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Indianapolis judge being considered for drug czar

Full Article

The Indiana Lawyer on 11/13/2017 by Marilyn Odendahl

Marion Superior Judge William Nelson, whose stepson died of a drug overdose, confirmed Monday he is under consideration to be the nation’s drug czar.

Nelson applied to be the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy last December and he traveled to Washington, D.C., in July for interviews with Trump administration officials.

The White House subsequently tapped Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tom Marino, but he withdrew in October after reports surfaced that he authored legislation that crippled law enforcement’s effort to stem the flood of prescription painkillers. Nelson said he has recently gotten a call from the administration, asking if he was still interested in the position, which he said he was.

Nelson said he is “humbled by the honor” of even being considered.

A graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Nelson presided over Marion County Small Claims Court for six years before being elected to the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division, in 2000.

He said he has been encouraged by the changes he sees the Trump administration bringing to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Nelson believes the agency lost momentum under the Obama administration, having its role reduced and doing a lot of talking but taking little action.

The judge pointed to administration’s support for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which provides money to states for drug use prevention and treatment, as well as for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, which supports local police activities to target high crime neighborhoods. However, the White House initially considered cutting the department’s budget by roughly 95 percent before changing direction and offering a budget proposal that included $27.8 billion for drug control efforts.

If he is nominated, Nelson will share a heartbreaking experience that a growing number of families have had – losing a child to addiction. Bryan Fentz, the son of Nelson and his wife, Kristina, became addicted when he was prescribed painkillers after a car accident. He entered treatment and, according to Nelson, wanted to kick his drug habit. But in 2009, he overdosed and died.

Kristina Nelson discovered her son dead in his bedroom on her birthday.

The tragedy changed Nelson’s perspective from the bench. He has come to realize drug users are suffering from a disease, often taking narcotics to stave off the painful symptoms of withdrawal. Also outside of the courthouse, he and his wife have talked openly about their son and have advocated for prevention programs and treatment for addicts.

“My standpoint as a judge, we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” Nelson said. “We can’t continue to jail the people suffering from this disease.”

That stance does put Nelson at odds with members of the Trump administration, in particular with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has pushed for a tougher approach to drug users. Speaking in July at the 30th DARE training conference, Sessions emphasized prevention, described law enforcement as key to keeping drugs off the streets, and sounded skeptical of treatment.

Nelson sees the administration as making a distinction in its approach. “I think President (Donald) Trump has been quite vocal about distinguishing dealer and traffickers from people suffering from addiction,” he said. “I think it’s important to distinguish between the two.”

Getting nominated would put Nelson in the spotlight and highlight his family’s financial difficulties after Bryan’s death. He said he has been honest with the administration about the struggles.

Nelson said Bryan, unbeknownst to either him or his wife, took money from their retirement accounts and diverted their monthly mortgage payments all to support his daily drug habit. The couple then faced penalties from the Internal Revenue Service for the withdrawals from retirement savings and saw their home fall into foreclosure.

Attempting to prevent the loss of their home, Kristina Nelson forged her husband’s signature. Nelson attributed her actions to grief and said she admitted responsibility, eventually being convicted of a misdemeanor. Also, he said they were able to work through their financial entanglements and recover on their own.

It is another part of the drug experience that Nelson and his wife endured. He said he has learned that people suffering from substance abuse disorder are smart and resourceful but will lie, steal and cheat to chase drugs. Nelson does not see his stepson as a criminal but rather as a straight-A student who wanted to overcome his addiction.

“Addiction touches everybody one way or another,” he said. “I don’t know anybody out there who doesn’t know someone or have a relative or family member who’s been affected by this crisis.”

Clark County (Ohio) Jail doubles inmates in drug treatment program

Full Article

Springfield News-Sun on 11/2/2017 by Katherine Collins

Lt. Michael Young gives a tour of one of the new drug treament program classrooms at the Clark County Jail Monday.

A new drug treatment program in the Clark County Jail is unlike any other program in Ohio and is aimed at preventing crime, Springfield leaders said.

McKinley Hall expanded its drug treatment program within the Clark County Jail earlier this month to allow for nearly double the number of inmates to participate. Previously, only about 30 inmates could enroll in the drug treatment program within the jail, now there’s room for 60 inmates.

“If we can start working on some of the skills that they’re lacking while they’re incarcerated that makes it all the better once they get out,” said Deontrae Ellis, program coordinator with McKinley Hall.

It’s an intensive outpatient program, Ellis said. It was able to expand after the jail converted its employee gym into two classroom spaces. Inmates meet for nine hours a week in some capacity, Ellis said. The program includes addiction education classes, as well as group and individual counseling.

“It’s needed in Clark County because we have a serious opiate problem,” he said. “It’s just another way to combat it.”

In Clark County, a record 97 people have died of drug overdoses so far this year and local law enforcement have responded to more than 1,000 drug overdoses, local leaders said. Responding to those overdoses and other drug-related calls is time-consuming and ties up resources, local law enforcement leaders have told the Springfield News-Sun.

McKinley Hall now also has a case manager and therapist with offices within the jail.

The jail wanted to do more to help inmates prepare for release, Jail Administrator Lt. Michael Young said, so he and Clark County Sheriff Deborah Burchett were on board with the plan to expand treatment. Many of the inmates in jail are there on charges related to drugs.

“We realized that we’re not doing enough,” Young said. “… These are all members of our community. So when they’re incarcerated, what are we doing to prepare them to be better members of the community?”

The goal is to get people on a path to recovery while they’re incarcerated, Young said, that they can continue after they’re released.

“Then even if you get out and you stumble or you hit the addiction again, hopefully there’s a better plan in place to get you kind of reorganized,” he said.

Since the creation of McKinley Hall’s Criminal Justice Program, Ellis said 271 clients have received treatment and about 110 of them haven’t had any new arrests in the past year. That’s a trend Ellis hopes will continue.

“Over the last three to five years, we’ve been trying to tackle this opiate problem any and every way that we can,” he said. “And providing services to our residents while they’re actually incarcerated is just another step in the right direction.”

Free Webinar Thursday 11/16/2017: Going Green = Saving Money & Improving Offender Outcomes

Full Article

National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center

Registration is required to join this event. Register  

Registration Password: GoGreen

Date and time:Thursday, November 16, 2017 1:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)

Panelist(s) Info: Paul M. Sheldon, M.A. Senior Advisor, GreenPrisons.Org

Duration:1 hour

Description: Over the past decade, the corrections community’s perspective on sustainability-oriented practices has evolved to include tremendous cost savings via resource efficiency and measurable improvements in offender outcomes, as well as important partnerships between corrections facilities and programs and the communities they serve. Presenter Paul Sheldon, Senior Advisor at will discuss examples of successful “green” programs and partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as academic, business, and non-profit partners. Evidence-based results of these innovative activities have included shifts in organizational culture, cost reductions, successful post-release employment and overall offender outcomes, and other community benefits.


Pretrial World Tour Webcast: Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017

Full Article

Pretrial Justice Institute’s CEO, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, has been on tour with all of the pretrial highlights of 2017, and now’s she’s making an appearance in the University of Pretrial. Join Cherise to hear about pretrial policy, legislation, litigation, and highlights from the field.

Co-sponsored by the American Probation and Parole Association and the University of Pretrial.

Nov 14, 2017 1:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)


USDOJ 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment

Full Article

Page 36: “In 2015, Washington DC, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all experienced nearly double the number of armed robberies than the previous year. Indiana experienced 168 prescription drug armed robberies in 2015, which made it the only state with more than 100 pharmacy armed robberies in a single year in the last seven years 19 (see Figure 29). In 2016, Washington DC, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all experienced fewer pharmacy armed robberies than the previous year.

Indiana pharmacies experienced 367 robberies from 2013 through May 2016. California, which has a population almost six times larger than Indiana,
experienced 310 robberies during the same time period. Many pharmacies
in Indiana have increased security by adding armed guards and time release
safes to protect certain medications, such as opioids.”

Page 39: “Between 2014 and 2015, incidents of theft — to include customer theft, employee theft, and nighttime break-ins — increased for 28 states.
The greatest percentage of increases occurred in Wisconsin, Montana, Ohio, and Indiana. In 2016, incidents of theft in Ohio and Wisconsin had further increases, while theft in Montana and Indiana decreased. The total number of theft incidents greatly exceeds those of armed robbery.”

Page 79 “In 2016, the majority of domestic [methamphetamine] laboratories were in the Great Lakes and Southeast OCDETF Regions. Indiana and Michigan had the most laboratory incidents with 945 and 665 respectively, representing 36 percent of all laboratory incidents nationwide.”

Full document in PDF


Envisioning an Alternative Future for the Corrections Sector Within the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Full Article

Rand Corporation by by Joe Russo, George B. Drake, John S. Shaffer, Brian A. Jackson


Challenged by high costs and concerns that the U.S. corrections sector is not achieving its goals, there has been a growing focus on approaches to reform and improve the sector’s performance. Policies initiated during the tough-on-crime era led to aggressive prosecution, lengthier sentences, and an exploding correctional population. In recent years, the corrections sector has been gradually shifting toward efforts to provide treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and enhanced programs to facilitate offender reentry. Although judicial and policy decisions and public attitudes toward crime and sentencing determine the corrections population and the resources available for staffing and reform, the sector has a unique perspective and therefore can provide critical insight regarding what is working, what is not, and how things should be. To contribute to the policy debate on the future of the corrections sector, researchers interviewed a group of prominent correctional practitioners, consultants, and academics. This report outlines their perspectives on the current state of corrections and their vision for the future. These experts were specifically asked how they would redesign the corrections sector to better serve the country’s needs. The findings offer both an assessment of what is and is not working now and potential solutions to better achieve justice policy goals going forward.

Key Findings

The Corrections Sector Has Little Control Over the Many Factors That Affect Its Operations

  • Judicial and policy decisions and public attitudes toward crime and sentencing determine the corrections population and the resources available for staffing and reform.
  • The sector does have some control over how offenders are treated once they enter the system.

A Panel of Experts Agreed That the Sector’s Primary Role Should Be to Facilitate Positive Offender Behavioral Change, but This Is a Complex Task

  • Three broad types of changes would be necessary for the sector to support this mission and help ensure offenders’ successful reintegration into society: new programs and improved education and training for corrections staff, the elimination of revenue-generating correctional operations, and cultural change to prioritize rehabilitation over punishment.
  • There are many opportunities for the sector to leverage the latest developments in science, technology, and evidence-based practices to create alternatives to incarceration, guide the investment of scarce resources, and engage communities in initiatives to reduce recidivism and support offender reentry.


  • Panelists put forward several solutions to support the corrections sector’s mission of facilitating positive offender behavior change, including diverting low-risk offenders and those with mental health or substance use problems to specialty facilities while reserving prisons for violent and dangerous offenders; shortening sentences and ensuring that offenders have a clear, attainable path to release; and creating smaller and safer facilities that are closer to cities with programs to support reentry.
  • In the near term, panelists recommended expanding and adequately funding probation, parole, and community-based resources to support offenders’ reentry into their communities.

Indiana pain doctor gets probation in ‘pill mill’ case

Full Article

The Indianapolis Star on 11/4/17

PERU, Ind. – An Indiana doctor accused of operating a “pill mill” has reached a plea agreement that would include 10 years of probation but no prison time.

The Kokomo Tribune reports 70-year-old Dr. Tristan Stonger appeared Thursday in Miami County Circuit Court to plead guilty to five charges, including issuing an invalid prescription and insurance fraud. In exchange, 50 other charges will be dropped.

►Patient made accusations: Indiana doctor accused of exchanging pills for sex

Judge Tim Spahr took the agreement under advisement ahead of a Nov. 30 hearing.

Investigators have said Stonger saw as many as 100 patients in a single day and traded pain pills for work on his farm. The charges followed a three-year investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which spent months surveilling his Pain Management Centers of Indiana office in Peru.

Stonger also operated Bloomington and Indianapolis offices.

Sheriff welcomes state’s jail demands

Full Article

Evansvi on 11/8/2017 by Zach Evans

EVANSVILLE — It’s about time.

That’s how Sheriff Dave Wedding feels after the Indiana Department of Corrections told Vanderburgh County officials they must address jail overcrowding and understaffing.

Wedding made it a point in his first term as sheriff to call for major changes to the jail, which is now only 11 years old.

He wasn’t shocked by the state’s demands.

“I anticipated it. I almost welcome the letter, because he’s just affirming what I’ve said for two years now,” he said.

State to Vanderburgh County: Fix jail, or else

After the state’s annual inspection of the county jail, the Department of Corrections demanded the county develop a tangible plan within six months to address how many beds and space it has for inmates and how many jail staff are employed with the county.

“They’re just asking us to not be indifferent to the problem. And I’m certainly not going to be indifferent … I think we do have a government here in Vanderburgh County that can work together and fix this problem,” he said.

The jail is designed to hold 553. The state recommends it be about 80 percent of that, or 442. The jail population Wednesday was 707. It’s not just the lack of available bed space the state cares about. The Department of Corrections also wants the county to increase the amount of corrections officers and staff in the jail.

With a limited budget and high turnover for jail staff, corrections officers often work 12-16 hour shifts.

Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave pressed Wedding on Tuesday at the commissioner’s meeting to ask County Council for more staff soon.

“That’s the thing that makes me most uncomfortable about this. I do not like placing the staff at risk,” Musgrave said.

Commissioner Bruce Ungethiem said expanding the jail isn’t just a straightforward project. What has to be considered is the more than 100 state prisoners who are lodged at the county jail.

“We also need to understand who the clientele will be. We’ve changed form being a county jail to a prison holding convicted prisoners,” Ungethiem said.

Convicted level 6 felonies — the lowest level of felony in the state’s criminal code — serve their sentences in the local county jails. In return, the state pays the county $35 per inmate per day.

Councilman Mike Goebel said the state needs to work on the county on increasing that funding.

“To me the problem is particularly with the state making us hold level 6 inmates,” Goebel said.

County Councilman John Montrastelle It’s time for this council to address the overcrowding problem.

We have a real situation here at the jail. Sheriff Wedding has been talking to us for quite a long time and he’s spent a lot of time in Indianapolis meeting with Department of Corrections to raise that $35 to $55. We hope he has success in doing that,” he said.

Clark County schools announce partnership empowering probation officers to process on-site arrests

Full Article

WDRB on 10/26/2017

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) — Clark County schools have announced a new partnership with local law enforcement agencies and the courts which will allow local probation officers to process on-site arrests using school office space.

The probation officers will process arrests made by school resource officers, and determine if the students should be released without condition, released with conditions, or detained. If deemed appropriate, the probation officer will also be able to make referrals to a court-approved diversion program.

According to a news release, the probation officer will meet with students on probation, as well as with their parents. The meetings will be scheduled based on the results of the Indiana Youth Assessment System and Indiana Probation Standards. The officer may also meet with students on probation to address truancy issues, as well as emotional concerns and behavioral issues, if requested.

“The court, probation and the schools have collaborated over the last several years in many ways,” said Judge Vicki L. Carmichael, of Clark Circuit Court No. 4, in a statement. “This is just one more opportunity to work together to better serve students and families and maintain a consistent message about how important education is to a child’s future.”

The partnership was announced during a press conference Thursday afternoon. It involves the Clarksville Community School Corporation, Greater Clark County Schools, West Clark Community Schools, the Clark County Circuit Court, Clark County Prosecutor and the Jeffersonville Police Department.

City releases body cam footage in movie incident

Full Article

Journal Review on 10/02/2017 by Nick Hedrick

As the video begins, Crawfordsville Police Sgt. Matt Schroeter approaches Backstep Brewing Co., where officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery.

Seconds later, a masked man in a dark shirt and khaki shorts and holding an air gun backs out of the brewery, turning to face the officers.

“Drop the gun! Drop the gun now! Drop the gun!” officers shout.

Schroeter raises his service weapon as the man, later identified as Jim Duff, points his gun toward the police. Schroeter fires a single shot, missing Duff, as he removes his mask and drops the gun.

“We’re doing a movie!” Duff tells the officers.

“Excuse me?” one of the officer’s replies.

The footage, captured on Schroeter’s body camera, shows the Sept. 26 encounter between police and Duff, who was playing an armed robber in a movie being filmed at the brewery. No one from the film crew had notified authorities ahead of time.

Police released the 55-second footage on the city’s website Monday afternoon, as Montgomery County Prosecutor Joe Buser announced no charges will be filed in the incident. Buser reviewed the footage as part of his investigation.

The Journal Review requested a copy of the video through the Freedom of Information Act last week. City officials acknowledged the request but the newspaper did not receive its own copy.

After Duff drops the mask and gun, officers order him to stand back, the video shows. With his back against the wall, Duff once again explains a movie is being filmed. Officers then twice order him to the ground.

As Duff complies, a person in a red shirt appears in the brewery doorway. “You guys better get out of here, man!” a person yells. The officers shout “Stay inside! Stay inside!” as the door shuts.

Other film crew members were inside the brewery as the incident unfolded. The crew earlier said it had permission from Backstep to film.

As Schroeter continues training his gun on Duff, someone says, “We’re filming a movie. I ain’t lying to ‘ya. We’re filming a movie.”

The movie company has praised the department’s quick response. In a statement released on Facebook last week, MCM said it was working with local law enforcement on a plan to prevent future incidents.

“Safety should be of the highest priority, and communication could have spared all of us from the incident, not just for MCM, but for anyone out there looking to make films,” MCM said.

Interim Study Committee on Corrections And Criminal Code Final 2017 Meeting

on October 24, 2017

Agenda October 24, 2017

  1. Consideration of Final Committee Report and any Committee Requested Legislation Proposals.
  2. Testimony of Brad Ray Ph.D. IUPUI Concerning Program Evaluation of Recovery Works
  3. Other Business
  4. Adjournment

LINK to Exhibits

Access to Recovery and Recidivism Among Former Prison Inmates

Recovery Works Phase One Policy Brief

Memo Concerning DOC Population and Expenditures

Changes in DOC Population


To Save Opioid Addicts, This Experimental Court Is Ditching The Delays

Full Article

NPR on October 5, 2017 by Eric Westervelt

There’s about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah’s courtroom bench and the place where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court.

But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet.

“This is your first day back! Good to see you!” Judge Hannah says as he greets her.

“Good to see you,” Stein says, smiling.

“We’ve got to do that after picture. We did the before,” Judge Hannah reminds her.

It’s 10 feet of space where Stein began to walk back 10 years of crippling intravenous heroin addiction and its sordid aftermath: burned bridges with family and friends, and a stream of lies and criminality to support her drug habit.

Today is Stein’s first day back before Hannah after a month of inpatient treatment in Buffalo’s new opioid intervention court.

Stein shows the judge a folder full of awards and certificates earned during her recovery.

“Oh, you’ve also been a positive peer mentor. Wow. You really did your thing down there. Congratulations,” Hannah says, looking Stein in the eyes. “How many days clean?”

“Twenty-nine today, judge.”

“Keep up the good work, that’s awesome.”

“I will.”

“See another Christmas”

read more in the full article

How addiction causes “hundreds of changes” in the brain

Full Article

ABC News on 8/25/2017

(The full article contains some video.)


President Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, and 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

The cover story of September’s National Geographic looks into the science of addiction and its impact on the brain’s pathways. The article’s author, Fran Smith, writes, “Addiction remolds neural circuits to assign supreme value to cocaine or heroin or gin at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family or life itself.”

Smith joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss how addiction changes the way a person’s brain functions and whether it can be re-trained out of those changes.

“Addiction causes hundreds of changes in the structure of the brain, in the chemistry of the brain, in the pathways that send nerve signals so that cells communicate with each other,” Smith explained. “It remaps the brain and it causes the brain to focus on this one thing, one thing only – that object of desire – and blot out other things of interest.”

“At the same time, the brain changes your ability to put the lid on desire,” she said.

While the medical community has long considered addiction a disease, not everyone else has. But now, Smith says, law enforcement is beginning to come around to the idea as drug addiction continues to spread in America.

“I was just in Huntington, West Virginia, which has been hit really hard, and talked with the former police chief. And he said we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” she said.

Smith credits advances in medical technology with changing perception of what causes drug addiction.

“Back in the 70s when heroin was a real problem in the inner cities, we didn’t have brain scanners. Nobody knew what was going on inside the brain,” Smith said.

Though there’s no addiction cure on the immediate horizon, certain therapies have proven successful for many.

“Cognitive therapy has shown really great effects for lots of people. It really trains people how to think differently about drugs and alcohol and you can see in brain scanning studies that it really does begin to change how those circuits are operating – rewiring the brain, in essence,” Smith said.

“One thing that we know is that kids, adolescents are really vulnerable and that so many people who have addiction later in life really began misusing drugs or alcohol as teens or young adults.”




on October 11, 2017

Agenda 10-11-2017

  1. Call to Order
  2. Old Business
  3. Availability and Certification of Treatment Providers and Treatment Facilities
  4. Extending Support Services to Misdemeanants
  5. Serious Mental Illness and the Death Penalty
  6. Requiring Bills Creating Crimes And Increasing Penalties To Be Reviewed By An Interim Study Committee
  7. Other Business and Announcements
  8. Adjournment

MINUTES 10-11-2017


(1) List comparing Indiana’s maximum penalties for sale of five grams of heroin, first offense, no enhancing circumstances with six other states and federal statutes
(2) Letter from Indiana Judges Association to Rep. Steurwald concerning criminal sentencing reform
(3) Exhibit prepared by trial courts technology staff concerning offenders convicted and sentenced without any post-conviction confinement
(4) Department of Correction’s response to questions from Sept 19th meeting
(5) HEA 1006 Fiscal Year Analysis Prepared by KSM Consulting
(6) Presentation by Matt Brooks President and CEO Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers
(7) Data Report, 2016 Indiana Mental Health Professionals Licensure Survey Prepared by the Bowen Center for Health Workforce
(8) Candice Rothenbuhler President Indiana Opiate Treatment Provider Association (INTOD)
(9) Bernice Corley, Indiana Public Defenders Council, suggested language for IC 12-263-19-3
(10) Matthew Ellis Hoosier Alliance for Serious Mental Illness Exemption Handouts
(11) Biography of Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D.
(12) Kevin Moore, Division of Mental Health and Addiction presentation concerning Recovery Works and assistance for misdemeanants


Call for Proposals and Save the Date: Justice Services Conference 2018


The Indiana Office of Court Services (IOCS) is excited to announce the First Annual Justice Services Conference to be held on May 9th – 11th, 2018 at the Indiana Convention Center.
The conference will include staff from Probation, Court Alcohol and Drug Programs, and Problem-Solving Courts.

This combined conference replaces the formerly separate Probation Officers Annual Meeting/Training. It also replaces the annual Justice Services Conference (formerly Problem Solving Court Annual Training and Court Alcohol and Drug Program Annual Training).

With the increased number of sessions being offered, IOCS is opening up a “Call for Proposals” for those interested in presenting a workshop at the conference.  They are looking to fill plenary as well as breakout sessions with sessions lasting 1.25 hours. The proposals will be reviewed and selections made by the IOCS.

Please forward this post along to your staff and coworkers.  Also, IOCS encourages you to send this to anyone in outside agencies who you think would be a great addition to the session lineup.  Included in this post is the link to the “Call for Proposals” that will allow interested presenters to submit their interest along with session descriptions and other applicable information.

Call for Proposals:

We look forward to seeing everyone next spring!

Michelle Henkle
Program Coordinator
Indiana Office of Court Services