Former offenders graduate Will County drug court
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent April 20, 2014 4:16PM
Will County Drug Court graduates line up for a candlelighting ceremony during their graduation from the rehab program last Thursday at the Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet. | Frank Vaisvilas ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 22, 2014 6:21AM
Stephanie Cyze, of Homer Glen, said she was shooting up about $50 worth of heroin a day before enrolling in Will County’s Drug Court.
“It’s just given me the structure and support I needed to realize I’m worth living a better life,” Cyze, 24, said of the rehabilitation program.
Her parents were in attendance Thursday during her graduation ceremony from the program at the Jacob Henry Mansion in Joliet.
“I think it saved her life,” her father, Jim Cyze, said.
Cyze began abusing drugs when she was about 16 — starting with prescription pills such as Oxycontin and Norco.
But she began needing more to get high, and someone suggested that she try heroin. She did at 19.
“I wasn’t living, just existing,” Cyze said in her graduation statement. “All I did was get high. ... I hated myself and who I had become. My life revolved around heroin.”
Today, she has been clean for about 20 months, is a waitress at a local pancake restaurant and is working on earning her cosmetology license.
Cyze’s was one of 19 success stories described by Circuit Court Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotes during the graduation ceremony. Policandriotes presides over the drug court program.
“The drug court does more than heal individuals,” she said. “It saves families. I don’t think God has spared one family from the effects of drug or alcohol abuse.”
The judge said statistics show that offering drug abusers treatment and counseling helps to reduce recidivism rates.
“The mission is to break the cycle of addiction,” Policandriotes said.
She said addicts will do whatever it takes, such as stealing, to support their habit.
David Nelson, 27, of Crestwood, was arrested in March 2012 for a crime related to his drug use. He has been clean and sober for more than two years after joining the county program.
“It’s a complete 180,” Nelson said. “I’m a completely different person from when I joined.”
Nelson began using heroin at 18, up to eight bags a day.
“I really needed the time in jail to get my head screwed on,” he said. “Upon leaving, I needed someone to hold me accountable.”
He’s working at a Dunkin’ Donuts and would like to pursue a career in art.
At the end of the ceremony, State’s Attorney James Glasgow walked on stage and requested that Policandriotes dismiss the charges against the drug court graduates. The judge gladly did.
“I never imagined back in 1998 when I wrote the grant (for drug court) that we’d have this kind of success,” Glasgow said.
Several hundred people attended the event, including family members of the graduates and local officials and politicians.
There also were a busload of potential drug court candidates at the ceremony, under guard by sheriff’s police, to see how they could benefit from the program. During their speeches on stage, several of the graduates encouraged the inmates to enroll in the program.