From A Probation Officer’s Perspective

Ever wonder how the judicial system perceives addicts and alcoholics that have sought treatment and recovered as a result of their legal indiscretions? Sometimes a “nudge from the judge” can be a person’s catalyst to begin their journey of recovery. Our director of Business Development, Peter Maldonado asked his ex-probation officer to write a piece describing her view of him the last time she saw him high. This was the last time he was arrested, and this is what Probation Officer Lisa Page recalls from her time with Peter.

In 2008, I transitioned from treatment coordinator back to a probation officer position. I enjoyed the treatment aspect of my job but was ready to supervise probationers again. I noticed a familiar name when I ran my caseload list- Peter Maldonado. The name was familiar, because I approved him for residential treatment earlier that year. His name stood out, because he relapsed WHILE at the treatment facility. Rather than kick him out of facility, I deferred to his counselor’s recommendation and extended him in the program. After he graduated from the program, he relapsed again and self-referred back to the same facility. I was looking forward to meeting Peter and see how he was doing with his sobriety. When he came in for his appointment, he was sullen and withdrawn. His hair hung down in his face, making eye contact difficult. Peter was polite but detached. He didn’t have much to say about his experience in rehab, and I was concerned that he had possibly relapsed.

A few days after that appointment, I went by Peter’s house. He kept his bedroom dark by hanging sheets over the windows. Recycled syringes were used as tacks to hold up the sheets, which I found disturbing yet inventive. On a dresser just inside the room was an explosion of electronics. Wires, pieces, and parts were everywhere. I think he disassembled everything to make sure no one was spying on him. Peter told us to be careful as we looked in his bathroom, because there were uncapped syringes lying around. Drops of blood, a bent spoon, and empty dope bags were also in his bathroom; it was like a scene from an icky movie. I asked Peter if he would be willing to try treatment again, and he said he would. I remember looking at his eyes as we spoke (he wasn’t hiding behind his hair that day) and thinking how empty they were. This kid had given up and checked out on life. The drive back to my office was quiet with me and my coworker reflecting on what we had just experienced.

I talked to the judge over his case that day. I found another facility to send Peter to and had already talked to Sandy, who would be his counselor there. After some discussion, the judge agreed to send Peter there. He wanted him in jail until a treatment bed became available. I returned to Peter’s house the following day with a deputy. I explained he would be going to another facility; however, he was going to jail that day. He was arrested in his room and went straight to county lock up.

Sandy let me know Peter arrived in Austin. From that point on, everything changed. Through our treatment team phone meetings, I could tell he was alive again. He was so grateful to be there. To this day, Peter continues to thank me for giving him another chance at treatment. It is so incredibly fulfilling to see what he’s accomplished professionally and spiritually. Peter has presented his story to our Drug Court graduates, probationers in outpatient treatment, and to my coworkers. Regardless of which audience he is speaking to, his story is moving and gives hope. I don’t consider him a former offender/probationer; he’s a fellow human being and my friend. When I find myself frustrated with my current caseload, I remember the kid with the empty eyes. It reminds me that there may be another Peter who needs someone to help guide them out of the darkness into their new, better life.