Drug court graduates choose treatment over prison

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (Oct. 6, 2014)-- Nick Barnhill admitted he nearly choked up when his mother stood up in a Hamilton County courtroom and told the judge how proud she was of her son.

"Oh, I wanted to start crying. She's proud of me. My whole family is," said Barnhill.

Barnhill, 35, was one of two graduates honored by Judge Gail Bardach and her staff and their friends and families for successfully completing Hamilton County Drug Court treatment.

"A lot of times the person has to hit rock bottom because otherwise the program is way too difficult for them because of our requirements," said Judge Bardach. "There's a lot of people who qualify for drug court who choose not to be in drug court because drug court is more difficult than just spending the time in prison."

The judge said participation is not a plea bargain to avoid prosecution, but rather an alternative to serving a sentence in jail or prison.

It was an attractive alternative to Barnhill who started using drugs at 16 and spent time behinds bars.

"I had a drug problem and got in trouble and they presented me with an opportunity to do this program," said Barnhill. "It sounded like a pretty tough program and at times I thought it might be too much. There's a lot of things you have to do and I just kept going and doing the right thing."

Barnhill has now been clean for 20 months, is engaged to be married and become a father and has a job and the respect of his family.

"I would say it's a lot of hard work but it is worth it but it's possible and you'll make your loved ones happy when you change for the better."

Also attending the graduation ceremonies in Hamilton Superior Court 6 were more than a dozen program participants, including an inmate in a jail uniform with her hands cuffed.

The director of the program said the clients and the staff deal with several items beyond substance abuse.

"It's pretty common that once we get them sober for any length of time that some of those other issues start coming up at that point," said Krista Radican. "It's something that we deal with with entire time. Socio economic. Family. Financial. Drugs. Unemployment is huge. Education."

In three years the drug court has graduated 15 participants with a couple backsliders.

"It's really rewarding," said Judge Bardach. "You see them get jobs. You see them reconnect with their families. You see them doing all the right things."

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.