A measure of success
“I feel great,” Ray Scovill said while celebrating his graduation from the Steele-Waseca Drug Court.
Originally booked on a third-degree narcotic sale charge, Scovill was required to serve 39 months in prison. Instead he is now clean and sober, has a job, got his GED, and is a contributing member of society.
“I just sort of rolled the ball and went with it,” he said of trying to make the best of the program. “I took it as it comes. It’s definitely better than serving 39 months.”
Scovill is the 40th graduate of the program, which was implemented on July 1, 2014 in order to respond to high risk/high need substance abusers that continued to cycle in and out of the local justice system and jails.
“Even with good behavior, he would still be serving jail time,” Drug Court Coordinator Nicole Grams explained. “He’s a primary example that if he wouldn’t have had this opportunity, he would be serving 39 months in prison. Really it’s an opportunity for him to change his course from repetitive incarceration to being a successful member of the community.”
With 217 sobriety days and 144 tests taken, Scovill has surpassed his required commitments to the program, which currently serves 51 individuals throughout both Steele and Waseca counties.
The program is rigorous. It has four-phases and is a minimum of 18 months. SWDC requires court attendance ranging from weekly to monthly, contingent on the phase of a given participant. Recovery related programming includes treatment, support meetings, mental health meetings, completion of cognitive skills programs that help to change thinking, which changes behaviors and recovery events.
At least three hours of self-help recovery meetings are also required weekly. Participants submit to a minimum of twice weekly random testing. All participants must complete treatment, make meaningful connections in the recovery community, obtain a valid driver license, GED/Diploma, employment, compliance with child support and payment of fines, fees and restitution prior to graduation.
The SWDC has a combined total of 14,492 days of sobriety, which is an estimated average of 39 combined years. Average sobriety per participant is 284 days.
Graduates like Scovill serve as a positive reinforcement for others within the program. “The reality is they get frustrated and when they see that someone has been able to navigate through the program and do well then they can see that there’s a path to success,” Grams said.
During his graduation, Scovill had friends and coworkers there to support him, which proves the level of commitment and success he has had. “I would tell others in the program to basically just buckle up and do it,” Scovill said. “They made the choice and why not go along with the choices that they made.”
“I probably would have kept going down the wrong path,” he said if he hadn’t made the choice to join the program. “Now I have my GED, a car, a job. I’m just really grateful.”
After the graduation, Judge Joseph Bueltel presented Scovill with a plaque in front of the other drug court participants. “I’m just really proud of Ray, he’s worked so hard, he’s very diligent,” Judge Bueltel said.
“This program was really made for him. He saved himself 39 months in prison, and he switched that off for 18 months of freedom and now having a job, and a home, and good relations with his friends in the community, and with his family,” Bueltel added. “He’s earned it, and he’s done the hard work.”
Like Grams, Judge Bueltel sees much benefit in a program like this which can effectively alter people’s lives and save money. “It costs probably $5,000 or $6,000 per year per drug court participant versus $41,000 for a state prison yearly stint. It clearly makes sense to try this,” he said.
Scovill celebrated his graduation from the program on March 6 following a drug court session at the Steele County Courthouse. With past mistakes behind him, and brighter days waiting in the future, Scovill is proof that programs like this carry a wealth of positive results.