Local News Uncategorized

Floyd County Judge Introduces Veteran-Treatment Court

Floyd County Indiana Superior Court 3 Judge Maria Granger is proposing a specialized court that would defer veterans to veteran-specific treatment programs, rather than having them spend time in prison.

“Much is going to be expected from the veterans that enter the program,” said Granger. “The key for success, if it’s going to achieve the public safety and the recidivism which is the main objective for this, it’s going to be important that these veterans are accountable and responsible.”

Since 2008, veteran-specific treatment courts have become more popular. Around 80 percent of veterans in the justice system identify as mentally ill, according to data from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

Now, these courts are becoming more popular as more U.S. Veterans are coming home, said Chris Deustch, spokesman with the NADCP.

“Anecdotally what court teams are telling us is that veterans-only docket, where there’s a real culture of veterans and veteran mentors that are involved, that participants feel comfortable and are taking to the program a little faster than maybe if they were in a regular drug court or mental health court,” said Deustch.

“Some of the research that is out there suggests that veterans don’t always fare that well in standard treatment settings. That they really need a specialized treatment setting, specific to the issues they may be suffering from as it relates to their service,” he said.

A veteran could have the original charges lessened or dropped after completion of the program, said Granger. But failing to complete the program would leave a veteran subject to the original charges, she said.

The 18-month program would be difficult and shouldn’t be considered a free pass, she said.

The court is still deciding what offenses would be eligible for rehab.

The court must still be approved by the Indiana Judicial Center. Granger hopes to have the court implemented by early next year, she said.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

McConnell Honored by Drug Court Professionals

The office of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Thursday he accepted the All Rise Leadership Award from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

The award was given to several members of Congress Tuesday and is handed out to lawmakers who exhibit a commitment to combating drug related crime and addiction through appropriate court programs.

“The Kentucky Drug Court program plays an integral role in our criminal justice system by combining treatment with law enforcement and rigorous court supervision,” McConnell said in a news release. “We know that the incarceration of drug offenders alone does not necessarily break the cycle of drug-related criminal activity and we must be responsive to the needs of local communities to effectively address this ongoing problem. I will continue to support comprehensive efforts to combat illegal drug use and drug-related crime and look for ways to protect our communities from the horrors wrought by drug abuse, and applaud the dedication of Kentucky’s drug court judges, prosecutors, and supervision professionals.”

Local News

14-Year-Old Conviction Vacated

A Louisville man’s 14-year-old manslaughter conviction has been vacated after it was determined he did not commit the crime.

Edwin Chandler was arrested in 1993 for murder and robbery in a Louisville convenience store holdup. He was convicted of manslaughter in 1995.

After exhausting his appeals, Chandler took his case to the Kentucky Innocence Project, which used forensic evidence to show that Chandler’s fingerprints and hair were not found at the crime scene. Chandler had confessed to the crime, but Innocence Project Director Marguerite Thomas says it was forced.

“The detective used extremely coercive measures in securing the confession,” says Thomas. “He lied to him, he said that his fingerprints actually were on the beer bottle, which was not true. He told him he had flunked a polygraph, which, in total, was not true.”

Another man was indicted for the crime Tuesday morning. Chandler was released on parole in 2002. He says he’s glad to be found innocent and doesn’t harbor a grudge over his imprisonment.

“Me being overly upset in this wasn’t going to help me, so I had to follow a different pattern for myself,” he says. “That I didn’t show anything that would make me be this guy, because I’m not.”

Thomas says she hopes Chandler’s record will be expunged soon.

State of Affairs

Louisville's Meth Problem

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Louisville’s Meth Problem
By now you’ve likely seen the billboards and buses that tell you how to identify materials used in meth labs. And it can be pretty eye-opening (two-liter bottles – who knew?). Maybe it also has you wondering, just how big of problem is meth in Louisville? Why is it so addictive? And how can we combat this problem? Join us on Thursday to talk about the meth problem in Louisville.

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Jefferson County Drug Court Reaches New Highs

Jefferson County’s Drug Court was taken over by the state a year ago because it was underfunded. That move has allowed the program to expand staff and take on more clients. WFPL’s Stephanie Sanders reports on how those changes couldn’t have been more timely.

Drug court is not where people who have been arrested on drug-related charges report. In fact, drug court isn’t like any court you’ve seen on Law and Order or even Judge Judy. It’s part of the legal system, but also includes rehabilitation therapy and case management.

Monzella Wells runs Jefferson County’s Drug Court. And even though it’s existed since 1993, she says not many people know what it is, including drug offenders.

“Once they get to our doors, they have been through so many doors prior to our door, and they see us all, all resources that have ever reached out to them, they see us all as ‘the system’. We’re out to get them,” says Wells.Hall of Justice

Actually, they’re out to help them in a more intensive way. It was created as a way to reduce recidivism among non-violent drug offenders.

“Eighty percent of the people who are incarcerated have a substance abuse problem. Had it not been for drugs or alcohol, they probably would not have committed the crimes they committed,” says Wells.

Wells says she gets about ten referrals a week from Jefferson County courts, and about six of those defendants get into the program, located downtown. She says they have to want to change their lives because the minimum 18-month program is no cake-walk.

“Very, very intense. It’s very time-consuming. Privacy? You have none. We want to know where you work, where you live, who’s around you, is there any using in the house? Because there’s certain criteria they have to abide by and everyone in the program is on probation,” says Wells.

And who makes sure the offenders are meeting the criteria? The four judges that work with drug court. One of them is Judge Donald Armstrong. He checks in weekly or bi-weekly with drug court participants.

He’s intimately aware of the progress of each of the participants on his docket, greeting them before they get to the stand with a “are you still working at Dairy Queen?” or a “how’s the baby? still in the hospital?”… and when deserved, a ‘good job’.

Before the state took over the local drug court program, it was operated by the Jefferson County Attorney’s office and had four staff members and, frequently, a waiting list. Wells says since the KY Administrative Office of the Courts has taken over, they’ve added eight staff positions and greatly increased their client capacity.

“Right now we are at 192, I don’t know what our cap will be right now. Right now we don’t have one. So we don’t have a waiting list and we’re accepting people in every week,” says Wells.

And those new people come with a pricetag to the state.

“We want to punish smart,” says Justice and Public Safety Secretary J. Michael Brown, “and it’s far more expensive to keep people in prison than it would be to institute some of these other programs and have them be out in the society but more importantly not become a career criminal.”

The state pays 31-dollars a day for each inmate in prison… a total of 500-million dollars a year. It’s far less for those in drug court… but the state will still pay 12-million dollars this fiscal year to fund its 115 drug courts.