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California Judge Reconsiders Six Months’ Jail for Cookie Theft at Rehab Program

He was ‘‘acclimated in groups, he was talking openly about issues that he had and how they affected his life,” said his public defender, Dana Drusinsky. “He’s a really endearing person, so [the treatment facilitators] were all proud of him.”

Then he stole a cookie.

In November 2019, Fields and other from Harbor Light were preparing food packages for charity. According to the local CBS affiliate, Fields “ate a leftover cookie without permission” and “Harbor Lights asked him to leave the program afterward.”

Fields was offered a deal: He could resume treatment if he agreed to restart the program, including the 30-day blackout period. Not wanting to lose contact with his mother, he refused the deal he saw as punishment.

The circuit court then sentenced him to six months in jail. “The treatment program is justifying it by saying that he stole and he needed to be reprimanded,” said Drusinsky. ‘The way the drug court is rationalizing it is that by not starting [treatment] over, he’s not complying with the terms of his treatment staff.”

Jennifer Byrd, communication director for the Salvation Army, said the organization could not comment about specific clients, but said “each client admitted to a Salvation Army facility agrees to behavioral expectations.”

Drusinsky asked Judge Michael Begert to reconsider his decision, and the district attorney went along with the resentencing.

Fields was released on probation with credit for time served.

“If the court and providers were in fact focused on Mr. Fields’ recovery, they would not have locked him up for eating a cookie,” said Drusinsky. When some people expressed dismay at Fields’ sentence, Drusinsky argued that disproportionate sentences for arbitrary offenses are not unusual in the U.S. legal system. She said, “What is unusual is for a person to actually stand up for themselves and say, ‘No, I don’t deserve this.’” 


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