Beyond Bars

Published 05/16 2014 01:41PM

Updated 05/16 2014 01:59PM

A new Indiana law that will send more low level offenders to local jails instead of prison is raising concerns for counties across the state.  A Fort Wayne man who has spent time in jail for non-violent drug related charges is sharing his story, about how an Allen County judge gave him a chance to change his life, without spending more time behind bars.

Off and on over a span of 9 years, behind bars was the home for Dan Trick.

"I've struggled with alcoholism and addiction and depression my whole life.  It was very scary to be in jail.  It's cold, it's lonely.  You don't get to eat very much food, you're afraid."

After his 3rd DWI in 2011, Allen Circuit Court Judge Thomas Felts, offered Trick a rehabilitation program as an alternative sentence.

"I was ready for a change."

Since then, his life has completely changed.

"I'd say over half to 3/4s of them have drug related issues."

Jeff Kyle, is the Commander at the Huntington County Jail.  Currently the jail is only set up to house 99 inmates, right now they have 96.

Current law states that a person with a drug related D-Felony Charge, serving a 90 day sentence or less could spend time in prison, but beginning JUly 1st, that may change as a new law takes effect.

"At the end of this year, I heard it's gonna go to a year or less they'll stay at the county level.  A year or more they're gonna go away so that could even double it at the end of the year.  Not only for us, but all of the counties in the state of Indiana are gonna be feeling this.  It's not in our budget right now."

Some initial reports state that the State expects to save $11 million dollars by sending more low-level, nonviolent offenders to local jails instead of State prisons.  This is great for the State's budget but possibly detrimental to local counties.

"That's gonna be on us, that's gonna be on the tax payers of Huntington County to feed and bathe them and make sure they have their water and toilet paper and all that."

Dan Trick says that being incarcerated for drug abuse only adds to the crowded jails, and doesn't get to the root of many inmate's problems.

"That's how we deal with it.  Is with the pain, is through addictions, through drugs, through alcohol, and we never really figure out to cope with the problems that we've had in life."

US Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed reducing sentences for non-violent, drug offenders in order to cut down the prison population.

"Certain types of cases result in too many Americans going to prison for far too long and at times for no truly good public safety reason."

Trick says if he had served the 3 year sentence in jail instead of choosing the alternative sentencing, he wouldn't have learned what he obtained in rehab.

"It would be difficult for somebody to make any changes being in jail.  The conversations that you have in there, it's more of a school on how to be a criminal."

Commander Kyle says that the jail isn't a "school for bad people".

"They have the choice to be friends with these people in here, be friends with them on the outside.  Who you deal with, the decisions you make dictate whether you're gonna come back here or not."

Trick says he doesn't disagree with the law.

"It's not the law that needs to change, but it's their behavior and what they did wrong."

Trick is thankful that he is now celebrating his recovery and living a life beyond bars.

"i feel like my life has taken a great turn.  I have an 8 months old daughter that I love to death and my wife and those 2 ladies mean the world to me."

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