CANTON — A two-year journey into enlightenment started with an arrogant Marc C. Morley standing before a county judge and facing prison.
It was his fifth driving while intoxicated charge — a felony — and with it, a string of other related charges, St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards said during one of Mr. Morley’s several court appearances.
Mr. Morley didn’t take the charges against him seriously. It was his first time in the court system, he said, and while he was released on probation, he quickly ended up back in court and in jail for violations.
“I was put on probation and I continued to drink, thinking, ‘Whatever, it is just a DWI and it is not a big deal,’” Mr. Morley said. “I learned pretty quickly that probation is not a joke.”
And with his violations, Mr. Morley said the consequences started to come. If he were convicted, he would face up to seven years in prison. But thanks to a program that offers redemption instead of prison, Mr. Morley had a window of opportunity.
That program was built on believing in more than just a second chance for offenders suffering addiction or alcoholism.
The St. Lawrence County Judicial Diversion Program seeks to diminish substance abuse, crime and recidivism through intensive supervision, treatment and judicial monitoring of court participants, according to its mission statement.
It has sister programs in Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties.
The program gives those convicted of drug-and-alcohol-related criminal offenses a chance to reduce the severity of their sentences by undergoing counseling and weekly drug testing and getting a job or pursuing an education.
The primary focus of the program is on participants becoming productive members of society by teaching them the skills necessary to address their alcohol and drug dependency/abuse and ultimately end their criminal activity.
Started in September 2009, the program was created…