Madera County Day Reporting Center graduates gather following a ceremony at the VFW Hall on Thursday night. (Wendy Alexander)
Seventeen former drug offenders celebrated their completion of a transition program recently along with family and government officials during a dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall.
During the ceremony, a young girl ran up to give one of the graduates, Ricardo Robles, who has three children, a high five. “That’s my daughter Aniyah Rose,” he explained later. “She’s my little sidekick so everywhere I go she wants to be there. I could see the look on her face that she’s really proud of me. I’m glad I did this for my kids too.”
Like some of his fellow program participants, Robles originally didn’t want to have anything to do with the program. But it showed him “basically just how to get along (with others) and be a better person for myself. It taught me a lot of discipline and just … changing the way I think.”
One graduate, 47-year-old Tony Costa, works for a local water district now but had been a “functioning addict” for 31 years prior to the program.
“At a young age, I thought that if I was going to go through and have this habit I was going to support it,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go out in thievery … (or) do anything like that. I was going to support my habit. I never had a problem with it. (But) the wives that I’ve chose had problems with it.”
The program helped him to recognize the people, places and things that triggered his addictions. “I was able to straighten my life out,” he said, “and it’s been a learning experience that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before … This program gave me the opportunity to really dig deep.”
Fellow graduate Ricardo Robles
“With the tools you learned in the (Madera County) Day Reporting program, I have confidence in every one of you that you’re going to succeed from here on out,” said keynote speaker Judge Ernest LiCalsi. “And I hope and I pray that you have confidence in yourself. Life is going to deal some blows to you. It’s not going to be easy. It never is for anybody. But just remember the tools that have been given to you and, when something knocks you down, you can get back up.”
“I’m hope you guys were happy throughout this journey you’ve just completed,” said Deputy Probation Officer Sylvia Garcia after a slideshow that showed program graduates going through it. “And just for everybody else, we don’t just only eat and we don’t just only give things away. They do a lot of work as well. It is a good program.”
The program at the Madera County Day Reporting Center, operated by BI Incorporated, has four phases, which were explained by program manager Jose Pedroza.
“People who are in phase one report five days a week,” he said. “They are identifying their risk factor, what would lead them to go back to jail. They’re creating a treatment plan to lower the risk factor. They’re working on adjusting to their new schedule. They’re working on getting familiar with being honest, being aware of their surroundings, working together as a team with the other participants. It’s a lot of intensive work.”
The second phase involves goal setting and community service hours on the three days each week that participants report in. During phase three, they “continue to work on their commitment to change. You know it’s really difficult to change all at once. Sometimes it’s a little gradual effect. But they revisit their commitment to the reasons why they need to change,” he said.
The fourth phase is “after care” in which participants create a plan to reach their goals, including lining up resources they will need. “There’s a high expectation for them to have a job or be in school when they get to phase three and after care. Participants are expected to use the skills that they learned throughout the program when they interact with society,” Pedroza said. “So it’s a really good time for them to practice what they’ve learned.”