Former Addicts, Prostitutes Graduate From CATCH Court

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UPDATED: Friday September 27, 2013 6:48 PM

Once addicts, prostitutes, slaves to the streets, they are now leaving behind those dark days and beginning a new chapter.
         
And they say a special Franklin County Court program is the reason.
    
The program is called CATCH Court.
         
CATCH stands for “Changing Actions to Change Habits.”
         
And it is changing more than habits -- it is transforming lives.
 
We all have histories, but few of us know the darkness these women do.
         
"I was just empty inside. My body was beaten, my spirit was broken," said Crystal Cottrill.
        
"I just got so tired. I got beat, raped and kidnapped," said Wendy Miller
         
Even if they could forget, there are mug shots to remind them.
         
"There was nothing left of me. I had burned all my bridges," remembered Cottrill.
         
"That is a person trying to cover up all the hurt and pain," Miller said, looking at her mug shot from three years ago.
         
The hurt and pain she referred to was of addiction and prostitution, of being used and thrown away, helpless and hopeless.
         
“Having someone beat you and not know if they're going to kill you,” Cottrill said, describing her lowest moment.  “Not knowing if you're going to live through something."
        
 "It's a blessing I was in jail,” said Miller, “Because I was introduced to the CATCH program."
         
CATCH Court was created by Franklin County Judge Paul Herbert.
     
"What his court does, and what his approach to justice does, is it offers the women of CATCH accountability, but it offers them support and a safe place to change," said Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich.

Friday, far from the streets they once walked, amid the grandeur of the Governor's Mansion, dozens gathered to celebrate the power of change.
         
The power of second chances.
         
The power of redemption.
         
"Power is about responsibility, and caring, and character,” said Andrea Boxill, who oversees the CATCH Program. “These women, all of these women, you are power."

Miller and Cottrill have completed a milestone in their journey from the streets.
         
Hundreds of days clean and sober, years of counseling and court commitments met.
         
On Friday, they graduated.

Click here to read more about CATCH Court.
         
"I turned from a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly,” said Miller to Herbert. “And I have you to thank for giving me a place where I could open up and grow and get rid of the ugliness that was holding me back."
         
"That's why I'm grateful for my life today,” said Cottrill. “Because I know that this is here, and it's a beautiful thing. Life is here, and it's good."
         
"This is fun. This is my life today,” said Miller. "This is my new story."

Since it started four years ago, CATCH Court has accepted 150 women.
         
Only 14 have graduated, but of those who have spent six months in the program, 72 percent have no new criminal charges.

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