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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- The state of Indiana has ordered Clark County's Drug Treatment Court to suspend operations until further notice.
A letter from the Indiana Judicial Center to Clark Circuit Court #2 Judge Jerry Jacobi says recent allegations of misconduct by drug court staff and practices "harmful to participants" justify the "immediate suspension of... operations."
The letter, dated February 14 and made public Wednesday afternoon, directs the court not to accept any new participants, to provide the IJC a list of current participants and to develop a plan for their future supervision.
The move came one day after eight former inmates filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they were kept in jail far longer than their individual sentences mandated. It also comes after the firing of the drug court director and the suspension of a bailiff resulting from an investigation initiated by Jacobi last fall. The two workers disciplined are accused of overstepping their authority.
Indiana State Police and a special prosecutor also are investigating the allegations.
"It's beyond negligence. I can't tell at this point where it falls on either just not caring, deliberate indifference or sheer intentionality," said Louisville attorney Mike Augustus. He represents the eight people in the federal lawsuit.
"In other situations, it may be as simple as being forgotten about. But you can't forget about somebody in jail," Augustus said.
Augustus's clients say Jacobi sent them to jail for terms as short as 48 hours, but they stayed in custody as long as 154 days, without due process.
"The most important thing was to ensure the individuals were not detained for months at a time without a valid reason. And the problem is that was not done by anyone," Augustus said.
Drug court is designed to let offenders walk out of the courthouse with a list of restrictions or deadlines they need to meet. Those include items like drug screening and treatment for addiction. It helps them to avoid jail.
An estimated 70 to 80 people are in the midst of drug court supervision this week, drug court attorney Larry Wilder said. They need to contact their case workers, and keep their appointments and other obligations, despite the IJC order to "suspend operations."
"It is important for these folks to try to stay in touch with their case workers, because really, their sobriety is really the goal of this," Wilder said. (PDQ)
A committee of judges, supervisors and other officials will compile a list of current clients and give the state a plan on what to do next, Wilder said. The IJC ordered the action with a 10-day response deadline in its letter to Jacobi.
The chief deputy prosecutor wants a say, too. Jeremy Mull said transferring supervision of current participants to another county is an option.
"The exact consequences of the drug court losing its certification or having it suspended are unclear right now," Mull said.
"It's my concern now that they continue to receive that intense supervision. On the other hand, the ones that are doing what they're supposed to do, I want to make sure they get the benefit of their bargain and are able to move forward with a clean slate if they've abided by their terms," Mull said.
The IJC letter, signed by executive director Jane Seigel, also says the center "will lift the suspension and work with you to restore drug court operations" should the allegations involving the court's practices "prove to be unfounded."
Jacobi has repeatedly declined comment about the drug court issues. He is the judge in charge of the program and enjoys immunity from lawsuits stemming from his judicial decisions.
WDRB News asked drug court attorney Wilder about the allegations in the federal lawsuit. He also declined comment, citing the pending litigation.