Although the Fremont District Courtroom may not seem like the ideal place for a graduation ceremony, on Tuesday it provided the perfect venue for two men to celebrate the culmination of their months long journey towards a better, sober life.
The Sixth Judicial District Problem-Solving Court held graduation ceremonies in the courtroom—at 428 N. Broad Street—earlier this week, where two men earned diplomas and recognition for completing the intensive program designed to supplant incarcaration for drug and other related offenses.
“Nebraska’s Drug and Problem-Solving Courts have saved thousands of tax dollars, and the individuals served in the courts who have followed the programs have changed their lives and the lives of their loved ones for the better.” Nebraska Supreme Court Committee on Problem-Solving Courts Chair, Judge Jim Doyle of Lexington, said. “The previous philosophy of incarceration for all offenders has been replaced by community-based treatment programs that allow people to change the way they think and that requires people to be accountable for their actions without imprisonment.”
Problem-Solving Court is a minimum 18-month program where participants learn the skills to live a successful life free from drugs and alcohol.
On Tuesday, both Richard Mangum and Tyler Flott II were recognized for their completion of the program.
The graduation ceremony was hosted by Presiding Fremont District Court Judge Geoffrey Hall who provided word of encouragement to both men for their completion of the program.
“Both of you have gone through a lot and you have a lot to be proud of,” Hall told Mangum and Flott II.
Mangum, a Fremont native and sawyer for Christensen Lumber, faced his share of struggles during his time in the program.
During his participation in the program he suffered a relapse, which he says was a turning point in his journey towards sobriety.
“I had a lifechanging event that sent me down a spiral and the first though on my mind was just to give up because that was the easy route,” Mangum said. “But I realized that wasn’t the route I wanted to go and not the route I wanted my daughter to see.”
Hall says that prior to his relapse, Mangum just seemed to be going through the motions—but afterwards the program took hold.
“There was a significant change in you, it really took hold and you should be proud of that,” he said.
Mangum said that after relapsing, the problem-solving court program changed in his mind from a punishment to an opportunity.
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“It was the opportunity of the lifetime,” he said. “I could be going down a completely separate path and they gave me the chance to do this. I took the chance, it was a tough ride, but the outcome was well worth it.”
Dodge County Attorney Oliver Glass said he remembers Mangum’s relapse, and also thinking at that time that he would bounce back.
“You’re not the first person to relapse and you won’t be the last, but it’s what you do after that occurs that is the real testament to your character,” he said.
While Mangum’s completion of the program was spurred by the motivation to be a good, and present role model for his four year old daughter, Flott II’s journey provided him an opportunity to re-enroll at Midland and earn a degree.
“I have a semester left so that was a big motivator, because I didn’t want to feel like I threw four years away,” he said.
Flott II is an Omaha native who was attending Midland when he initially got into trouble. Now that he has completed the problem-solving court program he plans to re-enroll at Midland and finish his last semester to earn a degree in criminal justice.
According to Hall, like Mangum he also saw a change in Flott II during his time in the program—from being a follower to a leader.
“In some ways when you were involved in using I think you were more of a follower and now I think you’ve learned that you can be a leader and you don’t have to be around a crowd that is going down that path,” he said.
Flott II says a driving factor behind his completion of the program was having the opportunity to learn from other people who were further along when he began.
“Learning from the people who have been in the program and seeing how they have changed their life— I wanted to do the same,” he said.
The Sixth Judicial District Problem-Solving Court, like other Nebraska Problem-Solving Courts, operates under a team approach where a judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, community supervision officer, law enforcement, and treatment provider work together to design an individualized program.
Compliance with treatment and court orders is verified by frequent alcohol and drug testing, close community supervision, and interaction with a judge during non-adversarial court review hearings. Problem-Solving Courts enhance close monitoring of participants using home and field visits.
For Problem-Solving Court graduates, the ceremony marks the completion of an intensive program of comprehensive behavioral health treatment, community supervision, and full accountability.