Tuesday, March 8, 2016

CDCR Partners with Judge Wendy Getty to Divert Adults from Prison

Substance abuse recovery is a challenging path from which people often lose their way. For some, the process requires clean and sober living environments, substance abuse counseling and education, a strong support system, and judicial supervision.

Judge Wendy Getty, who presided over the Fairfield Adult Drug Court in Solano County said the battle to stay sober is similar to the challenges that fire victims face. Ongoing substance abuse creates a feeling of loss, helplessness, pain, and, in worst cases, may take a life.

The men and women graduating from adult drug court work hard to change their lives, leaving behind the devastation their drug addictions caused in their lives, their families’ lives and even in the communities in which they live.

Community-based partners are critical to the success of any drug court. Partners staff the drug court team. They build rapport with, and offer services to, participants. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) provides participants with support during the program by attending Adult Drug Court hearings to recognize sobriety benchmarks. CDCR also advises the drug court team and works with individual participants to use available resources to successfully keep them out of the state prison system.

In December, four Solano County residents praised Judge Getty and the Adult Drug Court team for the positive impact the program made on their lives.

"This program saved my life and my family. I’m very, very grateful,” said Ingrid Britt during the graduation. The program partners helped Ingrid overcome her substance-use disorder.

 She reported that recovery stopped her life-threatening path and, as a result, kept her children from becoming wards of the court. Ingrid completed her recovery journey and has remained clean and sober for nearly two years.

Judge Getty worked tirelessly to help the adult drug court participants.  She was creative with sanctions she imposed on those not meeting the expectations set forth, ensuring her approach was customized to each adult drug court participant.  She reached out to California State Prison – Solano to lend assistance and the institution responded.  Through their collaboration, a program was initiated, referred to as The Change Factor, where adult drug court participants have opportunities to learn what life is like inside prison in an effort to deter them from criminal behavior.

Tonya Parker-Mashburn, Community Resource Manager with California State Prison – Solano, helps to inspire program participants as they progress through the program. She attends adult drug court hearings and coordinates peer mentoring discussions at the prison with incarcerated offenders and adult drug court participants. She coordinates educational prison visits for drug court participants to hear testimonies and encouragement from state offenders to keep clean and make positive life choices.  The Change Factor has made a lasting impact on the participants.

Another drug court graduate, 34-year-old James Malone, said achieving sobriety took him 15 years in and out of custody and other contacts with the criminal justice system. With the help of a residential treatment facility, he became educated about the tragedy of addiction. James displayed a renewed self-confidence as he received a certificate of appreciation from CDCR representatives. He’s happy about his transformation into a productive member of society.

Taylor Oppedahl recognized his problems and worked through them. He said by the time he was 14, he was already doing drugs and struggled with feeling abnormal. He didn’t have a GED, and by age 19 he’d been in and out of the correctional system.  Before drug court, he was arrested 21 times in Napa and Solano counties.

All this led to mounting debts for his parents. Adult drug court was the turning point for Taylor. The support and resources helped to change his life. He reported that after 18 months he is now clean and sober, and no longer addicted.

Adult drug court succeeds because of the team approach to addressing individuals’ addiction and criminogenic issues. Each partner wields its resources and expertise to the benefit of the drug court participants helping them to overcome their addictions and stay out of prisons and avoid future criminal behavior.

For information about the CDCR, please contact Albert Rivas, Deputy Chief, Office of External Affairs at albert.rivas@cdcr.ca.gov or (916) 445-4950.

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