By Teri Nehrenz
It’s not often that one gets into serious trouble with the law and can escape the consequences of jail or a permanent record, but if you live in Mesquite, you live in a town that completely supports second chances.
Such is the case with Mesquite Court’s “Breaking the Cycle” program. On Tuesday, May 15, Jennifer Davis became the newest graduate of the program who successfully broke the cycle of drug addiction and avoided a lifetime of having to overcome a court record.
The Breaking the Cycle program in the Mesquite Courts is one of 42 “Specialty Courts” that have been enacted as a result of Assembly Bill 29 (NRS 176.0613) in 2003.
According to Nevada Courts Overview, “Specialty Courts offer non-violent substance abusing offenders an alternative to incarceration. The goal of a Specialty Court is to break the cycle of the “revolving door” syndrome and support participants to achieve total abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol, by promoting responsibility and accountability, and teaching participants to become productive law abiding citizens, which in return reduces criminal recidivism and provides for better, healthier communities.”
You’re familiar with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In the case of addiction, it takes an entire community to break the cycle and it seemed as if the entire community, or at least a representative, was there to support Davis’ victory. From Mayor Allan Litman and city council members David Ballweg, Brian Wursten and Gino Withelder to civic organization leaders Police Chief Tanner, friends and family, including other participants of the program, someone was there to show their support of both the program and Davis.
Their leader in breaking the cycle, Judge Ryan Toone, is the most avid supporter of the program and a seemingly perfect choice to be the General in overseeing the battles along the way.
To the casual observer, Toone is no pushover but he is compassionate and fair in both his rewards and consequences. One cannot detect even the slightest bit of negativity in his actions or words.
He is encouraging and positive even when there is a slight hiccup in the participant’s efforts. Toone identifies the problems but quickly passes over the negative. He hands out the consequence with positive words such as, “I’m confident that next time I see you…,” and goes on to praising the accomplishments of the participant rather than condemning the momentary failure; without a doubt one of the main reasons the program is so successful in the Mesquite Courts. Others involved in the program have that same positive energy which makes it hard for the participant to have anything other than minor setbacks.
One can’t help but be motivated by the court’s constant words of encouragement and understanding that breaking the cycle of addiction isn’t easy for anybody, but it’s possible for everybody given the right tools and support.
The program is not designed to allow those who are enrolled to skate through it. Davis worked harder in the program than she would have going to jail but her future wouldn’t have been nearly as bright.
It takes years to overcome the stigma of a felony conviction but with Breaking the Cycle, participants can avoid the conviction from the start, if they successfully complete the one year program.
AA meetings, working the 12 step program, wearing a GPS ankle device, essay writing, daily contact with a probation officer, private/group counseling, community service, employment and multiple weekly drug testing is just some of what Davis successfully accomplished in her year before graduation.
During the year, Davis was working on winning the fight the Toone and his army of probation officer, city attorney, defense attorney and counselor were her constant source of both accountability and moral support.
Like many chronic diseases, addiction is not a condition that develops overnight. In fact, addiction is well-known for developing slowly and perhaps even unnoticed over time. The process of developing an addiction happens in stages just like any other chronic condition; the main difference is that the cycle of ailment, treatment, and relapse seems to be much more prominent and recurring in cases of substance addiction.
Breaking the Cycle treats the addiction in stages or “Phases” allowing for more privileges as the participants move to the higher stages of the program. There are several participants in the program at any given time. They are all in different stages but working together. With the support of Toone and his army, they hold them accountable to the community, the program and to the standards they set for themselves.
Davis is well on her way to living the good life of a broken cycle and she should. She is employed in the pet grooming industry and her employer says she’s training to become a groomer. She’s got a strong foundation, awesome motivation, wonderful community support and a great attitude; what she doesn’t have is a record.