5/13/2013 11:24:00 AM Family ties help Dunlap succeed in Drug Court Flat Rock man is first graduate of new program that's an alternative to prison.
Circuit Court Judge Christopher Weber speaks with Codey Dunlap, the first graduate of the Second Circuit Courtís Drug Court program, on April 19 in the Crawford County Courthouse annex. Dunlap, his family, attorneys, probation officers and supporters celebrated his being the first person in the circuit to start and finish the course. (Graham Milldrum photo)
The new Crawford County Drug Court has produced its first graduate.
Codey Dunlap, 36, Flat Rock, completed two years of court appearances, drug counseling and drastic life changes, and saw a felony guilty plea removed from his record.
The drug court is a state-mandated diversion program intended to keep offenders out of prison and under court supervision while they recover from substance addiction.
It's not an easy out, said Circuit Court Judge Christopher Weber, and some people choose prison terms rather than go through the stringent steps of the process.
Those who choose drug court must plead guilty, admit they have an addiction and allow access to protected information to participate in the program. The state's attorney recommends people for the program, who must be approved by the drug court judge. In Crawford County, that is Weber.
Some charges instantly disqualify a person from entering the program. Those are sexual assault or bodily harm charges, or charges with mandatory prison time, according to a press release from Second Circuit Court Chief Judge Stephen G. Sawyer.
Dunlap was charged with methamphetamine manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine manufacturing materials after a May 26, 2010, arrest. It was his second arrest on a meth charge. He had already served a six-year prison term from a 2004 conviction of manufacture of 5 to 15 grams of meth.
Weber said he was impressed by Dunlap coming forward and requesting entry to rehab, which was one of the reasons Weber chose to place Dunlap in the program.
Most participants begin with about two months in jail. Weber said the time in jail is necessary because it can take that long for a rehab program to have a bed open. And many will not accept people who still have drugs in their system, he said.
The offender then goes to a residential drug rehab program. The programs available to the drug court must be approved by the state before any offender is allowed to enter them. Some are secular, some are religious.
Dunlap didn't exactly follow this course. He began to attend First Fruits Mission Bible Training Center, a residential rehab program, in the time between his arrest and his guilty plea.
He became a Christian and was baptized there, Dunlap said, which he considers a key part of his recovery.
While there, he was completely disconnected from his old life for about a month, said his mother Diane Burnett. That time served to break contact with the people Dunlap said were dragging down his life and preventing his recovery. He said he'd tried to recover on his own or with others before, but those old relationships kept sabotaging his attempts.
When he left the center he began the continual check-ins that mark the second stage of the program. Offenders appear in the drug court weekly and have drug tests up to four times a week. As the person continues through the program, the frequency of appearances drops to every two weeks, then every month. The number of random drug screenings in a week also drops until the person finishes the program, which takes at least two years.
That time was a major change for Dunlap. He joined his brother's church and became involved there. He moved into a new house, married his girlfriend of six years and began to raise their son, Cruze.
Dunlap's support network has a very real presence, said his mother. Her home is 30 feet from the Dunlap family's and 30 feet from his brother's home.
That network was one of the reasons Weber decided to place Dunlap in the program. He said people with a strong support network have a higher success rate than those without.
His mother said she made the decision to step up her involvement. She said she told her son, "you can't do it any more, I'm doing it with you."
Her involvement included watching Cruze, who was less than a year old when Codey Dunlap was arrested. Codey's brother also watched the boy as both Codey and Natalea struggled with drug addiction.
Terry and Marlene Hodson, Codey's aunt and uncle, helped support the family as Codey and Natalea began their new jobs and reset their lives.
Now the two are employed, and Natalea just earned a promotion at her position.
The program doesn't have, or expect, a 100 percent success rate. Stevi Holscher, drug court officer, said the program opens up the possibility for serious recovery outside of prison.
She said the graduation, attended by about 20 people, shows how many are affected by one person's addiction.
She said addicts who spend time in prison may not receive any substance abuse counseling, making them likely to repeat their offenses when they return to society.
The court program is much less expensive than full incarceration, she said. And the chance of going to prison is present for every drug court participant.
"If an offender fails drug tests, misses counseling or does not complete other requirements, he or she will be jailed locally as punishment, could be dropped back a phase or could be dismissed from the program and incarcerated," Shirley Treadway said in a 2010 letter to the editor.
The State of Illinois mandated the program, but did not budget money for its operation. Local communities were left to find money to support the system. Some of that comes from a $5 fee assigned to cases that require a court appearance. More money comes from the local group RE-NEW: Recovery Excellence through Nurture, Education and Work. They have gathered donations and earned grants.
Financing is provided in part by RE-NEW, which accepts donations through P.O. Box 132, Palestine, IL 62451.