Wisconsin residents who have been charged with crimes involving drugs have a second chance through drug courts now widely in use across the state. These courts, specifically tailored to the special circumstances of drug offenders, promise to achieve a better outcome through the efforts of coordinated teams of professionals.
History and focus of drug courts
In 2001, Wisconsin had just one drug court. Now there are more than 40. Waukesha County is among the more than 30 counties across the state that has established some kind of drug court over the past decade.
Drug courts may have a specific focus within the communities they serve. Some specialize in juvenile offenders while others serve adults. Still others specialize in veterans or families with multiple issues involving drugs or persons charged with DUIs.
A coordinated effort
The goal all of these Wisconsin drug courts is to correct the underlying problems that contribute to a person’s criminal behavior.
Like all courts, drug courts draw on the expertise of prosecution and defense attorneys, judges, probation personnel and law enforcement professionals. The difference is that these courts also bring in drug treatment professionals, social workers, county board officials and others who know how to work with people who have drug problems.
Drug courts are problem-solving courts. Each person who appears in drug court enters a program that provides drug treatment and requires accountability. Frequent follow-up court appearances and random drug testing are scheduled to measure progress. Those who are on track are rewarded for their progress, while those who lapse are subject to sanctions, disapproval and peer pressure to do better.
Wood County’s drug court, which was initiated in 2007, recently held a graduation ceremony to honor graduates who had successfully completed its program. Enthusiastic about the positive changes in their lives, these people look forward to being more productive citizens of Wisconsin.
According to a study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, from 2007 through 2010, 56 percent of those who completed the Wood County drug court program were not arrested again. Over time, this percentage may rise closer to the national rate of 75 percent, as estimated by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Besides their potential for changing lives for the better, drug courts are money-savers. The Wisconsin study also showed that every dollar spent on drug court programs resulted in a savings of $1.93 in the costs of incarceration. Nationwide, some drug courts save up to $27 for every dollar invested in drug programs, according to the NADCP.
Anyone facing drug-related criminal charges in Wisconsin can ask a criminal defense attorney for help in entering the drug court system. An experienced Wisconsin attorney will know how to achieve the best results for each client and can help coordinate an individualized drug court treatment program if one is established.