Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court Program Begins
Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court

Push-button help for addiction?

This week Waukesha County implemented its first of a three year drug treatment court program.

As the cliché “The Wheels of Justice turn slowly but exceedingly fine,” holds that good things take time in the justice arena, so too does it take time to implement a program for admitted drug addicts so they may be excused for their actions relating directly to controlled substances or non-drug offenses resulting from drug abuse.

Not just any accused individual will be eligible for the program, and they don’t simply get off because of their drug addiction.  Those who participate would face as many as three drug tests a week for the first four months and two tests a week after that for up to a year.  Although the guidelines have yet to be completed, District Attorney Brad Schimel, whose office will be the gatekeeper identifying those eligible for the court, stated “This program will have rigorous treatment and monitoring aspects to it.”

As of 2011, 24 other Wisconsin counties (Ashland, Barron, Brown, Burnett, Chippewa, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Kenosha, La Crosse, Marquette, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Pierce, Polk, Racine, Rock, St. Croix, Sawyer, Trempealeau, Washburn, Winnebago, Wood,) had established drug treatment courts for non-violent adult drug abusers.

In June, 2006 Waukesha County began the first alcohol court in the state for repeat drunk drivers.  The program has since been extended and expanded with county funds and an additional grant. It allows participants who have been convicted to get a reduced sentence for successful completion of the program.  Following on that success, the Waukesha Criminal Justice Collaborating Council (CJCC) submitted an application with the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance to fund a drug court, which in October, 2011 was approved.  Under the grant Waukesha County was awarded $350,000 grant to start a specialty court to serve up to 75 non-violent, drug-dependent offenders over the course of three years.

How It Works:

Drug-treatment courts focus on non-violent offenders who enter a plea and agree to participate in the program to receive rigorous drug treatment services pursuant to a signed contract.  Instead of a conviction and sentence, offenders are eligible if their offense relates directly to controlled substances or is a non-drug offense resulting from the defendant’s drug abuse.

Offenders appear regularly before the judge as a group. The judge reviews each case with the treatment providers and district attorney, and discusses each offender’s progress directly with the offender in front of the group. The judge may order the treatment modified or may order sanctions for violating treatment requirements, for example several days in jail. If an offender successfully completes treatment by staying off drugs, district attorney will move to reduce or dismiss the charges as promised in the contract.

Punishment or Treatment?

The debate as to whether an addict should be punished for his or her actions has been debated for centuries.  Nevertheless, as the 25th county in the state of Wisconsin to do so, Waukesha County began its drug treatment court this week to address the growing trend of opiate abuse, both prescription and street drugs, and its impact on crime in our community.

Since the beginning of the war on drugs in the 1980’s, the United States’ prison population has more than quadrupled.  While a policy of imprisonment hasn’t put a dent in this nation’s illicit drug problem, it has created the problem of overflowing prisons – a burden that citizens and taxpayers shoulder with no hope of recidivism.

The drug treatment court will be administered by the Hon. William J. Domina, the same judge who administers the Waukesha County Alcohol Treatment Court.

Hats off to the Waukesha County for their great efforts to combat crime and improve public safety, while maybe saving the life of someone who deserves a second chance…

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