Second chances: Graduate of Nevada County Post Release Community Supervision gets new lease on life
July 23, 2018
Scott Smith used to spend over $200 a week on liquor. He was convicted six times of driving under the influence, spent seven years in prison and three more in county jails.
Smith was, in his own words, "a liar, a thief, and just an evil person all the way around."
His last offense came when he was arrested for a hit and run DUI, an event that landed him not only in local headlines but in jail once again.
Upon his arrival, Smith shook violently, a common symptom of alcohol withdrawals. Two days later he was led by a corrections officer into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. His life and perspective changed drastically, and from then on he decided to do accept any help he was offered.
“I am not proud of my past but I am not hiding it. I hope somebody else can learn a little bit.”
— Scott Smith
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Last week, Smith celebrated what could be the biggest achievement of his life so far: he graduated from Post Release Community Supervision, a term for parole for those who served a prison sentence in the local county jail. At its base, it is supervision by the probation department. Offenders released from prison to county-level supervision are supervised by a local law enforcement agency.
Smith completed the program within one year of enrollment.
"It's not easy to graduate within one year with zero hiccups, which is something Scott has been able to do," said deputy probation officer Robin Tamietti, who was responsible for monitoring Smith.
"It typically starts off with three years of supervision, and then if someone does an outstanding job, like Scott Smith has done, then they can be terminated and graduate from their supervision."
Tamietti said Smith is now one year custody free. He is one year free of any revocation or violation, and one year free of flash incarceration. It's been over a year since he's had of any type of stern conversation with any probation officer.
In the past six months, Smith has obtained a valid driver's license, earned his business license, started his own business, and also drives a registered and insured car. Tamietti said this is a major achievement for someone with such an extensive criminal past.
Smith has been sober for nearly three years and is also a mentor through the nonprofit organization Project H.E.A.R.T. (Holding Excellence Above Relapse team), where he works with eight mentees.
Additionally, Smith attends Sierra College, has been working with his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor for eight months and is working the twelve step program upon which AA is based.
On top of all of this, he is helping raise his brother's son. His brother, meanwhile, remains entrenched in his addiction and is currently homeless.
Smith gives credit for his success in large part to Project H.E.A.R.T. The nonprofit organization offers a support group for both men and women, many of whom have been in trouble with the law, and many who just want to offer their help to build community.
Project H.E.A.R.T. began in 2011 with a modest group of people who were in recovery, and local community service agencies with the intention of forming a solid group of friends for those in recovery — friends who would not influence them in a negative way, and friends who those in recovery would not associate with drinking or using drugs.
Michael Ertola, chief probation officer for Nevada County, said the transformative power of Project H.E.A.R.T. can't be overestimated.
"I will send people to Project H.E.A.R.T. over pretty much any treatment program," Ertola said. "Every person who comes through here and is going to Project H.E.A.R.T., you can tell it's real. They deal with helping out other individuals and they're there for each other."
Scott Smith said the staff of Nevada County's probation department is in a league of their own, and are genuinely concerned with making sure parolees have their best chance at a healthy life.
"I've been on probation in a lot of counties," Smith said, "and most counties keep you waiting for hours, and they don't care. This is the first county that actually has officers who care."
'BIG TURN' IN GROWTH
Robert Koller of Project H.E.A.R.T. sings Smith's praises loudly, and said his organization was but one tool to help Smith out of addiction.
"I noticed a turn when Scott started being involved with other people's recovery," said Koller. "He made a big turn. We see that they stop focusing on themselves and start caring for other people. What a nice change to see that growth."
Now an official graduate of Post Release Community Supervision, Smith is grateful for his experiences, if not always proud of his past.
"I have learned that if someone offers you help, they see something that you don't," he said. "You might want to reevaluate how you answer them."
"I love what I do. I will always be there for anybody who needs help 'cause I get a lot out of it. My life is an open book. If you can learn from it and take something from it; I am not proud of my past but I am not hiding it. I hope somebody else can learn a little bit."
Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4231.
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