Mary D. Reed, a methamphetamine-addicted mother of three children, didn't get off to a good start on probation.
Less than two weeks after being sentenced to probation and inpatient drug treatment, Reed was back in front of a local judge Wednesday to face an allegation she used methamphetamine and got kicked out of her treatment program when employees found drugs in her pocket.
In a previous era in Kansas, she might have been headed to prison by now. Instead, she's getting a second shot at treatment.
Reed's case illustrates how Senate Bill 123 - a 2003 law meant to keep nonviolent drug users out of prison - is working in Kansas. The law not only requires drug offenders to be sentenced to treatment, it also states judges can't revoke their probation and put them in prison unless they show a pattern of refusing to comply with treatment.
"This is your second opportunity you've received from the court, and you need to make the most of it," Judge Michael Malone told Reed on Wednesday in District Court.
Reed is one of 40 defendants in Douglas County who have fallen under the drug-treatment law, according to Ron Stegall, the county's chief executive probation officer. Of those people, only one has been sent to prison for failing treatment.
Stegall was opposed to the new law, which was aimed largely at freeing bed space in Kansas' prison system. He said it's too early to tell how the law is working, but he said he's heard positive feedback from other probation officers around the state.
"What I hear most people saying at this stage of the game is that it's working ... that people are being helped and that people are being successful. I'd just love to be proved wrong," he said. "To really see the long-term positive effects, the Legislature's going to have to go and fund this some more."
The biggest need for funding, Stegall said, is in the area of treatment. One issue is that beds at long-term drug-treatment centers aren't always readily available.
When Reed was kicked out of the Valeo treatment center in Topeka, her probation officer began trying to find space for her at a different agency, Women's Recovery Center. As of this week, she was still on a waiting list for a bed there.
Judge Malone ordered Reed to be held at the Douglas County Jail until a new bed became available.
Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said he thought the approach under the new law was better than sending drug users to prison.
"I believe we do a better service by trying to keep people out of the prison system, by trying to get them treatment that's effective," he said. "That only lasts as long as they're willing to participate in the treatment."