JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana judge has fired a drug treatment program’s director after at least four people spent months in jail despite being ordered to serve only days or weeks behind bars.
Clark Circuit Court Judge Jerry Jacobi this week terminated the director of the Ohio River county’s Drug Court Treatment Program, which is designed to help defendants combat their substance abuse problems. The judge had suspended the program director Jan. 7 along with a bailiff who worked as the program’s field officer.
Jacobi did not immediately reply to a message Thursday seeking comment on his actions.
Three women and a man who were participants in the drug court program have said they spent months in the county’s jail for violations of program rules.
Louisville, Ky., attorney Michael Augustus said he plans to file a federal civil complaint within the next week on behalf of the three women, alleging unlawful incarceration and arrest. Those women are Destiny Hoffman, 34; Ashleigh Hendricks-Santiago, 30; and Amy Bennett, 36.
Hoffman was sentenced to two days in jail but ended up spending five months locked up because court officials failed to issue an order needed to free her. She was released Jan. 23.
Hendricks-Santiago said she was ordered jailed for six days in May for failing a mouth-swab drug screen. Instead, she was held until October — a long incarceration that resulted in her losing the Clarksville apartment where she had been living.
“They just pretty much just forgot about me,” she told the News and Tribune.
Bennett said she was jailed in August and “sat for four months” in a cell until she was finally released in December. Bennett said she was held on a warrant seeking to terminate her from the drug court program after she left the program for several months.
“I don’t know why I sat so long,” Bennett said.
Last week, another program participant, Jason Ray O’Connor of Jeffersonville, was released from jail after serving 215 days. He had been ordered to spend 30 days behind bars last June.
Both Bennett and Hendricks-Santiago said the drug court treatment program can be a great resource for those suffering from substance abuse but needs to be revamped and restructured.
“It is an awesome program, once it is coordinated correctly,” Hendricks-Santiago said. “I would recommend no one take drug court right now until it is changed, absolutely.”