Graduates complete Cook County RAP Drug Court program: 'I'm so grateful'

Leah Hope Image
Friday, December 1, 2023
Graduates complete Cook County alternative drug court program
A graduation ceremony was held at a Cook County courthouse for those who completed the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation Drug Court program.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was a unique view from inside a Cook County Criminal courtroom.

There was no trial. There was no hearing.

There was joy and celebration Thursday for a graduation. Eight men and a woman successfully completed treatments, classes and got services to satisfy the requirements of Rehabilitative Alternative Probation, also known as the RAP Drug Court program.

"Today I vacated all of your convictions and the charges were dismissed against you," Cook County Judge Charles Burns said to a graduate.

Some call it a second chance.

"Days from today this conviction and the five years prior convictions will be expunged by me and you will be away from the collateral consequences of conviction," Judge Burns said to a graduate.

The RAP program drug court began in 1998 and is among multiple alternative programs in Cook County, such as Veterans Court and Mental Health Court.

Judge Burns, who has overseen drug court for over 13 years, eagerly allowed the graduates opportunities to address those in court.

"This is my first opportunity to learn how to live being about productive positive people," RAP Program Graduate Lester said. "I'm so grateful, all y'all."

Among the graduates was James, who battled addiction for decades after a sports injury.

"I've never walked into a courtroom so many times and walked out the front door," James said.

Now James is a counselor.

"I'm just thankful and I'm going to take full opportunity," James said. "I'm not going to gamble on my life with drugs and alcohol."

For most of the graduates, the ceremony closed a decades-long chapter in their lives and started a new one, working, clean and trying to help others.