Treatment Courts as Practical Success Stories

Treatment courts, whether for drunk driving or drug abuse, have been successful in jurisdictions across the country.  Counties from coast to coast – red or blue – have seen positive outcomes from judicially-overseen treatment programs.  Despite this, there’s been opposition to a drug treatment court in rural Walworth County, sadly beset by addictions of various kinds.  In this, Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld is simply an outlier against a practical trend toward programs like this (an outlier, where being an outlier amounts to doctrinaire obstinacy). The argument against a drug treatment court in Walworth County is evidence of backwardness and ignorance.  See Scenes from the Alabama Walworth County Legal System and Walworth County D.A. Wiedenfeld’s Charging Push.

After the Great Recession, places like Walworth County have faced the same choices as counties like Waukesha: what to do in times of declining public resources, working population decline, and brain drain? Both of these counties are conservative, but their choices have been different.  A place like Waukesha, that was doing relatively well before the Recession, has stayed more prosperous by staying practical.  A place like Walworth County, that wasn’t doing as well, has worsened its injuries and exacerbated its problems. See Walworth County Average or Below Average in Health of Residents, Influences Contributing to Health, Majority of Walworth County’s Renters are Rent-Burdened, and Walworth County’s Working Poor.

People choose freely, sometimes well, sometimes poorly.  The price for communities that choose poorly is sometimes painfully high.

Andrea Anderson reports on an OWI Treatment Court, A Program That ‘Changes Lives’ (‘Wisconsin’s First OWI Court Opened To Participants In 2006’):

Cassy Rivers remembers nearly everything that happened Aug. 16, 2017.

That day she was driving to a hospital in Oconomowoc to see her husband when she got turned around.

She pulled into the driveway of a home and asked a couple where the hospital was. Instead they asked if they could take her there, and she agreed.

While in the hospital room about an hour later she was arrested by a Waukesha County deputy for her third OWI.

Her blood alcohol content was 0.34 percent. Wisconsin’s legal limit is 0.08 percent.

“I can tell you I remember most of the night, that just shows you the tolerance I had, and that just didn’t happen overnight. That was years of heavy drinking,” Rivers said.

More than a year-and-a-half later, Rivers calls that third offense a blessing and a turning point because it brought her to the Waukesha County OWI Treatment Court, a treatment program she said has helped her piece her life back together.

OWI treatment courts are known as problem-solving courts. They work with individuals charged with drugged or drunken driving by combining drug and alcohol treatment and the criminal justice system to give participants the tools to change their lives.

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