Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2011
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2011 Helena Independent Record
Author: Angela Brandt


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

Misty Dawn Wilson appeared as the first participant in the new

"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

"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

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

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

"I am going to be the first success," Wilson told him.
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