Pubdate: Fri, 15 May 2015
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Susan Clairmont
Page: A3


Hamilton Man Makes History by Being the First Graduate of the City's 
Drug Treatment Court

The courtroom is packed with people who helped Carmelo Tinebra get clean.

There are Crown attorneys leaning against a wall.

Defence lawyers squeezed among Tinebra's mom and friends.

Doctors sitting alongside counsellors.

Police officers chatting with court staff and drug addicts.

And a judge, seeming mighty pleased as she looks out over the lot of them.

About 60 people are gathered to witness this moment. The moment when, 
364 days after starting Hamilton's Drug Treatment Court (DTC), 
Tinebra is making history by being the very first client to graduate.

But here's the most remarkable thing of all: after 35 years of drug 
use, the 47-year-old fire plug of a man is clean.

Tinebra shifts his gaze from Justice Marjoh Agro to look out at the court.

"I'm glad I had the opportunity to go through the program. It changed 
my life," he says, sobbing. "I've got strong support from my family 
and a couple of good friends. I go visit them and their children are 
happy to see me. That's overwhelming."

"It's a good feeling, isn't it, Mr. Tinebra?" says Agro, who has had 
him appear before her every week for a year.

"You won't find that feeling in a f---ing crack house, that's for 
sure," he responds.

"I'll take your word for it," says the judge.

The unorthodox exchange has the courtroom laughing, even as they dab 
at their tears. But that's the way DTC rolls - it's unlike any other 
court. Here, there's applause when someone has a drug-free week. And 
gold stars are pasted by court staff into little diaries. And there 
are mandatory yoga classes.

Launched in January 2014, DTC gave a small group of offenders the 
chance to accept treatment as their sentence. The court is intended 
to deal with root causes of addiction and is an option for adults 
with non-violent charges stemming from addiction. If they are 
accepted into the program, they must plead guilty and enter a strict 
treatment regimen of recovery. Once they are clean for six months, 
have stability in their life and a plan to work, go to school or 
volunteer, they can graduate.

Some clients have dropped out of DTC. A few have been kicked out. 
Others are doing well and are on the road to recovery.

But Tinebra is the first to make it through the gruelling process and 
emerge - healthy and happy - on the other side.

His journey began when he was 12 and tried weed for the first time. 
Then cocaine. Eventually, he was hooked on crack. On May 14, 2014, he 
pleaded guilty to breaking into a homeowner's garage, stealing meat 
from Fortinos and breaching probation.

He was accepted into the DTC program and for a year has had therapy, 
random drug tests, curfews, weekly court appearances and more than 
200 hours of community service. He also went back to high school and 
is close to graduating.

A ceramic tile installer by trade, Tinebra is living with his mother 
and for the next two years will be on probation with strict terms.

"He has made it clear he now has a fresh approach to life," his 
lawyer Andrew Confente tells the court. "That you do not need drugs 
in your life to be happy. In his previous life, on a nice summer day, 
he would be in a crack house."

"Everyone who is here today has in some way contributed to your 
decision to take the path to recovery," said Agro. "And this is a 
packed courtroom.

"But this is your success. Not ours."

With that, Agro steps down from the bench - unheard of in regular 
court - to present Tinebra with his certificate of graduation.

And to hug him.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom