Today your family accompanies you to court. Your partner of less than a year and your three-month baby daughter. This is your third family. The children from the other relationships, six of them, are wards of the state.
The atmosphere is heavy with anxiety as we travel an hour through early morning traffic to arrive at court by 9.30am. We each sit with our thoughts, I imagine yours and your partners are troubled. How will she and your daughter manage if you are given a custodial sentence today? What kind of man you will you be in two years’ time? Will your partner wait and will you be drug free on release? The availability of drugs in prison intrigues me.
Some clients have entered prison drug free and been released on the methadone programme. I know you understand how that works because of the three terms you have already served. I am hoping beyond hope that you are not incarcerated a fourth time. You are so close to being drug free that to be imprisoned at this point in your recovery would not be good. Do you remember talking about how you felt during your last prison term. You said you lost hope, gave up and returned to drug use while in prison.
It is not a good day even before we discover that court is sitting in another town some twenty kilometers away. The police notify the court we are on our way and tension escalates. Miraculously we arrive on the stroke of 9.30am; even the court house clock notes our timely arrival. We park, unpack the push chair, settle baby in and wrap baby blankets around her to keep the torrential rain off her.
Do you remember telling me that it was time to grow up and start taking responsibility. I suppose being here today is another point of evidence that you are holding yourself to that. We discussed the consequences of doing a runner across the border . There were some pretty convincing arguments and you did come up with a few novel strategies to avoid the police but you know that is not an option.
It took Judge Caleb half an hour to decide what sentence to hand down, but didn’t it seem like days? We were on tenterhooks and the anxiety and fear were tangible. When you stood to face the sentencing I saw a man defeated by his actions, we were certain four would be returning in the car, instead of five.
Judge Caleb exercised leniency and compassion and while the conditions of your probation and parole are strenuous you are home with your family. I am pleased that you will be part of your three month old daughter’s life. Five hours later we leave the court house and each of us turn to take one last look. The clock says 9.30. Time has stood still.
I hope we continue to meet each week and talk about why some people use drugs to manage the hard knocks. You’ve survived more strife than most and you’re still fighting, resilient and above all tenacious with a changing attitude towards yourself and the world.