Inside the System: Working to improve addiction recovery programs

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With dependancy on the coronary heart of many instances transferring via the felony justice system, one prosecutor got down to measure how nicely his workplace helps these in restoration.

HARRISON COUNTY, Indiana — In Harrison County, Indiana, a staff of prosecutors is evaluating their work from the within out. Otto Schalk is placing himself via the probation applications he has handed out throughout his 10 years as Harrison County Prosecutor.

“These of us which are within the felony justice system, we all know that its damaged. We work in it each single day. We all know that overhaul has been lengthy overdue,” Schalk told FOCUS in January.

FOCUS adopted Schalk’s journey as he signed up for probation in January. In February, he labored his approach via a system that usually comes with a stigma –alcohol dependancy restoration.

For these to start with levels of alcohol dependancy restoration, an ankle bracelet, which reads ethanol ranges on pores and skin, provides assist. However after a number of days of sporting one, Schalk mentioned his expertise was eye-opening.

“I wore it for only a few days, which is a fraction of what lots of people are sentenced to put on it, however throughout these few days, I might immediately see the stigma that comes with the felony justice system,” Schalk mentioned.


About 95% of defendants enter the courtroom on account of an issue associated to dependancy, in response to Schalk. With dependancy on the coronary heart of so many instances transferring via the felony justice system, he got down to measure how nicely his workplace helps. He spoke with inmates, defendants and others about how their instances helped or harm their restoration. 

“What I’ve present in speaking to all of the individuals affected by dependancy is that no two addicts are the identical and no two dependancy restoration plans needs to be the identical,” Schalk mentioned.

Restoration plans typically contain probation and applications for medicine and alcohol, however the prosecutor’s workplace mentioned they don’t have the chance create tailor-made plans for every individual. 

“I do want we had extra sources to have the assistance, to provide to individuals to assist. I feel we’re making strides however we’re not there,” Chief Probation Officer Sheila Tempel mentioned.

Now, Schalk is encouraging members of the family to schedule a gathering on the prosecutor’s workplace and clarify the defendant’s background in a approach that may assist the prosecutor’s workplace provide you with the precise plan for the person.

“I feel we have to take extra of a roll in fixing the issue and that takes extra buy-in from prosecutors and it additionally requires neighborhood buy-in,” Schalk mentioned.

One other a part of the felony justice system Schalk centered on in February was psychological well being. 

“Prosecutors and courts and police, till we start to embrace psychological well being as a felony justice concern, we’re by no means going to get wherever,” Schalk mentioned.

Whereas Schalk had beforehand thought-about making a disaster intervention staff, he mentioned the necessity grew to become extra clear this month. Now, he’s in dialogue with different county leaders on what which may appear like in Harrison County, a rural neighborhood with few sources for psychological well being.

Schalk is hopeful the disaster intervention staff can be one of many many adjustments he is anticipating to see throughout this year-long challenge.

“I am hoping on the finish of this we will stroll away and have an entire listing of adjustments we need to make,” Schalk mentioned.

WHAS11 has unique entry to this challenge and can be documenting the breakdowns, challenges and adjustments because the prosecutor staff discovers them. 

Subsequent month, Schalk will deal with site visitors infractions.

To maintain up with Schalk’s year-long challenge, visit his Facebook page.


►Contact reporter Shay McAlister at smcalister@whas11.com. Comply with her on Twitter (@WHAS11Shay) and Facebook.

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