Respect Pays Dividends for All

A man headed for prison stopped Clarke Hess in the courtroom, shook his hand and thanked him for the respect he had been shown while in his custody.
It was not an isolated incident.
Other people, men and women alike, who graduated from the Tulsa County Drug Court also expressed their appreciation to the sheriff’s deputy that had been assigned to escort them to court — albeit sometimes to jail.
It is that ever-present respect that is found in Tulsa’s Drug Court program at all levels.
Hess’s role goes beyond that escort duty in and around the Tulsa County Courthouse.
Sometimes he must go to an individual’s house because they had gone AWOL — absent without leave — and arrest them.
He isn’t alone in the work.
Hess has 23 deputies assigned to work with him. All are volunteers.
Even though all appearing in Drug Court have been convicted of drug and alcohol abuse, they are human and deserve respect, Hess said. ‘‘Yes, they are classified as criminals. But in my view, they also are overcoming an illness.’’
That is why they are approached and treated with respect.
Even though it might look as if the deputies are lenient, everyone in the court understands they are doing their job and can be tough if necessary.
‘‘Safety always is on our mind,’’ he said.
Drug Court escort duty is much different than just a few years ago when Hess was on patrol duty for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office.
That was when he was arresting people for drunk driving and drug offenses. The solution was simple. Take them to jail and let someone else deal with them.
Hess was a just a deputy doing his job by putting people in jail.
It took a huge paradigm shift when he took on the escort role. He began to realize that it was not easy for people to get over their addictions.
Now, Hess says, it is not good thing if he knows the names of people he is escorting. That means they have issues and are being brought before the judge again.
‘‘I tell the deputies assigned to me that these people are coming to us for assistance,’’ he said.‘‘We try to help people move through the process, whether it is sending the Mark Kirk or Ericka Jeffords, both drug court coordinators, or talking to them ourselves when they are not available.
‘‘It’s a thrill to see people graduate from the drug court program and it is rewarding to know that I helped a person get their life back on track.’’
Part of that success can be attributed to the respect they received while going through a program that can take up to three years.
Hess said he learned that respect as a young man from his father when he was taught to treat people like he wanted to be treated.
People coming here are dealing with criminal charges. That doesn’t mean they are a bad person, he said. They are here because they made bad choices.
While there are ‘‘bad apples’’ among the group who have no intention of conforming to the rules, most are eager to cooperate, although some reluctantly at first, complete the drug court program and graduate.
Treating a person with respect reduces the risk that a person will fight if deputies have to arrest them at their homes.
‘‘I usually get more out of the people when they get that respect,’’ he said. They know I have a job to do.’’
It’s tough out there and unfortunately some of the tough ones have failed the program and are headed to prison.
One of the toughs that has disappointed the deputy is a man who fled after making it sound like he really was with the program.
‘‘I had talked to him several times that day and had the feeling that he was cooperative,’’ Hess said. However, during the trial, he went to the rest room and never returned.
Many people look down on people dealing with drug and alcohol problems, he added. They don’t think police are tough enough in dealing with them. Difficulties surrounding that toughness often occur during arrests.
Hess will celebrate his fifth anniversary with Drug Court in March 2010.
It is a duty that he enjoys.
But he also sees it as a challenge to bring others needing help into the program.
Some don’t want to get involved, but this service is needed as long as they have difficulties with drugs or alcohol.
‘‘Drug court is a great program and I hope to stay a long time,’’ Hess said. There are two great judges, Sarah Day Smith and Russell Anderson, administering the program.



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