NEW BRITAIN - Daniel Cote stood quietly before New Britain Superior Court Judge Joan K. Alexander July 26 as his attorney confirmed that the plan was to terminate his probation based on his steady progress.
Just before the court proceeding was about to end, Alexander asked the 31-year-old if he wanted to say anything. “Yes,” Cote said. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to save my own life.”
Cote was a heroin addict who was on probation for stealing to feed his habit. After several of his urine samples turned up positive for drugs, his probation officer obtained a warrant for his arrest. He felt hopeless, he said.
But then he wound up in front of Alexander.
“She looked at my record and said, ‘What the heck are you doing?’” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m a heroin addict.’ She gave me a chance where I believe another judge wouldn’t.”
It’s a familiar scene, said Alexander, who deals with all felony cases from Rocky Hill to Plymouth including New Britain and Bristol. “You can see the desperate crimes they are committing, you see them at the grocery stores, retail stores, they are doing to it to get a little money to buy more,” she said.
As of July 28, 20 people from New Britain Superior Court are in court ordered treatment programs. Between Bristol Superior Court and New Britain Superior Court, 90 people have been placed in treatment programs since January, Alexander said.
She has to carefully balance the needs of the defendant with the safety of the community and whatever harm they may do to themselves, she said. “Sometimes we have to hold them until they make themselves amenable to treatment,” she said. “The addiction is so severe they couldn’t even contemplate going into treatment. At that point they are dangerous because they are so out of touch with the reality of their situation.”
Cote wasn’t one of those cases. He was allowed to enter a 28-day intensive program with the approval of the judge. He did so well, he entered a 90-day program that led to his violation of probation case being resolved.
Cote realizes he is one of the lucky ones. He’s lost 15 friends to overdoses since March. “The judge gave me an opportunity to redeem myself,” he said. “I didn’t need jail, I needed help. Those programs give you the tools to learn about yourself and why you choose drugs and alcohol.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com