State Approves Drug Treatment Pilot Program at Starke County Jail

Starke County Justice CenterThe Starke County Jail will soon be home to the state’s first non-prison-based intensive drug treatment program. During a recent drug task force meeting, Gov. Mike Pence directed the Department of Correction to work with Starke County to adopt and pilot the Regional Therapeutic Communities (RTC) program. It gives local officials more treatment options to address drug addiction.

Offenders must be sentenced to a therapeutic community by a judge and will only be accepted if a bed is available. The state will pay Starke County to $35 per day house inmates accepted into the Starke RTC. The county has space for up to 48 inmates and could make more than $600,000 per year.

Starke County’s pilot program will be monitored statistically for up to two years, with success based on the percentage of participants who complete the program and do not commit another drug crime. Therapeutic community participants in state prisons have a lower recidivism rate than inmates who have not gone through such a program, according to state officials. They want to see if the same holds true if the TC is administered at the local level. It’s possible the recidivism rate will drop even lower based on national studies which indicate drug treatment is statistically more effective when the participant is closer to his or her family support system.

Starke County and DOC officials are still working out the details of how the program will be administered. Sheriff Bill Dulin says the initial inmates will arrive Feb. 1st and the program should be filled to capacity by spring. Last night the county council gave him the green light to hire a full-time warden to oversee the program so the person will be in place before the first inmates arrive. The county is in the process of applying for a grant to cover the salary.

Closer to the program’s launch the council will consider staffing needs in the jail kitchen. Meanwhile Dulin is working with the jail’s medical contractor on a new contract to accommodate medical care for the entire inmate population at the new Starke County facility. Until an arrangement can be finalized the existing contract has been extended 60 days. Dulin says the rest of the jail staff is adequate at this time.