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Defendant to decide: treatment or jail

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

“I want you to be evaluated by Mt. Rogers (Mental Health Services) and follow all of their recommendations. If you don’t, what will happen?” Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long Jr. asked a Barren Springs woman.

“I’ll go to jail,” Dianne Patricia Ayers, 32, responded.

“If you come back in here (court), what’s going to happen? he asked.

“I’ll go to jail,” Ayers responded again.

Ayers recently pleaded guilty to violating probation on a felony shoplifting conviction from October 2012. At that time, she received a two-year suspended sentence, but her probation officer says she has “struggled” with following terms of probation.

Ayers hasn’t kept in contact with the probation officer, she failed some drug screens (marijuana and amphetamine), the probation officer was unable to confirm she received court-ordered mental health counseling and she failed to complete court-ordered community service until the day she was arrested for violating probation, according to testimony.

The probation officer said Ayers has been instructed on several occasions to receive mental health treatment because “I think mental health is her biggest problem.”

Ayers said she didn’t go to Mt. Rogers because she didn’t think she would be able to attend group sessions because she feared being around groups of people. She indicated she did seek help at St. Albans because “I felt I needed help so I could cooperate with my probation officer.”

While at St. Albans, she was put on medication for social anxiety so she can now attend group sessions, she told Judge Long. “I feel I can greatly benefit from Mt. Rogers,” she said, noting she “never really realized how much I messed up” until she was jailed. She has been incarcerated since mid-November.

“I want to do better for my family and kids,” she added. “I didn’t feel like I needed help before.”

Ayers said she is willing to take out a $4,500 loan to attend New Life (substance abuse treatment program), if the court so orders. The fee is higher for those living outside New Life’s service area.

Ayers agreed with the judge she hasn’t followed the rules of probation. Long told her he would rather see her get help than put her in jail, “but I will if you don’t follow the rules.”

“I promise you won’t see me back in here if you give me another chance,” she said.

“Your probation officer wants to help you,” he said.

Defense attorney Courtney Roberts asked Judge Long to take Ayers at her word that she is sorry for violating terms of probation and help her get the treatment she needs. However, she asked that the court not order a treatment program that will “put her in a financial position she can’t handle.”

“I do believe mental health issues” are Ayers’ problem, Judge Long said. However, he advised Ayers that she is the only person who can assure she gets the help she needs.

“I will. I swear I will for my kids,” she said.

In order to allow Ayers time to get into a program, the judge revoked the full two years sentence, then re-suspended all but six months.

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