Drug courts show success in Hamilton County

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By James Feichtner

Indiana has many options for dealing with narcotics abusers, but while many of these recourses include jail, prison or probation, another method has proven to be effective during the past five years in Hamilton County.

Drug courts, also referred to as problem-solving courts, are used to help rehabilitate non-violent drug abusers whose addiction has led them down a path of crime.

“The evidence shows that problem-solving courts’ involvement in getting the defendants and participants to be involved in treatment and intense supervision works a whole lot better in terms of conquering their addictions and reducing their likelihood of committing additional offenses,” Hamilton County Judge Gail Bardach said.

The program is overseen by 16 members, including Bardach, and takes 18 to 24 months to complete three phases. The difficult program has proven too be too tough for some of the offenders, Bardach said.

“There is absolutely nothing easy about it,” Bardach said. “We have had, over the course of 5 1/2 years, many who have been interested. Many of those people decided not to participate and would rather do their time in jail or even prison than comply with our very rigid requirements.”

Throughout the program the participants are supervised in various forms of living, require treatment, undergo drug screenings, acquire employment and participate in meetings with case managers. The requirements become more lenient as participants move through each phase, but if any sanctions are violated, the consequences are swift.

“The sooner you sanction their non-compliance, the more effective it is, Bardach said.

In the end, those who complete the program have a high success rate. At the end of 2015, 81 percent of Hamilton County Drug Court graduates had not re-offended.

“I think it’s the most valuable thing I do as a judge,” Bardach said.

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