The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 9, 2009

Police play ball with drug court grads

MANKATO — From the bleachers Sunday — where it was easy to marvel at a perfect throw from left field to nail a guy at home, or watch a guy lope around the bases after smacking one out of the park — it looked like any other game.

Chad Schreiber, 29, knows differently, however. He knows how lucky he is to be here. He knows he very well could have been sitting in a prison cell in Stillwater serving time for a felony driving while intoxicated charge.

But instead he’s here playing in a most unusual softball game. His team’s roster is filled with names that, at one time or another (or perhaps multiple times, such as his) have appeared on a jail roster, or in criminal charges for drug or alcohol crimes.

Almost all of the members of this team are graduates of Blue Earth County’s Drug Court, a sort of diversion program that pulls people out of the traditional criminal justice path and puts them into a program that is designed to help them rid their lives of the kinds of behaviors that lead them back to drug and alcohol use.

And on the other side of the field: That team is made up of police officers, some of whom arrested some of the guys on Schreiber’s team. Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys? Cops Vs. Robbers? Good Vs. Evil? The World Series of Sin?

It’s not nearly that simple.

Kevin Mettler, a county probation agent who works with individuals in the drug court program, said the coming together of these two teams says a lot about how successful the program has been.

The program is still young, but its recidivism rate is just 4 percent.

“(The officers) have bought into the fact that these guys have made major changes in their lives,” he said.

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