As Dallas County continues to iron out these disconnects and refine its program, clearly there's a lot riding on Marquez's ability to stay on track after numerous slips, but the largest burden at the moment is shouldered by Melendez, who admits to dealing meth to scrape up cash after quitting his job as an assistant comptroller in December 2006.

He'd hoped one big sale would get him out of his financial hole, but that never happened. "If I was making any money from it, I wouldn't be near bankruptcy," he says. "It was a nightmare, and to that extent, the arrests were good for me in that they brought me up short and forced me to really come face to face with it. Drugs are not the option."

Like Marquez, Melendez had an interest in security, but a temporary gig at an upcoming convention fell through when he had to admit that he had been charged with a felony. "A lot of companies won't hire you when you have criminal issues," he tells court manager Dave Wakefield, who suggests the website hard2hire.com.

Vietnam veteran Charles Clemons claims he was formally accepted into Dallas County's veterans court in May, but Judge Mike Snipes says his charge is "too serious," leaving Clemons to attend court sessions as an outsider.
Mark Graham
Vietnam veteran Charles Clemons claims he was formally accepted into Dallas County's veterans court in May, but Judge Mike Snipes says his charge is "too serious," leaving Clemons to attend court sessions as an outsider.
An Iraq veteran and first-term state district criminal court judge, Mike Snipes presides over one of Texas' first veterans courts that offers low-level offenders a clean criminal record after the completion of a six-month treatment program.
Mark Graham
An Iraq veteran and first-term state district criminal court judge, Mike Snipes presides over one of Texas' first veterans courts that offers low-level offenders a clean criminal record after the completion of a six-month treatment program.

It's another day of mixed results for Snipes and his group of veterans, but for a county in desperate need of jail space and its fair share of service men and women returning home with PTSD and other mental illnesses, the court offers a model—albeit one with flaws—to keep them out of the criminal justice system and on a path to ensure they won't re-offend. If he can stay clean and keep a roof over his head until November 15, Melendez appears likely to become Dallas County's first veterans court graduate. But perhaps more important than what he'll have accomplished in a six-month span is what he does afterward.

"I don't plan on regressing or relapsing or whatever you want to call it," he says. "I'm not going back [to jail]."

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