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YOUNGSTOWN First municipal drug-court class graduates



Published: Sat, July 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One judge said she's glad another judge copied the idea for drug court.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Gloria Dunlap wanted to express her gratitude but the words got blocked by her tears.

She did manage to thank everyone involved with Youngstown Municipal Drug Court for believing in her.

The crowd inside Municipal Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr.'s court Friday afternoon understood the emotion she felt.

Dunlap, 38, dabbed her eyes and smiled as she sat down.

Judge Douglas passed out certificates to Dunlap and three men, all Youngstown residents and the first drug-court graduates. A round of applause followed.

"Thank you -- everyone," said Robert Wilkins, 29, another graduate. "Thanks for being hard on me when I deserved it."

Began last fall

Judge Douglas began drug court last fall, convinced that the model established by Judge Jack Durkin at Mahoning County Common Pleas Court would work at the misdemeanor level.

Participants plead guilty to their drug offense, then enter the program. If they successfully complete the program designed for their individual needs, which takes 10 months or so, the charge is dismissed.

The program is a collaborative effort of the court, police department, prosecutor's office, Mahoning County Bar Association, Treatment Alternatives to Street Crimes (TASC), Community Corrections Association and several treatment centers.

Judge Douglas oversees the program, which allows substance abusers to avoid jail and attempt to kick their habit, whether it's alcohol or drugs.

City Prosecutor Dionne M. Almasy accepts candidate referrals from several sources, including police and defendants' attorneys. Almasy has the final say on who enters the program.

Meets each week

The drug court meets each Friday morning in Judge Douglas' court.

Municipal Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly said Friday that Judge Douglas "had the good sense to copy from Judge Durkin." Judge Kobly, a reformed smoker, praised the efforts of the four graduates, saying she understands it's not easy to kick a habit.

"You have all our prayers and our support," Municipal Judge Robert P. Milich told the graduates.

"What we were doing in the past simply wasn't working," Judge Durkin said in his role as guest speaker. He praised the hard work of Judge Douglas and Almasy.

Almasy said she had been accustomed to seeing drug abusers arrested again and again and wasn't sure what to expect. She said she was glad to see the four graduates prove her wrong.

The problem of drug abuse isn't solved by putting people in jail, Judge Douglas said. "You have to deal with the issue."

meade@vindy.com




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