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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ind. Courts - Allen Co. Judge extending hope to meth addicts

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has a long editorial column this morning by Gina Zimmerman about Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis and the Hope Probation program. Some quotes:

Marisa Hanlon, 40, was arrested in Allen County two years ago when she attempted to buy a case of commercial-strength Drano – an essential methamphetamine ingredient. At home, she had stockpiled battery acid, lye, ephedrine, pesticide, insecticide, butane, brake fluid, ether and cold packs – all for her personal meth production.

Methamphetamine has spread beyond rural neighboring counties and into urban areas like Allen County. Local law enforcement officials are overwhelmed. And Allen County judges and court officials, with very full dockets, are working overtime to come up with creative solutions for overcrowded jails and limited rehabilitation resources.

After her criminal sentencing, Hanlon became a part of the Hope Probation program, an innovative program implemented by Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis that allows nonviolent offenders to enter house arrest or transitional housing. With stringent accountability and zero tolerance, offenders must attend rehabilitation, counseling and maintain a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.

“Meth addicts have an impossible time recovering on their own,” says Davis. “Court-ordered services, combined with judicial sanctions for noncompliance, help drug offenders take personal responsibility to become clean and sober … or risk going to prison.”

Davis assumed the bench in 2011 after a stunning upset victory over a 19-year veteran judge. [ILB: See 2010 story] Since then, she has been recognized for having one of the five busiest (out of 500) courtrooms in Indiana. In 2012 alone, she oversaw 147 meth-related cases.

Hope was born out of Davis’s interest in alternative sentencing. Two years ago, she spent a vacation day shadowing Judge Steven Alm, the brainchild behind Hawaii’s successful Hope program. Armed with this knowledge and in close collaboration with the Allen County sheriff and the Probation Department, Davis has introduced nonviolent defendants like Hanlon to less expensive and more effective treatment solutions.

Hope Probation and other Allen County Criminal Court initiatives, including the Drug Court and the Re-Entry Court, have become a unique lifeline for recovering nonviolent drug users. Unwittingly, the court has become a change agent, often ensuring that offenders are not living where they were living and not traveling around in the same groups that first got them into trouble.

Through these unique local court initiatives, recidivism is decreasing. And overcrowded jails are experiencing some relief.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 18, 2013 08:49 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts