Contrary to most TV crime drama, people who commit crimes can change. They can turn their lives around.

Such is the potential in the case of Paul Olivas III of Watertown, who was sentenced to three years of probation in Rock County Court on Monday for smuggling suboxone, a prescription opioid, into the Rock County Jail in 2019.

Olivas has a criminal history dominated by disorderly conduct and domestic abuse cases. In 2019, he was a trusted inmate in a jail rehabilitation program called RECAP. He was allowed to help train a dog in a program that gets dogs ready for adoption.

That freedom to be with the dog outdoors allowed Olivas to pick up a cigarette package that had suboxone, an opioid drug, and take it inside. Inmates later took the drug, according to the criminal complaint.

Both Assistant District Attorney Mary Bricco and defense attorney Shanna Sanders agreed Olivas had done well in the RECAP program up to that point and made “a stupid mistake.”

Sanders also said Olivas thought he was smuggling only cigarettes into the jail.

But Olivas pleaded guilty to delivering illegal items to an inmate in exchange for the lawyers’ recommendation that he get the probation sentence, and Judge Karl Hanson agreed.

“I returned to church, and that’s been most helpful,” Olivas told the judge. “I’m very proud to tell you that I have completely given up drinking.”

Sanders said drug screens from a case in which Olivas is serving another probation sentence back up the sobriety claim.

Hanson had seen Olivas in court several times before and remarked that this was the best condition he had ever seen him.

“It really shows,” Hanson said. “You should feel proud. I wish you good luck.”

If Olivas can’t stay on the straight and narrow path and violates probation, he faces a prison sentence as long as seven years.

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