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Family asks for another chance for offender

Trina Kleist
Staff writer

A man facing a possible prison sentence for several drug-related arrests deserves another chance at rehabilitation, the six-time probation violator’s wife said Tuesday.

Matthew M. Bandy, 43, faces sentencing at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Nevada County Superior Court. His case stems from a drug arrest in 2000. Since July 2004, he has been arrested six times for violating the terms of his five-year probation, mostly on suspicion of having, using or selling methamphetamine.

“He’s a drug addict and he needs help,” said Bandy’s wife, Victoria Bandy. “If he goes to prison, prison isn’t going to help him.”

The family’s plea is fueled in part by the Feb. 14 decision to give another repeat offender an fresh chance at recovery.

Judge John H. Darlington sentenced Dwaine L. Frye to a year in jail, two years in an in-patient drug rehabilitation center, one year in an out-patient program and seven years of probation – instead of at least eight years in prison. Frye’s sentence stemmed from four drug arrests between December 2004 and November 2005.

The Frye decision has produced consternation among law enforcement officials who see the same people over and over. They complained that the court’s drug rehabilitation programs have no teeth if people don’t go to prison as a consequence of failing the programs.

“How can you tell someone there are consequences for their actions?” commented a lawyer who asked not to be named.

The Frye decision also has sparked hope among some other offenders, including Bandy, who face multiple drug charges and frequent probation violations.

Bandy’s probation violations did not include any violent crimes. Relapse is part of the reality of recovery, said Victoria Bandy, who also is a recovering addict.

“If (others) are entitled to a second chance, why isn’t my husband?” she said.

People who work daily with drug offenders cautioned that each case should be judged on its individual merits. Among the considerations are the offender’s circle of support, the willingness the person has shown to get help and work the recovery program, and the larger impacts a prison sentence can have on the offender’s family.

Victoria Bandy said the man has helped her raise her two children, and he has two adult children who still need his help.

“If he’s in prison, he can’t support me and our children,” she said.

However, another chance for either Frye or Bandy also implies even more prison time hanging over their heads, legal experts said. Frye faces a 16-year sentence if he fails to meet the conditions of his probation.

Darlington, who has retired, continues to supervise Adult Drug Court on an interim basis. The program offers rehabilitation to people who would otherwise go to prison. It also provides close supervision to offenders and support to their families by a team from county agencies, it and reviews participants’ progress in court every two weeks. It is different from the Proposition 36 program, which also promotes drug recovery.

Bandy went through Drug Court with Darlington. He graduated from the program in 2002 with a perfect attendance record and stayed clean for another two years.

But a work injury and a serious motorcycle accident, both in 2004, started him on a slide, Bandy told The Union in an earlier interview.

“That just did him in. He got depressed,” Victoria Bandy said. But, she said, her husband failed to apply what he learned in Drug Court and get the support he needed to stay clean when times got hard.

“It’s hard for him to ask for help,” Victoria Bandy said. “I’ve been with him for eight years, and I think this time he’s really sincere about it.”

To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail trinak@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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