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Sober and Living Life: Using is not an option

Sep 7

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Saturday, September 7, 2019  RssIcon

from The Courier Times

On a typical day before Judge Kit Crane takes his seat on the bench, the courtroom is full of whispers as people nervously discuss their cases.

Friday morning was not a typical day, however.

It was a day of joy and celebrations, not judgements and sentences.

Participants in the Henry County Drug Court and their family of supporters chatted excitedly as they gathered in Henry Circuit Court 2.

It was the largest group of sober people some of them had been around in a long time, as one guy in the audience noted.

It was also the day that four men completed the program and averted a combined 27.5 years in prison.

Michael Hardcastle, Michael James, Jason Melton and Brandon Shelton are clean and sober, healthy and happy and moving past their pasts.

“They started our program in March 2018 and have done amazing,” Judge Crane said.

The Drug Court is a specialized “problem-solving court” specifically designed to connect people struggling with substance abuse with community services that can help them.

Drug Court is a team that puts drug abusers on the same team as the county prosecutor, public defender, the probation office, Henry County Community Corrections, Meridian Health Services and local law enforcement officers.

Henry County Sheriff Ric McCorkle was among the members of the audience Friday celebrating the graduation of Hardcastle, James, Melton and Shelton.

The graduating class

“Things in my life keep getting better and better... things just keep improving,” Brandon Shelton said. “It’s just wonderful being clean and living my life the right way.”

He was facing 8.5 years in prison. Now, those charges have been dismissed.

As part of the Drug Court program, Shelton has been volunteering at the Christian Love Help Center. He was a part of the team giving away backpacks during the Back To School Fair.

A friend from the church was at the ceremony Friday to cheer Shelton on.

“You bet on yourself. Put on the chips on the table,” Judge Crane said.

“That was a good bet,” said public defender Sean Row.

“I’m proud of you,” Prosecutor Joe Bergacs told Shelton. “You sailed through the program and did real well.”

Michael Hardcastle told the court he has been sober for two years.

“I’ve had to do the work myself, but Drug Court helped save my life, really,” Hardcastle said. “It’s been a long road, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Since participating in Drug Court, Hardcastle has gotten full custody of his son, is buying his first house and has been working solid for a year and a half.

“For the first time, I’m just comfortable,” he said.

Jason Melton could not stop smiling while he stood in the front of the courtroom and gave his “closing argument” of why he should graduate the program.

Melton was 550 days sober Friday morning. Instead of facing more than four years in prison, Melton now gets to spend that time with his son.

“You have just been an outstanding example to others,” Row said.

Michael James’ mother was at Friday’s ceremony. It was through Drug Court that James was able to begin repairing their relationship.

“I’m very proud of him,” she told the judge.

James is 19 months sober now.

Betty Hancock, from Meridian Health Services, said it was sometimes tough getting James to open up, but he started to talk more as their counseling sessions continued. Hancock was glad she’d had the opportunity to get to know James through the program.

Special visitor, Justice Goff

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Christopher Goff attended Friday’s session of the Henry County Drug Court.

Justice Goff started the Drug Court in Wabash County before taking a seat on the state’s high court.

“I knew that we could not do anything about the drug problem systemically. We couldn’t make opioids go away,” Goff said. “But I knew that we could make every possible effort to see that people like Brandon and Jason and Michael and Michael would have the best possible opportunity to be what they intended to be.”

Justice Goff had a special gift for all four graduates from the Supreme Court.

“You are four pioneers for this community. You are going to carry hope with you,” Goff said. “There’s something special in all four of you.”

The Supreme Court Justice also present Judge Crane with a special “challenge coin” for Judge Crane.

Goff also thanked the other members of the Drug Court for making it successful.

The thing about problem-solving courts is they represent a collaboration of a whole community,” Justice Goff said. “A whole community coming together and bringing what they have available to solve a problem.”

Crane also checked in with 12 other Drug Court participants Friday. Each talked about how their lives have improved since they stopped using drugs.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

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