• Hendricks County judge to start drug court

    August 29, 2011 No comments

    Judge Mark Smith of Hendricks Superior Court 4 is in the process of implementing a drug court.

    The program is led by a team including personnel from the county prosecutor’s office as well as mental health, substance abuse, and law enforcement representatives that would target high-risk offenders and be a last stop before prison.

    Smith requested the county commissioners establish a fee ordinance for the drug court. Those fees are set by state statute and include a $100 problem-solving court administration fee, a $50 monthly user fee, and $5 for each urine screening. Smith says those fees would be collected just like for those who are on probation.

    A public hearing for the fee ordinance has been scheduled for the Sept. 27 commissioners’ meeting.

    Smith says the idea for a drug court started about two years ago. The state Supreme Court has urged lower courts to consider such alternative programs and sentencing. Smith and his team have attended two national training conferences, as well as other informational sessions around Indiana.

    The judge doesn’t anticipate the program needing any local funding or additional staff. Smith says most drug courts, including training for them, are funded through user fees and federal grants. He expects to be able to apply for such funding at the beginning of 2012. For now, he and his team are using county probation fees as seed money.

    Smith does admit that the drug court will require a bigger workload for everyone involved, depending on the number of cases they have.

    Space is another issue. Smith plans to run the drug court out of his courtroom. The county has already financed a study showing it needs more space in its judicial center. But there’s not nearly enough in the budget to expand the courthouse, much less build a new one.

    Smith cautioned that it’s not a cure-all. His desire to have the drug court as a countywide program remains unfulfilled too, as not every judge is on board with the idea.

     

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