Graduates of Knox County Drug Court planning to keep late judge’s legacy alive

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KNOX Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Fourteen Knox county residents who struggled with addiction are starting a new chapter, all thanks to the drug court program designed to keep them out of jail.

It is a program called Knox County Drug Court, founded by the late Judge Ryan Johanningsmeier, who died in a plane crash in August.

Kevin Staley and Jeremy Thorne both had personal struggles with addiction. With the program’s help through drug testing, community service and mentorship, they’ve been able to have a fresh start.

“It’s been life changing. So many people have stepped up and supported me. Everybody’s just helped out so much,” Staley said.

They said Johanningsmeier played a large part in their recovery.

“He could have just let me sit in jail for two years and just forgot about me. But he gave me a chance. He let me rebuild my life,” Thorne said.

Drug court has helped more than 100 Knox County residents in four years and they plan to add more.

According to the program’s coordinator, none of it would be possible without the vision of Johanningsmeier.

“He was the one who got the Knox County Drug Court started when others in the community, even other community leaders said it wasn’t possible,” said Joseph Williams.

Th program was founded in 2016.

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