Sobriety Court provides structure for recovery

By Jo Mathis and
Steve Thorpe
Legal News
When Simon Pratt received his third DUI in June of 2012, his lawyer, Mike Nichols, told him about a program that could help him get the help he obviously needed. Last Thursday night, Pratt was one of three graduates of Ingham County’s 54A District Sobriety Court. He consented to the use of his full name in this story
Pratt, 33, of Lansing, couldn’t be happier with the results of his hard work. And he’s determined to stay on the path of sobriety one day at a time.
“I’ve wasted so much time in the past,” said Pratt, who began drinking when he was 18.
The 54A Sobriety Court graduation was held on Thursday, Feb. 27, in a courtroom at Lansing City Hall with Judge Louise Alderson presiding.  
The City of Lansing created its Sobriety Court Program in 2005 to address the problem of drunk driving in the community. Its goal is to significantly reduce repeat offenses and support offenders in altering their lifestyles. Those with histories of violent offenses, drug sales or significant mental health problems are excluded.
The program uses an interdisciplinary team approach that utilizes close supervision, individualized treatment and frequent judicial review.  That can include random drug screening, alcohol testing, group and individual counseling, 12 step meetings, home visits and employment assistance. Journals are also kept by participants and regularly reviewed.
Judge Louise Alderson noted that graduates work very hard to build a strong foundation of sobriety and an overall healthy lifestyle. 
“We provide the structure, but they do all the work,” she told The Legal News.  “I’m so proud to be part of a community that supports the mission of Sobriety Court, which is to provide treatment instead of incarceration to those individuals who are struggling with the disease of alcoholism and addiction.”
She said participants, who must abide by the structure of the Sobriety Court program, are expected to obtain employment, perform community service or continue their education.
“The result is they become more productive, responsible and accountable in their daily life," she said. “This is also a direct benefit to our community.”
Pratt said he was overwhelming with the rigid schedule he had to follow in his first months with Sobriety Court.
“At first I felt like they were stacking the deck against me,” he said, referring to the frequent meetings, drug tests, and one-on-one visits with his team. “Now I see why they did it. It really was the structure keeping me accountable.”
Pratt, who credits his family for their constant support over the years, has made new friends in his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as well as the Sobriety Court. And he has newfound respect for Judge Donald Allen, Jr., who presides over the court, as well as his Prevention and Training Services Counselor Steve Souza.

Subscribe to the Legal News!
Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more
Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year
Three-County & Full Pass also available