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Beyond Bars: Drug court helping those who can’t help themselves

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Mar 11, 2019

Every now and again I check the Davis County Jail inmate roster. It never ceases to amaze me how many familiar faces I come across. Yesterday, I saw that a couple of guys I was buddies with during drug court had recently been booked into jail on consecutive days. These were guys who I played softball with. We didn’t really hang out much besides that because it was against the rules to fraternize with other people in drug court. But still, it’s sad to see they haven’t escaped that life.

I have a funny side story: When we were all in court one day, one of those guys and a girl were arrested for fraternizing. And so when it was my turn to talk to the judge, he reminded me that there was a no fraternization rule and I think I nodded. He then proceeded to ask me, probably for the benefit of everyone, if I knew what the word fraternization meant. As I often do, I responded before thinking and used a little levity in response to what I perceived as a somewhat condescending question. I answered, “Umm, third base.” Everyone laughed; well, everyone except for the judge. Now I’m sure that wasn’t “the nail” in the coffin for me, but it probably didn’t help my case.

Many of the folks that start the drug court program don’t finish and end up going to jail and even some to prison. Still, there are sadder fates. Four people I met in those months during my drug court experience have since died. Even with my decidedly negative experience with drug court, I’m sure some would be shocked to know that I think it is a good thing. Drug court is a year-long program with group and individual therapy, frequent drug testing and check-ins to court. It’s basically an alternative option to getting locked up. I do see it as an attempt by the county to actually help troubled individuals rather than just removing them from society.

I’ve tried with little luck to help a couple troubled individuals myself. It’s been frustrating and disappointing to get let down in these cases, but I can’t take it personally. I’m quick to lend a hand because of my experience in seeing that people do recover. However, I am also quick to recognize when someone isn’t ready for help and I am willing to walk away if that’s the case.

I understand why families and friends give up on some of these individuals. I don’t know if that’s ever good for someone, but people can only take so much disappointment. The jails and prison are a revolving door. The same people go in and come out and account for the majority of the crime. I look at many of those familiar faces and think that I’m really fortunate to not be locked up and even more fortunate to still be alive. Still, I maintain the unpopular opinion among prisoners that it’s better for people to be locked up and off drugs than out and using.

I have seen drugs ruin and take so many lives. I imagine I sound like the D.A.R.E. officer from my elementary school. I wish I could show some kid everything I have seen before they think they will just try drugs or just use them recreationally, or even the adult who thinks pain killers are the way to go. A lot of people have used drugs with little to no consequence, but the ones who do experience consequences usually do so in a completely devastating way.


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