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Smithers, 43, says he lived a life of drugs so long he thought it would kill him.

Quinten Smithers' Story

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When Quinten Smithers was released from his first stay at Rubicon, a residential drug-treatment program, he wasn't prepared for life without drugs. "I fell on my face," he says. "I didn't grasp anything; I didn't learn anything. I violated my probation and was running from my [probation officer] until I got locked up." Smithers, 43, says he lived a life of drugs so long he thought it would kill him. Circuit Court judges in Richmond knew Smithers well. He had been before them for countless drug charges. Then Judge Donald Lemons told him about the city's new drug-court program. "I was kind of skeptical going through it," he says. But the random and frequent drug tests kept him clean. He had 30 days to find a job and a sponsor. He's kept them both for nearly three years. On June 29, 2000, Smithers celebrated two years of sobriety. A soft-spoken man who credits his mother for being his "backbone," Smithers talks assuredly now, yet without pretense, about his past and how others helped him mend it. The drug-court program worked for Smithers in subtle but important ways where other programs had failed. Smithers says he found his voice in the drug-court program; he found a role by helping others along. His involvement in drug court didn't end after the 14 months it took for him to graduate. Today, Smithers sits on the drug-court steering committee. He meets regularly with Judge Spencer, representatives from the Office of the Public Defender, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office and the drug-court team to recommend policy for the drug-court program. "Some judges out there now are trying to bring the drug court program down and say it's never going to work," Smithers says. "But I'm living proof that it does work." He's had to give up the old neighborhoods and many of his old friends. Smithers says he's tried to warn drug users about what he says is the inevitable fate of an addict who deals or steals to support his habit. But most drug users he knows don't want to hear his admonitions. "I'll say 'Come on brother, isn't it time for you to come on in? I've been through the jail system and it don't work.' The drug-court program works. But kids have to wake up and want it for themselves. They've got to say, 'Quinten, I've tried it my way. Now I'm going to try it your

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