Johnson County officials concerned about more repeat drug offenders

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (September 23, 2015) – Johnson County authorities are concerned that recent changes to statewide sentencing guidelines could lead to more repeat drug offenses after inmates get out of jail.

Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper says the changes made in the legislature will reduce sentences for some low-level drug offenders.  He says that means fewer convicts being sent to state prisons, where inmates can enter into a state rehabilitation program called “Purposeful Incarceration.”

“It’s the most effective thing I’ve seen in 20 years of prosecution on the substance abuse treatment side,” Cooper said.  “They spend two, three, four years in prison, in a therapeutic community where they receive intensive treatment.”

In 2013 and 2014, 42 people successfully completed the rehab program.  Of those 42, only one person has committed a new crime within three years of their release, Cooper said.  That’s compared to 34-percent of drug offenders who commit new crimes after being released from the Johnson County Jail, Cooper said.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said the repeating cycle of drug offenders is quite obvious inside his jail.  Some repeat offenders are so familiar, they are on a first name basis with jail guards.

“And it’s not uncommon to see offenders’ children then end up in our jail,” Cox said.

With shorter sentences and more convicts expected to serve their time in the county jail, Cooper, Cox and other Johnson County officials are hoping to land a state grant that would fund a county-level rehab program, based on the Purposeful Incarceration program.

The money would come from a $5 million pool of statewide grant dollars that are issued to counties for different programs.  Next year, the grant total increases to $20 million.

If the funding is made available, Cooper wants the county rehab program to be ready by the time the county’s new Criminal Corrections facility is complete in 2017.

The hope is to get drug addicts clean, so they don’t leave the jail and commit more crimes to feed a persistent addictions.  Cox also hopes it will reduce demand for drug dealers who come into Johnson County from other communities like Indianapolis.

“We’re hoping that they get the help they need and they’re not back victimizing the citizens of Johnson County,” Cox said.

If successful, the program could also ease overcrowding inside the jail.

“If we can get programs to some of these offenders and they are not reoffending, that keeps them out of my facility,” Cox said.  “So I am all for any attempts to make that happen.”

“Hopefully they won’t be recidivating and coming back to our jail,” Cooper said.

Cooper hopes to hear back from the state about the grant application by the end of October.

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