SPECIALTY COURT: A second chance for drug offenders

Drug addiction in the U.S. has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, the problem is costing the country $524 billion a year and is draining the resources of our judicial system. District Court was forced to find a more economical way to weather the tsunami of drug abuse and addition. Its solution is a program called SPECIALTY COURT.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV -- The contrast is bittersweet -- Robby Lewis walks toward his new future, face to face with his checkered past, one that was filled with meth use and prison time.

Lewis' life now is far from the mug shots and rap sheets of yesterday. His mother, Becky Cuen, couldn't be more proud.

"From day one he's been a good boy," Cuen said. "He tripped a few times and needed a hand back up, but he did it mostly on his own."

Robby's new lease on life is possible because of Specialty Court; a District Court program that gives people convicted on drug charges a second chance.

Eric Mason, a substance abuse counselor for the court, knows the program well. A former meth addict, Mason is a product of this new kind of court system - one that addresses the root cause of addiction and holds addicts accountable, rather than just punishing them.

"They know it's just something that I was born to do," Mason said.

Mason credits the program for turning his life around and now dedicates himself to helping others succeed where so many fail.

"I'm kinda no-nonsense," Mason said. "I'll call you out. That's what addiction is all about -- lies and manipulation."

District Court Judge Linda Bell was there at the beginning of Mason's struggle and helped him build the bridge that led Eric to overcome a life of addiction and instead, pursue a life of purpose.

"I really like to have a job where I come every day and do something that I feel makes a difference," Bell said. "Eric's story is so unusual because he's accomplished so much coming from such a serious addition."

Mason knows the road to recovery is life-long. In the early 1990s, after 10 years sober, Mason broke down and used again. It was a mistake that nearly killed him, but he fought back.

"I had a counselor tell me I believe in you; they showered me with encouragement," Mason said. "Sometimes people just need that; that's what works with drug court."

That's exactly what Lewis is counting on. He knows the threat of falling back into addiction is real. With the help of counselors like Mason and Judge Bell, Lewis leaves court with a battle plan.

"Staying humble to my addiction and knowing that it can take over again," Lewis said.