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March 1, 2014

Officials work to right Clark County Drug Court

Judge Jacobi relinquishes program to fellow judge

JEFFERSONVILLE — Officials are trying to determine how to best supervise the nearly 80 participants in the Clark County Drug Treatment Court after the court lost its certification last month.

Judge Jerry Jacobi’s Clark County Circuit Court No. 2 ran the drug court program, until it was recently decertified by the Indiana Judicial Center in Indianapolis. An IJC official said this week that in the 11 years of providing certification to more than 50 counties that offer problem-sovling courts, such as the drug court program, Jacobi’s drug court is the first and only program to have its certification revoked by the state agency.

Clark County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said Friday that Jacobi has followed legal procedure and transferred what remains of the program to Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael.

Mull said he, Carmichael and Jeffersonville attorney Drew Adams had a series of meetings this week to determine how services — in this unique situation — will be offered to the remaining participants.

“Once [the program’s participants] got to Judge Carmichael’s court, we discussed whether we could then let the people who have had judgments withheld continue under very intense drug treatment and supervision, and if they fulfill the terms of their drug court agreements, to let them go on their way without conviction, as was originally promised to them,” Mull said. “And, for the ones who violated those conditions, to simply impose judgment and conviction and to sentence them to prison for incarceration terms.”

That was the original plan, Mull said, but IJC notified Carmichael that the agency requires for any supervision of participants to occur, it must be done by a certified drug court, which Carmichael’s court is not at this time.

“A certified drug court would be the only institution that would have any authority to sanction, incarcerate, revoke, drug test or imprison those individuals who are currently in the drug court program,” Mull said.

After receiving the notification, Mull said it was decided Carmichael would seek temporary drug court certification to gain authority to provide supervision and treatment to those actively in the program.

Until Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 receives such certification, the ad hoc drug court staff will continue to administer drug tests of participants and require they adhere to other program conditions, such as residence at an halfway house and attendance of drug treatment programs, depending on the specific participant’s status.

“All of the requirements that they were previously under remain in place,” Mull said.

He explained that while the court remains in uncertified status, participants will not receive penalties, such as jail time, for program violations.

Those who commit violations during this interim period, however, will be addressed and possibly penalized at a later date.

“Any violations are being noted, and just as soon as this certification comes down, any appropriate sanctions or terminations that need to happen, will occur,” Mull said.

Mull was asked why officials will suspend enforcing sanctions, but will continue to require drug testing and adherence to other conditions.

“Quite simply, the individuals signed agreements where they agreed to be drug tested, to abide by certain conditions,” he said. “And under the agreements they signed, it was signed under the rubric of the drug court, but the issue of the certification of the drug court was not and integral component of the agreement that they signed.

“I think it is perfectly permissible to continue to supervise and drug test those individuals by a circuit court in the state of Indiana while this technical requirement is fulfilled.”

All drug court participants were ordered to appear Thursday in Carmichael’s court where they were informed that they will continue to be subjected to the same drug court conditions, in light of recent developments, Mull said.

“I informed them that any of them that did not follow the drug court rules, that in response I would file a petition to terminate them and send them to prison, but the ones that chose to follow the program ... would be allowed to complete [the program],” Mull said”

He said he expects that Circuit Court No. 4 will receive the temporary certification within the next week, and that Carmichael is taking steps to obtain the certification as quickly as possible.

He said no new participants will entered in to the program during Carmichael’s temporary certification.

After those in the program are terminated or successfully complete the program, Mull said, “ ... the drug court program in circuit 4 will be shut down, terminated and not exist any more. It exists for the sole purpose of allowing those in [the program] to complete the program that they were promised they would get to complete in circuit 2.”

In response for comment to this story, Carmichael provided an e-mail, which states:

“We are providing a framework so that these drug court participants can succeed, if that is their desire to do so. But, they will be closely monitored and supervised, and any violation of drug court will be dealt with sternly and quickly addressed.”

Adams was reached by phone Friday and said he became involved in the effort to restructure the drug court after Carmichael requested his assistance.

“It was my understanding that drug court participants had entered into an agreement, and because the court did not uphold its part of the agreement, the parties, the participants and the prosecutor’s office still had a contract to be resolved,” Adams said.

Adams previously served as a drug court staffing committee member when the program operated under Clark County Judge Cecile Blau. He said a completely new staffing committee will like be assembled temporarily, since the program was transferred to Carmichael’s court.

Adams said the committee could be comprised of former committee members who served prior to Jacobi’s tenure over drug court.

The staffing committee, until recently was comprised of Jacobi, Clark County Magistrate William Dawkins, Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Michaelia Glibert, drug court case managers, a defense attorney, representative of area halfway houses and others. The committee would meet weekly and discuss the status of drug court participants and make recommendations pertaining to their progress of the program.

The program lost its certification after IJC Executive Director Jane Seigel notified Jacobi in a letter: “We have been made aware of the recent allegations of unlawful conduct by drug court staff and drug court practices harmful to participants. Regretfully, the seriousness of these allegations necessitates an immediate suspension of Clark County Drug Court operations.”

Before the certification was revoked, several drug court participants made allegations of false arrest by drug court officials and being held in the Clark County jail without due process, including not being taking before a judge during months-long incarceration. One participant involved in a class action law suit — in which Jacobi and other drug court officials are named as defendants — was incarcerated for nearly five months following a 48-hour sanction without appearing in court.

Jacobi placed the program’s director Susan Knoebel and his court bailiff and former drug court field officer, Jeremy Snelling, on unpaid leave Jan. 7. Knoebel was later terminated and Snelling remains on suspension.

While the future of a drug court program in Clark County remains unknown, Adams said those suffering addiction, as well as prosecutors and court staff, all benefit from a court-operated controlled-substance program.

“Essentially, the program is a good program, if it is ran properly and executed properly,” he said. “There is a need for it in Clark County and Southern Indiana.”

County officials must take direction for the IJC, an arm of the Indiana Supreme Court, while navigating how to best handle the drug court.

“We are all trying to abide by the [the IJC’s] directive and advice and guidance on how to go forward, but the fact of matter is, this is an unprecedented situation in Indiana,” Mull said.

Comment was requested from Jacobi Friday, but no response was received before press time.

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