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A man was given a chance to change his future Tuesday when he was sentenced to treatment instead of incarceration.

Richard Allen Doney, 29, was given a two-year deferred sentence by Yellowstone County District Court Judge Mary Jane Knisely in exchange for his commitment to get treated for his meth addiction.

Doney is the first person to be sentenced as part of the Yellowstone County Drug Intervention Program. The first program of its kind in Montana, the objective for those involved is to get low-risk and low-need felony drug offenders into individualized treatment faster than the normal court system can.

When the program was explained to Doney, he said he wanted to “take it right up.”

“It’s giving me a chance to get clean, to get life back on track,” Doney said.

Doney was arrested Dec. 31 and charged with felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs as well as two misdemeanors. Less than a month later, Doney was already on track to get treatment. At his sentencing, Knisely dismissed Doney’s two misdemeanor charges.

Doney was “getting an opportunity to change what your future might look like,” Knisely said.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito will fund Doney’s supervision through the first six months of his treatment. This will prevent the cost of monitoring from burdening Doney as he starts to get his life back on track, Twito said.

Laura McKee, a Parole and Probation officer, met with Doney soon after his arrest, getting involved in his case much earlier than she can with other clients. He will start his treatment Wednesday through New Directions Counseling. In addition, McKee wants to help Doney get housing and maintain his employment while he completes treatment.

If Doney is in good standing with McKee, the court and his treatment providers at the end of the first year of his sentence, Twito will move to dismiss Doney’s case.

Doney will be going to treatment four times a week. McKee will keep in close contact with the people in the program as they complete treatment, she said. If clients run into problems during their completion of the program, McKee wants them to be able to come to her.

“We want to make the program work for them,” McKee said.

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Twito’s team of people involved with the program includes McKee, County Pretrial Risk Assessment Coordinator Lisa Ereth and Public Defender Melissa Williams.

The program is a good opportunity for a select number of the public defender office’s clients, Williams said.

The program began Jan. 2 and can deal with up to four drug offenders per week who’ve been assessed and labeled by Ereth as both low-risk and low-need. Ereth screens potential candidates for the program at the courthouse every Thursday. People with either prior offenses, mental health needs or other more complex drug problems may not qualify for the program.

Random drug testing will be part of the program.

More people are being screened, and Twito said he hopes the program will cut down on people returning to jail because of a chemical dependency problem.

“One down, hopefully a lot more to go,” Twito said.

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