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Drug felons turn their lives around by graduating from rehab program

Updated: November 30, 2012 5:54PM

For over two decades, Timothy Gulley was afraid to face his family because he was embarrassed about his drug addiction.

The Far South Side man also stole things from his mother’s house and had a tendency to leave the door unlocked, his relatives said.

But now, thanks to a Cook County drug court rehabilitation program, Gulley, 52, is clean and regularly spends time with his loved ones.

“It feels so good,” Gulley said after he graduated with 17 others from the Rehabilitative Alternative Probation or “RAP” program Friday.

“Now I hang out with my mom and watch TV and chill.”

The program, now in its 13th year, helps non-violent felons undergo treatment starting with a 120-day in jail program.

Candidates of the program are screened and monitored by Judge Charles Burns, who oversees their progress for roughly a two-year period.

The majority of the addicts selected are chosen when they have violated probation for a previous non-violent felony conviction.

In addition to rehab, participants also have to perform community service and undergo random drug tests.

The graduates have made mistakes, Burns said. But ultimately, they make him proud.

“[As a judge] I see a lot of despair. I see a lot of fear. Rarely do I see redemption, rarely do I see hope,” Burns said smiling at the graduates.

At Friday’s ceremony at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, the graduates were also congratulated by Chief Cook County Criminal Courts Judge Paul Biebel Jr., other high-ranking court personnel and former graduates.

They also got to hear from former Chicago Bear Michael Richardson, who struggled with drug addiction for years before he went through a 12-step program.

“I died. I just came back to life. I was breathing…, learn to love yourself,” the former NFL star told the group.

Willie Griffin, the aunt of Miami Heat Dwyane Wade, was one of the graduates to receive a certificate Friday.

She violated her probation for a drug charge when Burns gave a chance to start over.

“The program,” she said, gave her a “life.”

“It made me get back in the race again,” Griffin said with a wide grin.

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