County reentry court named recovery program of the year

COLUMBUS — Johnson County’s reentry court was honored for its role in helping offenders suffering from addiction enter recovery.

The Johnson County Reentry Court, run out of Johnson County Superior Court 2, was named last year’s Recovery Program of the Year by Recover Out Loud, a Columbus-based addiction recovery nonprofit. The court was presented the award during Recover Out Loud’s 4th Annual SoberBash Award Ceremony on New Year’s Eve in Columbus. SoberBash is an event designed to celebrate and honor the efforts of all individuals, organizations and allies that support recovery, according to Recover Out Loud.

The county’s reentry court is one of 11 reentry courts in the state, and most of the participants and graduates are recovering addicts who have served time in the Indiana Department of Correction for drug crimes. They enter the program with the goal of getting clean for the rest of their lives and avoiding re-offending. The program also helps them get jobs.

The reentry court was established in 2018 as a problem-solving court, with specialized proceedings within the criminal justice system that address the underlying problems that can contribute to certain criminal offenses. The judge works closely with a community service team to develop a plan and monitor the participants. Among those involved are prosecutors, probation officers, law enforcement, defense attorneys, community corrections and treatment providers.

Many of the program participants were imprisoned for drug crimes, but it is not limited to those. Participants are required to successfully complete Recovery While Incarcerated, an addiction recovery program in the Indiana Department of Correction. The program accepts offenders whose criminality appears connected to their addictions, or offenders who continue to commit crimes related to their addictions.

In a video message for SoberBash attendees, Peter Nugent, judge of the reentry court and Superior Court 2, accepted the award and thanked Recover Out Loud for its role in paving a life of sobriety and success for its participants. The reentry court is proud of its role in recovery efforts, he said.

“We’re proud to be a small part of the recovery effort here in Johnson County as well as central Indiana. We cheer for each and every one of you in your recovery efforts — your success is our success,” Nugent said in the video message.

Misty Hogan, an intake coordinator at Cardinal Recovery and a past graduate of the program, nominated the court for the award because she had seen firsthand how the court helps those in recovery, she said.

“One, the justice system is always out to get us. Two, we can change. And three, the past doesn’t have to define us,” Hogan said. “The fact I now work at a treatment center, I never thought that would be where I’d be.”

The awards ceremony was inspiring for many in attendance, including other past graduates and participants.

“It was really important to people at the SoberBash — reentry court people — to see the court win the award,” said Hogan, who is also a leader with Recover Out Loud. “I won it last year. It was important for me to be there again this year and to nominate them and see them win.”

Reentry court staff had no idea the court was nominated until representatives from Recover Out Loud spoke with them after one of the court’s meetings last year. The court is an asset to the community, and the stakeholders are happy to take part, Nugent said.

“This program has guided people to get back on their feet,” he said. “It’s a part of the week where I feel like I’m making more of a difference.”

Both the reentry court and Cardinal Recovery are working together to change lives. Hogan now routinely works with the reentry court to help others, she said.

“There’s not a whole lot of programs of this kind, and it’s becoming more popular. It’s cool to see,” Hogan said.

The program has helped people reconnect with friends and loved ones they haven’t spoken to in years, and that’s something that makes Nugent and all of the stakeholders proud, he said.

The court is at capacity and has a wait-list, which shows the program’s effectiveness. The county has now launched an adult drug problem-solving court out of Superior Court 1, and is planning for a mental health court out of Superior Court 2, said Brandi Foster Kirkendall, court administrator.

The drug court undergo state certification later this month, Kirkendall said. An adult drug problem-solving court and veterans court are also run out of Greenwood’s city court, according to state documents.