"I am the underdog of this story. I succeeded in stepping forward in my life, in recovery. I may not be perfect but I'm doing pretty good, and that's all that matters to me."

The above statement was made by Jesse D. Nichols, a 32 year old Mainer who delivered a powerful speech at his commencement/sentencing on Monday for robbing a store in 2019, according to an article from Central Maine.

Jesse pled guilty to robbing the Big Apple convenience store in 2019 on Civic Center Drive in Augusta. Jesse admits he was under the influence and was arrested by a police after who was passing by shortly after committing the crime, as the article states. 

Jesse went into the Kennebec Co-Occurring Disorders Court as a participant of the program. Court was held via Zoom on Monday.

Now, two years later, he is emerging from the Co-Occurring disorders court, a new person, in accordance with the article.

The Co-Occurring Disorders Court (CODC), according to the Maine Courts, is a

"specialty docket for eligible individuals whose involvement with the criminal justice system has been fueled by serious substance use disorder (drugs and/or alcohol) and co-occurring mental health disorders."

Jesse explained that he was abusing drugs and alcohol at the time and was unhoused, as the article states. 

The article goes onto say,

"He pleaded guilty Monday to a Class D misdemeanor charge of criminal threatening. The Class B felony charge of robbery, which he had pleaded guilty to in 2019 as part of his participation in the state’s only Co-Occurring Disorders Court, was dismissed as a result, leaving him with no felony conviction on his record."

Jesse spoke about his time in the program and Judge Tice responded, in part, by saying,

"..I think you figured out you have self-worth. A lot of us beat up on ourselves, and I think you’re one of those people. But there comes a moment you have to forgive yourself and move on. I think it finally came to that and that’s why you’re sitting here at commencement.”

Being a part of this program is a challenge to those suffering from severe substance abuse. According to the article, Jesse had to complete all stipulations within the program, including random drug testing and if he had failed any of the mandatory requirements, it could have sent him to jail for 10 years with a Class B robbery charge.

The article states, Andrew Dawson, Jesse's attorney said,

"You are my success story here. Because you worked so hard to get here, we watched you try and watched you do everything you need to do. I look forward to you being a member of this community.”

Andrew also works with the people who are a part of the Co-Occurring Disorders Court, as the article reports. 

The article goes on to say that,

"A 2020 evaluation of the program by an independent consultant found significantly lower reoffending rates for those who complete it compared to defendants who do not enter the program and are given more traditional sentences."

Central Maine Article

Therefore, the community has experienced a positive influence because of the Co-Occurring Disorders Court due to the fact that the percentage of criminals that have attended the program have a lower recidivism rate then those who do not attend, according to the article.

Jesse also explained via the article about the challenges he faced and how he never gave up saying,

“I had my ups and downs but one thing that was constant throughout this whole entire thing was, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t give up, I didn’t realize, until being through this program, that I was capable of having confidence and forgiving myself. "

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