A Fort Worth woman says her day in court saved her life.
Amanda Pruett, 29, is a graduate of Family Drug Court, an alternative specialty court that has helped 150 parents in Tarrant County keep their families intact by focusing on treatment for drug offenders instead of prison time.
On Tuesday, Pruett shared her story in a very public way, addressing county commissioners to show how Family Drug Court helped her.
"It was scary. A lot of people I didn't know," Pruett said.
Standing at the microphone in front of a crowded room, she shared how she started using drugs at age 17. She continued through her late teens and early 20s, until she found herself at a crossroads. At 24, she was a young single mother with another baby on the way, and she was addicted to meth.
"I was wondering myself when it got so bad and how it got to that point," Pruett said. "I had nobody."
One night in October 2011, she was in a run-down house with no electricity or running water, and she was arrested on a probation violation. Her child was taken away from her, and she was sent to jail. But after a month, she was given an alternative option called Family Drug Court that offered 15 months of intensive supervision and counseling.
"We're in it to stop the cycle of substance abuse leading to drug-exposed babies. The cost of that is incredible to our society," said Judge Ellen Smith, who has handled every Family Drug Court case before the 323rd Family District Court.
Smith said that approximately two-thirds of participants are successful graduates of the program, and she said they know of at least 25 children who have been born clean to recovering mothers since they began in 2007. Family Drug Court helps both men and women, with clear guidelines on who is eligible.
"Those parents who are willing to work hard for 15 months on average, we are willing to work with," said Smith.
Pruett said the counseling helped her work through her issues and heal. She has been clean since the day after she was arrested. After six months in the Family Drug Court program, she was able to regain custody of her children.
Some six years later, she is raising her two healthy kids. Pruett has her own apartment and car, and she's currently a full-time student with an internship, working to become a drug treatment counselor herself.
"Everybody deserves a second chance," she said. "It's pretty much what you do with that second chance that makes you or breaks you."