Troy Hargrove was on his way to prison when the criminal justice system took a chance on him.
Sitting in jail after his third drunken-driving arrest, Hargrove had an epiphany. “Enough is enough,” he said.
The 49-year-old was given the opportunity to enter the Clark County specialty court program for those convicted of felony DUI. The prison diversion program is aimed at getting nonviolent offenders treatment for their addiction, whether it is drugs or alcohol.
On Wednesday, three years after his arrest, Hargrove and 52 others graduated from the program at a ceremony held in the Clark County Commission chambers.
Clark County has several different types of specialty courts, including drug and DUI court.
The goal of the courts is to keep nonviolent offenders from rotating in and out of the Clark County Detention Center and provide guidance and treatment to prevent defendants from reoffending, while saving tax dollars.
The reward, beyond sobriety, is that the criminal case is dismissed once a defendant successfully completes the specialty court requirements.
Judge Linda Bell, who runs the Eighth Judicial District’s drug court, handed out certificates and hugs during the ceremony.
“I know how hard it is. I see their struggles” to stay sober, said Bell, who described her role as a mix of sternness and compassion.
Not every defendant successfully completes the program, and it takes some longer than others to finish.
While avoiding prison is a big motivator at the beginning, Bell said that at the end of the program, graduates are more interested in sobriety and re-establishing themselves with their family and in the community.
Mug shots of the graduates were shown as each man or woman stood to receive their certificate, often a striking visual example of the graduates’ metamorphosis from addiction to sobriety.
Hargrove has a light-hearted memory of why he chose the program over prison: “I like to cook my own meals,” and “if I’m going to have a roommate, I would like to pick who lives with me.” But his addiction cost him more than a criminal case and an ugly mug shot. He no longer has a close relationship with his four children. One daughter no longer speaks with him.
Hargrove hopes to re-establish a relationship with his kids, but he knows he can’t force it on them.
“The proof is in the pudding. Until I stay sober, they’re not going to let me back into their lives,” he said.
Wednesday’s ceremony coincided with the start of National Drug Court Month, sponsored by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, aimed at raising awareness about the effectiveness of these specialty programs.
Local court officials estimate that the drug and DUI courts has saved more than $40 million since it was founded by Judge Jack Lehman.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.