The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

December 26, 2013

Embarking on a narrow path | Court puts faith in criminal's rehabilitation

JOHNSTOWN — In this season of gift-giving, we can think of few presents better than the one that Nathan Chappell recently received.

The 23-year-old Portage man got a second chance at life thanks to Peniel Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center on Cooper Avenue in Johnstown.

Chappell certainly has not been an angel. He has been an admitted drug user and a convicted burglar. His actions have disappointed friends and family and taken a toll on his community.

Plenty will say that Chappell should spend years behind bars to pay for his crimes. And in many instances, we would agree with that line of thinking. But Chappell, it appears, can still be a constructive member of society.

He has completed nearly two years of rehabilitation at the Peniel center – he even stayed on a month longer than he was required to – in order to kick his drug habit. In doing so, he seems to have found a new outlook on life.

“I have no excuses to mess up any more,” he told Judge Linda Fleming last week at a hearing where he was granted probation.

“I am persuaded you have turned the corner and you have developed insight into your addiction and other problems,” the judge told him.

That insight could prove valuable to Peniel and its patients. That’s why the center has hired Chappell to help residents find jobs once they are released.

“He’s an excellent role model for the other guys around here,” Peniel spokesman Durean Coleman told reporter Kathy Mellott. “He gets things done.”

Chappell’s success is far from assured. Anyone who has ever battled addiction will admit that staying clean is a day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute process. Dropping the habit is one thing; not picking it up again at some point is another.

There’s no guarantee that Chappell will stay on the straight and narrow path – although his daughters, aged 2 and 6, give him plenty of reasons to do so – but we wish him the best in his efforts to remain clean.

Chappell also has another powerful tool on his side now: faith. He told Mellott that he has found religion.

“When I wake up every morning, the first thing I do is pray,” he said. “I actually didn’t know who God was when I came here.”

One of the principles of Christianity is forgiveness of sins. While Fleming and the judicial system have agreed to forgive Chappell’s sins, they will not be forgotten. He will be on probation for the next 10 years and, along with a co-defendant, will need to make $10,000 in restitution. And, should he relapse, he’ll certainly pay for his sins with a lengthy prison term.

“You screw up, you’ll miss a majority of your children’s youth,” Fleming told him. “You don’t solve a longtime problem overnight.”

We couldn’t agree more. Chappell’s road to redemption is a long one. We wish him safe travels.

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