Team rewards others who comply with the rules
Two young men were jailed on Tuesday after testing positive for alcohol consumption when they attended the weekly meeting of the Drug Rehabilitation Court. The therapeutic remands were for seven and nine days, respectively.
In contrast, there were rewards for those whose tests were clean and who had kept their appointments with probation officers or counselors. At least three were allowed to leave before court was finished for the day; two were excused from attending court the following week.
One relative newcomer was doing so well that his curfew was extended so he could work later hours.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats discussed each man’s progress with him in front of the other drug court participants. The rationale is that genuine efforts and achievements should be recognized; everyone in the program should see the consequences of both positive and negative behaviors; everyone in the program should see that the court is consistent in its approach even as it individualizes treatment.
One man in the second phase of treatment failed to follow the protocol. Initially, defendants/clients know they may be tested at any time. Later, they are given the responsibility of phoning the program coordinator on certain dates to find out if they should report for testing. This particular individual did phone, but when the message was sent for him to come in for testing he did not do so.
The magistrate sent him to the courthouse cells while other people were reviewed. At the end of the day, the magistrate had him brought back up. “I sent you downstairs so you would be where you don’t want to be – so you understand how important it is to comply,” he said. The man was then released, but has seven days custody hanging over his head if he breaches the rules again.
Another man was previously allowed bail so that he could go to Caribbean Haven, a residential treatment center. After he left without permission, the court kept him in custody.
Referring to a pre-court meeting with probation officers, counselors, Crown counsel and a defense attorney, the magistrate said, “We feel he needs help. He hasn’t committed any new offense; he just continues to use drugs. If he were offending [burglary or theft, for example] it would not be safe to release him.”
The way forward, the drug court treatment team agreed, was for this man to reside at the halfway house whose manager was willing to accept him. Any breach of the halfway house rules will be regarded as a breach of bail, the magistrate warned.
In other cases, he shared positive reports. One man had told his probation officer about the urge he had to get into parties at Christmas, but told himself no because he had come too far. “He wanted to live up to the expectations of his family, including his young child, and that’s his motivation. That’s what got him through,” the magistrate told other court participants.
He urged them to focus on one goal at a time and “stay brutally optimistic.”
The numerous clean tests that day showed that the majority of drug court participants had stayed away from drugs over the Christmas holidays. “You’ll have the same temptations over New Year’s, but you can do it,” he encouraged.
The two men remanded in custody had other breaches in addition to their positive tests. One had shown up at a counseling session with alcohol on his breath; he had also been late in phoning the program coordinator. The other man missed three appointments in the week before Christmas.