Teen successfully completes prison boot camp | RecordCourier.com

Teen successfully completes prison boot camp

by Sheila Gardner

Nineteen-year-old Garrett Cunningham stood at attention in front of District Judge Dave Gamble on Tuesday, a few days after he’d successfully completed a regimental discipline program in lieu of prison for burglary.

“Congratulations, I’m really proud of you,” Gamble told the young man who first got into trouble at age 13. “You made that change and I want that change to be permanent. I want you to have a regular, decent life.”

Gamble approved sending Cunningham to drug court, further deferring a potential 10-year prison sentence in connection with the October 2009 burglary of a Johnson Lane residence that included the theft of $12,000.

Gamble asked Cunningham how he had changed since his arrest.

“I learned a lot of respect and discipline,” he said. “I didn’t really care too much about my life. Boot camp was one of the hardest things I have ever done.”

He told Gamble campers were awakened at 4 a.m. and began the day with a 7-mile run. They had classes on substance abuse and family issues, with much of the day devoted to labor and mastering and obeying the camp’s regulations.

He also spent several weeks at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center awaiting a space at the discipline program for youthful offenders.

“I was scared. They put me in the hole where all the crazy people are,” he said.

Cunningham was one of three adults and several juveniles sentenced after the Oct. 9, 2009, burglary of a Johnson Lane residence that was used as a party house while the owners were on vacation.

Cunningham was a friend of the family.

“You and I’ve been working on this for many, many years,” Gamble said. “I see your mom smiling for the first time in many years.”

Gamble asked Cunningham if he was finding it difficult to be at home. He was released from boot camp Dec. 29. He told Gamble the next day he found a job as part of a snow removal crew.

Cunningham said he was staying away from acquaintances he described as “using buddies.”

“I wouldn’t even call them friends,” Cunningham said.

He enrolled at Western Nevada College and plans to study solar energy.

Cunningham’s lawyer Tod Young said his client did exceptionally well at the discipline camp, earning a gold cap.

“I think he’s adopted a lot of what he learned at boot camp into how he’s living,” Young said.

He said Cunningham spent most of 2010 in custody and hadn’t used methamphetamine or any controlled substance for nearly a year.

Cunningham also was ordered at sentencing to pay part of the $12,000 restitution. Gamble said all the money had been repaid by one of the juveniles, but Cunningham still was responsible for his share.