Local program keeps low level drug offenders out of prison

By WEEK Producer

November 13, 2013 Updated Nov 13, 2013 at 9:20 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Peoria on Thursday to look at a program to keep low level drug offenders out of prison.

The Pretrial Alternatives to Detention Initiative (PADI) gives drug offenders facing federal charges the option of entering a substance abuse treatment program and an opportunity to improve their lives by finding a job.

The PADI program has been in existence for about 12 years. A small number of participants with non-violent backgrounds are typically selected for the program which requires court monitoring and follow up on the part of the participant.

In 2007, Chantel Hinkle of Peoria was facing 10 years in federal prison under conspiracy drug charges. Hinkle said outside of a prior marijuana charge, she did not have a violent history and chose drug rehab over prison.

“It's like living with your mom, going to school, the only difference is you are an adult you have to report to someone else,” she said. “You have to go to court every two weeks to see Judge Gorman.”

Hinkle suffers with Transverse Myelitis, a rare disease which causes inflammation in the spine. Her health condition has prohibited her from working outside the home. She said after 115 days in rehab she returned to the same Peoria community where she sold cocaine for several years.

"I just don't want to get high. I just don't want to drink. I been clean for so long now, I'm use to the life I live,” she said.

Now she is a full-time mother to a six-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son. Under the PADI program, Hinkle provides reports to federal court and takes random drug tests.

Upon completion of her GED, Hinkle wants to enroll in Illinois Central College. She wants to become a drug counselor for young people.

“There's no future for nobody without education and on drugs they're gonna be somewhere in some rehabilitation needing some help. I want to be the one to help them,” she said.

Hinkle continues to participate in the PADI Program. In January she will celebrate five years of being drug-free.