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Alternatives to incarceration for Indianans facing drug charges

Indiana residents charged with low-level drug crimes likely reflect on the choices that they made that led to life-changing legal problems. Thanks to a new diversion program, they now have chance at one more choice.

Prison or freedom.

The Wayne County Drug Diversion Program offers freedom in two vital forms. Those who join the initiative have the opportunity to be free from both prison and addiction.

Now finishing its first year, the program offers offenders accused of drug possession and low-level crimes spurred by addiction a chance to avoid criminal charges. After getting a recommendation from the probation department, undergoing orientation, and submitting to a drug and alcohol assessment and blood draw, their task is singular: Fulfill the program’s requirements.

Once admitted, eyes are rarely off them. Probation officers meet with participants up to three times per week, in addition to treatment and counseling sessions.

With some not choosing to participate and others coasting along and eventually being removed, fulfillment is easier said than done. No one expected 100 percent success. However, early indications are promising with one-third successfully completing the program.

Statistics through May show 83 referrals to the program. Fifty-two have been removed, including 36 within 100 days of starting. They end up with charges filed and cases proceeding through the system. Some end up in jail. The remaining 31 saw 19 in compliance and 12 addressing non-compliance issues.

Diversion is not without its challenges. Those overseeing various aspects of the program note the demands placed upon participants and the commitment and patience necessary to succeed. Simply put, it takes time, up to one year or more, to meet the requirements.

While staying clean is not as simple, Prosecutor Mike Shipman claims, “The keys to prison are in the hands of the people charged with the crime.”

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