Pubdate: Tue, 12 Apr 2005
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2005 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Author: Dan McFeely


State's program is among 1st in nation to focus on the task

Who is eligible

Here are the basics of eligibility for the new methamphetamine treatment
program at the Miami Correctional Facility:

History: Inmates must show a significant history of substance abuse with
significant impairment caused by meth use.

Release date: Inmates must have a projected release date that falls within
14 and 24 months at the time of admission, must have had no institutional
incidents involving weapons or assault for at least one year and must have a
good disciplinary conduct history.

State officials on Monday unveiled a new prison unit dedicated entirely to
helping meth addicts kick their habit -- one of the first of its kind

Twenty-six prisoners checked into the unit at the Miami Correctional
Facility in north central Indiana, which is piggybacking on similar programs
already under way at various county jails.

"Our offenders will be released someday to society. Preparing them to not
return to meth is the issue," said John VanNatta, superintendent of the
Miami facility, which is located between Kokomo and Peru off U.S. 31.

"The physical damage done to inmates who have come here on meth is very
extreme. So anything we can do to help keep them from returning to using
meth, the better for society."

Methamphetamine addiction is so powerful, experts say, that without
treatment in prison, most addicts will return to abusing the drug once they
get out.

Monday's ceremonial opening, attended by Gov. Mitch Daniels, symbolizes how
seriously state officials are treating Indiana's growing meth problem, state
officials say. Indiana ranked fourth in the nation with 1,549 meth labs
destroyed in 2004.

Daniels, who toured the wing, told inmates he hopes the pilot program can be
expanded to Indiana's other prisons to combat the state's growing meth

"You can't help but have hope that this thing just might work. It has to
work for the people involved; it has to work for our state," he said.

VanNatta said the state is paying for the program by using existing money,
taking funds from other prison programs. The state did not release an
overall price tag for the meth initiative.

According to Partnership for a Drug Free America, meth abusers suffer
emotional and physical side effects from a pattern of abuse that includes
"bingeing" on the drug. Abusers can go days without sleep and food as they
feed their habit. Chronic use leads to paranoia, hallucinations and
ultimately criminal activity.

Last year, more than 1,200 people were arrested by State Police alone, a
number that could double if arrests made by rural sheriff's departments and
small-town police departments were included.

Statewide statistics are not readily available, but in Knox County alone in
southwestern Indiana, meth-related criminal cases grew from 17 percent of
all cases in 1999 to 77 percent last year.

The new program -- officially named Clean Lifestyle is Freedom Forever, or
CLIFF -- will run 15 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be overseen by
a mix of staff and outside drug experts, according to VanNatta. The program
will be in a self-contained wing of the prison that can hold up to 204
inmates, in cells that hold two inmates apiece.

By completing the nine-to-12 month voluntary treatment program, inmates are
eligible to shave up to six months off their sentence.

"The time cut is the immediate sell we use to get them into the program,"
VanNatta said, "but when I look at the effects of meth on a person... their
teeth, their aging, their before and after pictures... I would think that
would be a pretty good incentive, also."

Although substance abuse treatment programs are common in the nation's
prisons, Indiana's program specifically for meth addicts may be the first of
its kind, said Harry K. Wexler, a principal investigator with the National
Development and Research Institutes Inc. in New York City.

"It sounds tremendously exciting because meth is such a powerful drug -- one
of the most powerful drugs," said Wexler, who has studied prisons' drug
treatment programs for more than two decades.

J. David Donahue, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, said
more than 900 of the state's 22,140 inmates qualify for the program because
their convictions are for meth use, production or related crimes.

VanNatta said program specifics still are being worked out and will be a
work in progress as the state tracks the program's graduates to see how they
fare outside of prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 
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