Sobriety Court celebrates 30th graduation ceremony 17 graduates are determined to stay clean and sober

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 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
 
Mike Mosholder of East Lansing never thought of himself as an alcoholic. Sure, he loved meeting friends at the bars to get buzzed, and every occasion had become a reason to celebrate with alcohol. And he’d been arrested—twice—for impaired driving, and had even attended a few A.A. meetings.
But it wasn’t until his third DUI arrest in February of 2013—and his admittance to the 55th District Court Sobriety Court—that he finally knew he needed to change his life one day at a time.
Thirteen months later, he says he’s a different man: leaner, clear-headed, and happy to say every aspect of his life is better.
“I wake up every day with a smile on my face,” said Mosholder, 45, who says he is now the best possible version of himself. “Now when I drive by police officers, I can wave and smile. It’s a lot better!”
Mosholder was one of 17 graduates of the 55th District Court’s 30th graduation ceremony last week at Mason City Hall. The Sobriety Court continues to be a “win-win situation,” proving rehabilitation effectively protects the community, saves significant taxpayer money, and returns citizens to productive lives, according to Judge Donald L. Allen, Jr., who presides over the court. 
“We now have 361 successful graduates of our program,” Allen told the crowd of graduates, past graduates, and their supporters, who applauded.
Allen noted the progress each graduate had made in the past year.
“I didn’t know you guys had it in you, but look at you!” Allen said with a smile. “You look fantastic.”
One by one, the graduates, along with their friends, family, and counselors, took the microphone and talked about what the court has meant to them.
“It absolutely saved my life,” one graduate said.
“I thank the court for helping him learn a better way,” said one of the wives.
“If he can get through this program, any of you can, believe me,” said another.
Mosholder told the crowd that the program may seem long—typically 13 months or so.
“But in fact when you think of all the hours we spent at the bar or doing what we did, this program is not that long,” he said. “And you can change in a short period of time if you’re dedicated to it.”
Steve Souza, a counselor and clinical supervisor at Lansing’s Prevention & Training Services, praised Mosholder for his “can-do attitude” and determination to turn his life around once and for all. He’s so proud of him, in fact, he’s asked him to be a guest speaker at group meetings.
The long term success of Sobriety Court is based upon close supervision of probationers by an interdisciplinary team dedicated to the safety of the community, Allen noted.
In addition to reducing crime and protecting the public, the Sobriety Court is also saving Ingham County taxpayers by reducing the time offenders are spending in jail, explained Specialty Courts Coordinator Da’Neese Wells.
Candidates for the court are people found to be dependent on drugs or alcohol who are not violent offenders, and who are facing 180 days in jail or more, said Wells.
Because participants avoid “up front” jail terms by entering the court, jail utilization has significantly decreased, she said. According to the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, incarceration for OWI 3rd offenders last year  was reduced by 630 days, and for OWI 2nd offenders, by 462 days. At $54 per day, the reduction in jail time represents a savings of $58,968.
“It’s an intensive program aimed at protecting public safety as well as conserving public resources like jail space,” she said. “Many people who normally would have just gone to jail or received insufficient supervision if put on probation are instead diverted to a very intensive program that’s geared toward motivating them to stay sober and then rehabilitating them for a life after they’re not involved with the court system any longer.”
Studies by the National Drug Court Institute in 2010 show that 81 percent of 55th District Court Sobriety Court graduates had not been re-arrested, compared to the national average of 75 percent.
And according to a 55th District Court Recidivism Study in 2011, 93 percent of its Sobriety Court graduates had not been convicted of new alcohol or drug related offenses.
Mosholder said he is not worried that he’ll return to his former ways because he now sees that every aspect of his life was negatively affected by alcohol.
“I have tools now that put me in a position to cope with life and enjoy life on life’s terms,” said Mosholder, an inventor and C.E.O. of his own Okemos company, The Gadget Factory. “Everything has been affected in a positive way.”
Society, too, has benefitted from his sobriety because he will no longer be a buzzed driver, the term he used to “rationalize bad behavior.” He said drunk drivers who are simply put in jail come out right where they started, without the necessary tools to change their lives.
 “Sobriety Court is one of the most rewarding programs not only for the individuals and their families, but society at large,” he said. The difference is the daily dedication to sobriety, said Mosholder, who has been clean and sober for 13 months and now spends a lot of time in the gym instead of a bar. 
“It’s an intense program, and there are a lot of requirements you’re aware of on a daily basis,” he said. “And so you’re basically engraining a way of life with repetition and doing the next right thing on a daily basis.”
 

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