Judge Confident Her Drug-Court Project Will Survive Her Departure

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Despite the sour grapes that could've grown out of the Republican Party due to the Democratic sweep, post-election transitions are going quite well, at least in Houston courts. Case in point, ousted Judges Caprice Cosper and Mike Wilkinson have agreed to carry on their work with the STAR (Success Through Addiction Recovery) Drug Court Program for free (as we reported last week).

"It's just pro-bono" Cosper tells Hair Balls. The pair will continue to work through their current dockets in the court's rehabilitation program in order to make things easier both for the incoming judges, but more importantly, the participants, referred to in the program as "clients."

"Basically one of the things that drug court studies have shown and our own exit interviews have shown is that consistency, continuity [are] key to succeeding in our program," she says. "So to the extent that we can reduce turnover ... to the extent that we create as little upheaval has possible, particularly during the holidays, obviously, then that's a real benefit."

Cosper was the driving force behind the Harris County's Drug Court program, which focuses on rehabilitation for non-violent, low-level offenders. So far more than 160 clients have graduated from the STAR program and as many as 150 are currently enrolled. Cosper says she's confident the program will continue to succeed despite her exit.

"Definitely. I think the day after the election that's exactly what I told all of the participants in my drug court program, that this program was bigger than any judge, bigger than all the judges that volunteered their time, that the program was about them," she says. "I'm a big believer that challenges in life present opportunities for growth and that I felt that's exactly what this would provide for our program: A realization for how important it is, what a great program it is and how it must not only be continued but expanded," she says.

"We were told in our training that if we build a successful program it will prove itself and as I remind our current participants and our graduates the program will continue to grow and be successful because of them. That they're successes and  the successes of those that have gone before them and graduated have established the foundation for this program that we will continue to build them."

Cosper says she's not sure how long she and Wilkinson will stay on - but it will be until there can be a smooth transition for each client to a new judge. And after that ... who knows?

"I'm still considering options, but nothing that would prohibit me from continuing with the dockets on Wednesday afternoon which is when I do my dockets," she says, laughing. "I wish I could be more specific, I wish I knew."

-- Dusti Rhodes

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