If I learned anything this week, it's that you never know who you will run into outside a police standoff.
I was stationed down the street on Center Granview, where members of the Quincy Police Department safely got Donald R. Pruett out of his house after a 21-hour standoff. It didn't appear that the situation was going to work itself out to a peaceful conclusion early on, but the fact that Pruett walked out of the house was a testament to the work done by police.
I got to talking to a group of gawkers. It was around 1 a.m. Tuesday, and I made it a point to talk to anyone I saw to try to get information about what was going on down the street or if they knew the person inside the house.
The group consisted of three men and a woman. Two of the men used to work with Pruett, and one of them lived in the neighborhood. We got to talking about the situation when they asked me what I was doing in the freezing cold in the middle of the night.
I told them who I was.
"I knew you looked familiar," the woman said. "You covered my meth hearing last week."
Once she said who she was, I knew that I had just seen her in court. For a quick second, I wondered if I was going to get whipped by these guys for writing about this woman's case. But then one of the guys spoke up and told me who he was.
"You're supposed to be in court tomorrow," I told him.
He laughed. What could have been a hairy situation turned light quickly.
"Quit putting our names in the paper," one of them said with a laugh.
"Quit breaking the law," I told them, laughing back.
That started about a five-minute conversation with the guy who was due in court in about 12 hours. He and the woman, who are married, were caught in a meth bust last year. They were charged with the most serious methamphetamine charge, a Class X. Because a child was living at the residence where the bust happened, they were charged with aggravated participation in methamphetamine production.
If convicted of that charge, they could face between six and 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
"It was the best thing that ever happened to me," the man said of being arrested.
The man, in his late 20s, said he had been doing drugs and drinking alcohol since he was 14. Substance abuse had taken more than half of his life from him. His meth arrest, however, seems to be a wakeup call he needed.
"I've been clean five months now," he said with a wide grin. "I feel great."
For the past several months, I've been collecting information for a series of stories on meth. After talking to this man, his wife and their friends that night, I went back to a conversation with John Grotts, a probation officer with the Adams County Probation Department who runs the Drug Court program.
"They are intelligent and good people," Grotts said. "I know there are evil people out there. I will sit down and talk with any addict, any time anywhere. I know some of them are looked at as being lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut. I know that, but I have a different take."
Like many, I used to judge the book by the cover -- or at least by the mug shot.
"Geez, not another meth head," I used to say to myself. "Just lock them all up and throw away the keys."
Don't get me wrong. Some people who deal with meth and other drugs need to be put in prison for a long time. Many others, however, are controlled by the drug. They need a chance at rehabilitation before incarceration comes into play.
While researching, I have talked with people who have been addicted to meth and have been clean for a while, people much further along in the recovery process than the people I bumped into on Center Granview. They were all good, likable people who got swept up in this awful drug. Thankfully, they seem to have their feet underneath them and appear to have beaten their addiction.
It's hard to tell what will happen with those people from the other night. Let's hope they can stay clean so their names won't appear in the paper again.