NewsOK: Oklahoma's drug court program not only saves tax dollars but saves lives

If not for Oklahoma's drug court program, Cameron Rian Shores says he would be dead.

“I can wake up and my life is not in chaos. Every day I don't have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired," he said.

Shores, 26, has been a drug addict for a decade. What started as a way to fit in with the cool crowd eventually sent his life spiraling out of control, he said.

For years, methamphetamine, heroine, Xanax and other drugs dominated his life. After numerous drug arrests, Shores was confident he would spend years in prison.

But after learning he qualified for the state's drug court program, he jumped at the opportunity for a second chance at life, he said.

“I'm so grateful because without this program I would have been dead, in prison or still back on the streets. And that is the one thing I never want to have to go through again,” Shores told The Oklahoman.

Shores is one of about 4,000 active drug court participants in Oklahoma who receive treatment, counseling, drug testing and other services as an alternative to prison. He also lives in a sober living house in Oklahoma City.

“It's really helping your life. It's getting you clean. It's getting you sober. It's teaching you principles,” Shores said. “It's either do drugs, live that life and die, or get clean, get sober, be proud, have respect for yourself.”

The program typically lasts between 18 and 24 months. A participant could remain in the program longer due to setbacks, such as failing drug tests or missing court.

Participants plead guilty to their cases to enter the program. Nearly 70 percent of participants successfully complete drug court.

When participants graduate, their charges are dismissed. But failure means prison.

“These people have prison in the balance,” Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Stoner said.

Read the rest of the piece at oklahoman.com.