WILMINGTON — It’s rarely a surprise when Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck enters the courtroom wearing his judicial robe.
But it’s indeed surprising on this Friday — at least to a novice observer of the periodic status review hearings of the You-Turn Recovery Docket (drug court) — as Rudduck normally enters in less-formal attire.
One can sense this won’t portend good news … or will it?
A local resident, Chris, had recently been admitted to drug court, but the court determined he was non-compliant — he had failed a recent drug screen due to the presence of methamphetamine. He denied that he had used, but he ended up spending four days in jail.
The court’s treatment team as well as Judge Rudduck recommends that Chris become part of the STAR program, which about half of drug court participants have already completed.
Chris had not only failed the drug test, he also had missed some of the daily call-ins, which are part of the program’s requirements.
Rudduck tells Chris that he doesn’t normally send non-compliant people to STAR, but he is making an exception for Chris.
“It’s not about getting sober,” Rudduck tells him. “It’s about making better decisions.”
Rudduck says a STAR bed would be opening up on Jan. 24. He tells Chris that he could simply “let him go”, but Chris — whose significant other is there in support of him, and says she is also in favor of him joining STAR — reluctantly agrees to get that help.
The “You-Turn” Recovery Docket is a specialized docket within the framework of the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas which serves a target population of those addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
The docket provides defendants with an opportunity to avoid incarceration and address their substance dependency issues with support from the judge, probation officers, substance abuse counselors and other members of a specialized docket treatment team.
The program’s goals are:
• To reduce drug use in the community.
• To create programs or partner with existing programs that help anyone in a life-long battle with addiction.
• To reduce all criminal offenses related to drug use in our community.
The docket is highly structured, requires responsibility and demands accountability from participants in order to avoid incarceration or other sanctions.
Participants follow specific rules established by the court in an effort to achieve recovery from addiction.
The program’s mission is to: Enhance public safety by reducing repeat offenses; assist participants in taking responsibility for their behavioral health issues by turning from a path of self-destruction to a path of recovery; create community programs to meet the needs of the participants and others struggling with addiction; and use evidence-based practices in intervention and treatment.
The status review hearings are open to the public; the next one is at 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 2 in the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas.
Re-entry to court
After dealing with Chris’ case, Judge Rudduck then leaves the courtroom. He returns a few minutes later sans robe and looking a bit less judge-like and more of a friend and/or mentor — while still a judge.
The drug court participants — who had all been given a friendly greeting earlier by Chief Criminal Bailiff Kelly Hopkins — are called to come to the jury box as a group of five, then called up to the dais one at a time:
• Erica has been doing well, is in compliance with the program and is on track to move up to Phase II of You-Turn. She recently earned a promotion at work that should allow her to make more while working fewer hours.
“You seem more relaxed,” Rudduck tells her. “Phase 2 is on the horizon.”
The treatment team, which ranges from law enforcement/court personnel to health-care professionals — including a medical doctor and counselors with Solutions and with Transformative Wellness — states that she has been compliant.
• Brent also seems more relaxed and confident. He’s been learning and working to communicate better and he’s been sober for more than two months now.
“He’s a lot more open now,” says Ka’Shira Myburgh, Intensive Supervision Officer for the Clinton County Court of Common Pleas. “He has lots of family support.”
Brent adds that every aspect of his life is changing and that he hasn’t had any “close calls” regarding drugs.
“I got sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he tells Rudduck.
• Katelynn arrives at the dais with a wide smile and still wearing her restaurant uniform from the job she recently started. “I love it,” she says of the job.
She says she’s been clean for four months. She’s taken a parenting class, among others, and hopes to soon see her kids more often.
• Charles had recently been in jail after using methamphetamine. But he’s done well for the past two weeks and also has a mentor who is helping him.
• Erin is “the rookie” of the group — the first person admitted to the You-Turn Recovery Docket in January. She’s keeping an open mind and is doing well so far.
She knows it’s a day-to-day process; after all, now in her mid-30s, she’s been battling addiction since age 13.
Other counties have their eyes on Clinton County. On this Friday, representatives from Preble County west of Dayton, including a magistrate and a law enforcement officer, are there to observe, to speak with Rudduck and to learn more about You-Turn, with eyes on perhaps starting a similar program in their county.
Nearly a month later
On Friday, Feb. 16, Judge Rudduck enters “drug court”, this time wearing shirt-and-sweater-vest as opposed to his judge’s robe. He welcomes everyone in the room, including the seven people sitting in the jury box, one of whom is a “newbie,” he says.
• First up is Erica. Judge Rudduck observes, as he did weeks earlier, that she seems more relaxed. The treatment team again reports that Erica is doing well; she’s doing a “great job controlling her anxiety” and is showing good decision-making while learning to deal with “stressors.”
She hasn’t missed any of her call-ins and her job as an assistant manager is going fine. “You’ve come a long way,” the judge tells her. “I’m happy with the way you’re going.”
• Brent tells the judge that “everything’s going good”, although the day before he was at work when a friend of his was seriously injured and had to be transported to a hospital via medical helicopter.
Brent has remained sober since Nov. 13 and hasn’t missed any calls.
• Karissa tells the judge that her pregnancy is going well overall, and she is also just starting a new job.
She is sober, but has also missed some call-ins and the judge warns her that she was on notice not to miss any more. But he also encourages her.
• Katelynn steps up, again wearing her restaurant uniform, where she says she’s working anywhere from about 25 to 40 hours per week. She says she’s doing well with her therapy sessions. The treatment team reports that she’s “opening up a lot more” and doing great.
• Charles reports he’s doing well. He’s working, and says he’s been upfront with his employer and they support him in his recovery.
• Erin, no longer the rookie of the group, says things are going well. She is also working a new job — and her supervisor is the aforementioned Erica.
• The final participant to appear before Judge Rudduck is Travis — the “new guy.” Judge Rudduck says Travis volunteered to be part of the You-Turn Recovery Docket.
Travis says he was clean for a year before having a relapse. He especially wants to stay clean for his children.
He has a lot of family support and is attending church several times a week.
As the session ends, Judge Rudduck tells everyone that the March 2 session will include a talk from a parent who has lost two children to fatal overdoses.
The judge also announces that the next You-Turn Recovery Docket graduation is slated for June 1.