged by the success of our Problem-Solving Courts, including the (W)RAP program,” said Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans. “One of our goals as a court is to move people away from criminal activity and allow them to become productive citizens, not just to punish them.” 

"Problem-solving courts offer an alternative to incarceration through their therapeutic response to individuals with entrenched needs, such as drug addiction and mental illness, which drive reoffending,” said Kelly Gallivan-Ilarraza, director of the Problem-Solving Courts for the Office of the Chief Judge. “Judge Burns and the (W)RAP team are dedicated to providing their participants the community treatment and support services necessary to drive behavior change." 

Note: Media representatives who wish to cover this event should note that some individuals do not want to photographed or filmed, and should inquire with court representatives first about each individual’s willingness to participate.  

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