Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2011 Source: Helena Independent Record (MT) Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record Contact: http://helenair.com/app/contact/letters_to_editor/ Website: http://helenair.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1187 Author: Angela Brandt TREATMENT COURT SIGNS UP FIRST PARTICIPANT The first participant in the new Treatment Court in Helena sobbed as she signed her contract. The judge dabbed away a few tears as well. Much time, effort and planning has gone into the Treatment Court, which will be used for defendants with alcohol- and drug-related felony offenses. A team of officials from various agencies traveled down to Denver in April to receive a week of grant-funded training. They have been meeting every week since then in preparation. District Court Judge Jim Reynolds officially appointed a treatment coordinator, a probation and parole representative, a deputy county attorney, a public defender and a law enforcement representative prior to hearing the first case on Wednesday afternoon. The Treatment Court, which is one of 27 in the state, will offer defendants with new charges or revoked probation heightened supervision and a system of immediate rewards and punishments. Reynolds said in his eight months on the bench he has already seen many cases where the defendants have been before him multiple times on drug- and alcohol-related charges. "Treatment Court is a different way to do business," he said. Misty Dawn Wilson appeared as the first participant in the new program. "I chose to use marijuana and not think of the consequences that occur," said Wilson, a 29-year-old mother of a young son. Wilson's eyes were welled with tears for most of the hearing, in which Reynolds explained to her how the court will work. One of the provisions in Wilson's contract with the judge is that she is not allowed to enter casinos. "This is not a soft program. It has some edges to it," Reynolds explained. "I will send you from that podium to that jail across the street," he told Wilson. If participants violate the terms of their contracts, Reynolds has options for potential punishments, which include incarceration or assigning community service. Wilson was sent to Treatment Court in lieu of a sentence to the Montana Department of Corrections after violating her probation on a felony possession of marijuana charge -- she was caught using the drug. "If someone offers you a joint, you have to say 'I can't do that because I have a contract with the judge,' " Reynolds told her. The Treatment Court process will take 12 to 18 months depending on the participant's circumstances. The option is not open to those who committed violent or sexual crimes. Reynolds said the team chose Wilson from about 100 other potential participants because they believe she will prosper in the program. "You're going to learn, and we're going to learn with you," he said. Another two defendants who are waiting to get signed into the program watched the hearing to see what it entails. The goal is to have 20 to 25 participants. Drug screening and self-help meetings are mandatory within Treatment Court. Participants must make regular visits with their attorneys and probation officer as well. Wilson's first reward was a messenger bag filled with donated items that will help her to achieve her goals -- an appointment book, an alarm clock and a journal. "It's time to turn the page," Reynolds said. "You need to break this cycle. You need to grab a hold of your life." Reynolds thanked all of the entities involved in the formation of the Treatment Court, especially law enforcement, the Office of the Public Defender, the County Attorney's Office and the Lewis and Clark County Commission. The commission allocated startup funding for the program. Reynolds said they are waiting to hear about more grant applications. The courtroom benches were filled with city and county officials who applauded Wilson after she signed the contract alongside the judge. Reynolds and Wilson shook hands at the close of the hearing. "I am going to be the first success," Wilson told him. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.