Chesterton Tribune



Judge Chidester to begin Restoration Court for mentally ill nonviolent in 2019

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Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester is announcing that the Porter County Restoration Court has been certified by the Indiana Office of Court Services and that it will begin operations on Jan. 14, 2019, out of Superior Court 4 in Valparaiso.

The Restoration Court is a problem-solving court serving non-violent, mentally-ill criminal defendants and offering a diversionary program of treatment and strict supervision in lieu of constant arrest and incarceration.

“A problem-solving court is designed as a court meeting once per week with intensive supervision and pro-social programming in order to address a specific problem,” according a statement released last week. “Along with weekly court sessions, the court uses sanctions and rewards to change behavior. Specific to the Restoration Court will be mental health programming as a foundation of treatment.”

Chidester has been working on the formation of this Court since early 2018, along with Tammy O’Neill from PACT and Community Corrections and Jessica Smithey, a second-year law student at Valparaiso University. The Porter County Restoration Court will be based on a model developed by Allen County’s Restoration Court and will use a collaborative team approach involving the Porter County Community Corrections Advisory Board, Porter County Probation, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office, the Porter County Public Defender, and multiple representatives and doctors from Porter Starke Services of Valparaiso.

Beginning Jan. 1, referrals will be made for entry into the Restoration Court from judges, attorneys, probation, and prosecutors. One difference between the Restoration Court and the Porter County Drug Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court will be the use of the Restoration Court in both a pretrial and post-conviction time frame, “whereby mentally ill defendants can attend and participate post-arrest but pre-disposition as a condition of their release,” the statement said. “In that event, successful completion pre-trial can result in dismissal before adjudication and conviction. Of course the traditional diversionary program of having charges later modified or dismissed, post conviction, will also be available to participants.”

“What differs the Restoration Court from the Drug Court, already in operation in Portage, is the mandate that Restoration Court participants be assessed and diagnosed with a co-occurring addiction and mental health illness, not just a drug addiction,” Chidester said. “I don’t foresee any difficulty in finding candidates for this Court in Porter County. If anything, from what I have witnessed in my 17 years on the bench, I anticipate an early avalanche of candidates to begin the program.”

“I have been going to judicial seminars downstate now for 17 years,” Chidester added. “I have always heard the mantra that good judges hear cases and great judges operate problem-solving courts. My time as a jurist in Porter County is winding down. I would like to think that before I depart, I have begun the most challenging of problem solving courts there can be. A problem-solving court involving the mentally ill will require the most patience, persistence, and energy I can muster and I am willing to try. But this Court won’t work without meaningful input from the team I have assembled. A lot will be asked of them. But just seeing Tammy O’Neill’s enthusiasm for this project invigorates me as a Judge.”


Posted 11/12/2018






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