By Associated Press - Friday, September 22, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday pardoned a New York woman who says she stole to support her heroin addiction but turned her life around after she entered drug recovery and gained her sobriety more than three decades ago.

Christie pardoned Gail Naples, of Greenwood Lake, New York, at his office in Trenton in a ceremony that included her friends and family.

“I have a life beyond my wildest dreams,” she said after the Republican governor signed the pardon. “It’s a miracle.”

Naples grew up in Cresskill, New Jersey, and says she had two felonies on her record and first became addicted to heroin after a painkiller prescription expired. She says she’s been sober since 1984 and credits recovery programs, including a 450-day stay at an inpatient facility, with prevailing over addiction.

“It’s all because of recovery,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for recovery.”

Christie said he pardoned Naples as part of the typical clemency process in the state: Someone who wants a pardon must apply through the parole board, and the governor’s counsel reviews submissions before the governor grants a pardon.

“She’s a shining example of second chances,” Christie said.

Naples, who works as an accountant now, said she became emotional when she first found out over the phone that she would be pardoned for theft and possession of a controlled substance. She said she had been turned down for a job in a school because of the felonies on her record.

“I cried. It was powerful,” she said after the ceremony.

The pardon comes the same week Christie unveiled $200 million in new state spending to address the opioid crisis. He also chairs President Donald Trump’s commission on opioids.

He says he doesn’t have plans to ramp up pardons as he prepares to leave office but will continue to review applications. He cannot run a third time because of term limits and leaves office in January.

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