MADISON — A Norfolk couple accomplished a feat Friday in district court that no other married couple in the Northeast Nebraska Adult Drug Court program has.
Tim and Jessica Roland, who have been together for the past nine years, graduated from the area’s drug court program and had felony drug charges dismissed by Judge James Kube. Other area couples have entered the program, but the Rolands are the first to complete it.
“I felt like we had the advantage compared to people going through this by themselves,” Jessica Roland said. “It could have easily been a disadvantage, but I had somebody who was constantly there in support of me. I didn’t really have to reach out too far.”
The couple met at a Halloween party in Plainview about a decade ago and had been through their share of struggles since. Those struggles came to a head in August 2019 when officers recovered drugs and drug paraphernalia inside a hotel room they had been staying at in Norfolk. The drugs had been recovered by a hotel employee and were reported to police shortly thereafter.
The Rolands were subsequently arrested and charged with felony drug possession.
In early 2020, the couple enrolled in drug court, which is an alternate route through the criminal justice system for nonviolent, drug-related offenders. The program offers individualized behavioral health treatment, frequent and random chemical testing, incentives, sanctions and other rehabilitative and ancillary services.
If completed successfully, the drug court program allows for nonviolent drug offenders to have their felony convictions dismissed.
Jessica Roland said the couple had been moving from drug house to drug house leading up to their arrests. The two also had marriage problems and had custody of their two young children taken away before their August 2019 run-in with the law.
“We really weren’t in a good place. We had a lot going on and couldn’t seem to outrun our problems,” she said.
Fast-forward two-plus years, and the Rolands found themselves in a position where they each had the opportunity to make oral motions in district court to have their felony charges dismissed. Kube granted those motions, marking the end of a process for the couple that they said was anything but easy at the start.
An admittedly stubborn person at times, Jessica Roland said her headstrong attitude got the best of her during the early stage of the program. But her realization of the potential outcomes from drug court is what sparked her willingness to change, she said. Her stubbornness hadn’t gotten her far and was the culprit for some of the previous poor decisions she had made.
“I've always been very good about blaming everybody but myself,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be where I’m at if I didn’t step back sometimes and do what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes, it’s just best to be quiet and do as you’re told.”
Part of what motivated Tim Roland, he said, was the opportunity drug court gave him to get his marriage and kids back.
“A lot of drug court is just remembering what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it,” he said. “And once I was able to get into that routine, I realized how much it helped me. If you find a routine and stick with it, you’ll get there.”
The Rolands said it was a proud moment to be recognized as the first married couple to complete the program.
“We’ve watched married couples be in the program with us and come very close to graduation before being kicked off, and it was really sad to see — heartbreaking,” Jessica Roland said. “Once we saw how much closer we were to being able to get our kids back, the easier it became, and the desire (to use) drifted away.”
The Rolands both had the opportunity to give words of encouragement on Friday to others who are working their way through the drug court program. They commended the leaders of the Northeast Nebraska Adult Drug Court and advocated for enrollees to trust the process.
“They’re not here to put you down or make your life more difficult,” Tim Roland said. “They’re here to help you. “... The program is meant to rehabilitate you and make you a better person, and it has.”
Kube asked the couple to briefly flash back to where they were in life before they chose sobriety. The judge congratulated the two for the “inspiring progress” they both made.
“As I indicated, you found yourselves being addicts and homeless,” Kube said. “Today, you both have jobs, you have a successful marriage, you have your kids back in custody and felonies have been dismissed from your record. That is an unbelievable turnaround.”
ALSO graduating from the adult drug court program on Friday was Zach Suing of West Point. Suing had been admitted into drug court in May 2020.
“This program works. You can see yourself achieving a lot of things if you keep it up,” he said.