Heroin Is Still Huge Problem In County
Sometimes once a month, sometimes only once every quarter, a group comprised of the individuals most directly involved in crime and punishment in Marinette County gather as the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee to discuss options for preventing crimes, administering justice, enforcing laws, and punishing those who violate them in Marinette County.
They met Friday, May 11 in the Jury Assembly Room of Marinette County Courthouse to discuss expanding membership to include Judge Jim Morrison, recently appointed judge of Marinette Circuit Court, Branch II; and to share justice system information, consider proposals for allowing judges the option of a community service program in lieu of fines and/or for use as another condition of probation; discuss electronic monitoring of people on bond for OWI offenses, and hear a report from Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner on model programs from the National Association of Counties Organization (NACO).
They also discussed an investigative report by Robert Hornacek on heroin use in Marinette County that aired in March on Fox News, Channel 11.
I thought it was fair and it was well done, commented Sheriff Jerry Sauve, who added, and the problem continues to exist.
According to that report and figures from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, from 2008 to 2011, the State Crime Lab investigated 52 heroin cases in Marinette County. The report said only six counties in the state had more heroin cases in that time period, with no adjustment for larger populations elsewhere.
There were interviews with some prominent county residents whose children had nearly met their death experimenting with the drug, as well as discussion of how the problem started here and the number of deaths it is known to have caused.
According to the report, Marinette County Coroner George Smith said there were at least five heroin-related deaths in the county in the last year. The report said many of those who died had multiple other drugs in their systems so there was no way to know how many were directly caused by heroin, but the problem is severe enough here that federal investigators have become involved.
Its gone from the traditional inner-city markets to the suburbs and now out into just about any small town and city is probably going to have some type of heroin abuse problem, said James Bohn, the assistant special agent in charge of the DEA office in Milwaukee.
Bohn told the TV reporters their focus is to try to stop the sources of supply. They work with state and local agencies all across Wisconsin when they have a heroin problem.
Officers say a packet of heroin no larger than a stick of gum costs about $40 and lasts only a few hours. They say this is a very expensive habit and often users will turn to theft to support it.
Sauve said heroin use isnt only a drug problem, when users need money to keep up their habit they often turn to other types of crimes. We know that its fueled a lot of our property crimes, our thefts and our burglaries, Sauve had told the interviewer.
Judge David Miron told the committee there had been another heroin death in Marinette County earlier that week. He said Door County hasnt had a heroin case yet this year, and Oconto County has had one.
Defense Attorney Bradley Schraven said his office has been busy defending delivery and intent to deliver cases.
Dr. Cannella didnt do us any good, declared Elsner. He was referring to former Menominee physician Dr. Louis J. Cannella, 61, who was indicted July 29, 2007 along with 57 other people, in Western Michigan federal court on charges of illegally prescribing an array of drugs. Cannella is blamed by some for starting, or at least expanding, the illegal drug epidemic in Marinette and Menominee counties.
I think there was one armed robbery here in the 90s, Brey said in the March television interview. Weve had five of them in the last three years. And when we go back and look at what was the motivation, one was an alcohol abuser and the rest were all into narcotics.
A 2007 news report of four persons from the Marinette County area arrested on heroin-related charges quoted then-District Attorney Brent DeBord as saying that Cannella had been running a Dr. Feelgood operation in the area by over prescribing narcotics painkillers to residents, often to teenagers and young adults. He added that addicts often turn to heroin when their prescription runs out and they cant afford to buy the painkillers on the street. They can typically purchase three or four doses of heroin for the price of one dose of a prescription painkiller such as OxyContin, and that kind of demand brought heroin dealers up from Milwaukee and Chicago, DeBord said.
DeBord was quoted as saying that during a 5-month period in 2006 there was a new (heroin) bust every weekend in Marinette County. At the end of 2007 they had about 14 heroin cases going on at one time.
The report also quoted Dave Spakowicz, a special agent with the state Department of Justice who heads the federally funded Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Heroin Initiative, as saying Iron Mountain, Mich., also has very significant heroin problems linked to prescription drug abuse.
He said the drugs come out of Chicago more than from Milwaukee, and travel up I-43 to Marinette and the Upper Peninsula. He cited Madison as another major drug source.
Another report quoted DeBord as saying the heroin storm quieted down in Marinette County after judges began following recommendations for five years in prison for heroin possession, and that information began trickling down to users and dealers.
Hornacek also had interviewed Rob Valentine, a substance abuse counselor with the DHHS, about efforts to mitigate the heroin problem in Marinette County. He mentioned a family drug and alcohol abuse program open to users who are trying to quit and their families.
Elsner told the committee on Friday that the DHHS continues to host the family education series on drug and alcohol addiction. Sessions are held on Monday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. in the basement of the DHHS building at 2500 Hall Ave, Marinette. There is open enrollment, so anyone can start attending the continuing 6-week rotation sessions at any time. The only restrictions are that anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent, and no one under age 12 is allowed.
Were all trying to eliminate this problem, Schraven declared.
Elsner suggested his department might also run another community forum like one held a few years ago at UW-Marinette. He said the family program is very good, and helps family members cope with the problems they face.
Judge Miron said the court system continues to handle a lot of burglaries perpetrated by people stealing to get money for heroin. Law enforcement people on the committee agreed the number of break-ins in the county has risen drastically in recent years, most likely due to the heroin problem.
Turning to other subjects, the committee learned educational programs for inmates remain popular with correctional officers, judges and prisoners, although the jail population currently includes no high school students.
Jail Program Officer Ellen Hanneman reported the judges are now giving sentence credit for inmates who complete some of the jail programs and earn their GED.
Any certificate program earns one day, the three week work certified program earns three days, and each GED test earns a day, with another two for completing, two more for achieving honors or three more for high honors. If an individual is not eligible to earn time off, no time is given. Those ineligible are Child Support Sanctions and Probation Sanctions. Currently earned credit stands at 15 days for program completion and 30 days for GED completion.
Hanneman said there have been 34 GED tests taken since March 8, with eight more completions, two of which were high honors, making a total of 10 completions so far this year. Data shows as education goes up, recidivism of prisoners goes down. At a previous meeting she thanked Jail Officer Cathi Malke of Peshtigo for her help on the recidivism study.
The Job Center is currently doing a Work Certified for older youth, aged 18 through 21, and eight students are enrolled.
Two inmates are doing community service work at Badger Park in Peshtigo, and two are working at Habitat for Humanity projects, with more to be sent next week for another house project sponsored by Habitat.
Hanneman thanked the officers for getting inmates to programs on time.
Sheriff Sauve thanked Hanneman and everyone involved in county government for their help, particularly for approval of the two new positions at the jail. We really run a city within a city there, he commented.
Judge Miron informed the committee Judge Morrison has an interest in becoming a member, and added, Its certainly appropriate. He suggested it would also be appropriate to add Veterans Service Officer William Kowalski, since so many of the issues we deal with now involve veterans.
The committee currently is allowed 14 voting members. County Board members are paid their regular per diem and citizen members receive $28 per diem, and both are paid the IRS approved mileage. Salaried county employees serving by virtue of their positions receive no extra pay, so including Judge Morrison and Kowalski would add no extra costs.
There was some discussion on changing the ordinance to increase the number of voting members. Judge Morrison said he did not care about voting, but did want to participate in discussions when issues come up, not just as part of public comment.
District Attorney Allen Brey noted there have been problems getting a quorum and felt adding members would help. He also suggested allowing members to send substitutes when they are unavailable. Main members, he felt, should be the judges, sheriff and district attorney.
Supervisor Ken Keller, who chairs the Law Enforcement Committee, suggested allowing substitutes to vote might not be good, since they would not have been involved in previous discussions and might not have the necessary background information.
Sauve felt that would not be a problem, since the group rarely deals with contentious issues and is advisory in any case.
County Administrator Ellen Sorensen, who serves as committee chair, said the consensus appeared to be in favor of the changes suggested. She will ask Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison to draw up proposed ordinance changes to be considered by County Board.
Current members are Sorensen, Sauve, Miron, Supervisor Cheryl Wruk, Child Support Officer Corina Dionne, Probation and Parole Officer Bobbi Christopherson, Brey, Elsner, Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke-Marquardt, Public Defender Bradley Schraven, Marinette City Police Chief John Mabry, Jail Administrator Bob Majewski and citizen member Bryan Peth.
CESA 8 Director Dr. Robert Kellogg, who formerly filled the educator slot on the committee, had resigned at the last meeting. Since the committee must have an educator on board, Marinette High School Principal Corry Lambie will most likely be named to replace him. Majewski said Lambie, who was present for Fridays meeting, works closely with the jail staff when there are high school student inmates, and whenever they have young adults who should be in school. Lambie appeared willing to serve, and Sorensen asked him to submit a letter of interest to be brought up at the next meeting.
On the subject of allowing judges to sentence offenders to community service in lieu of jail time in some instances, Judge Miron said there had been much discussion between himself, Morrison and Brey on the fact that for people with little or no money, getting a fine can end up being a vicious circle. The amounts they owe keep going up, but there is little or no chance the fines ever will be paid. Eventually they may be picked up on a warrant and go to jail, but that still doesnt take care of their problem since they then get hit with the $30 per day fee for room and board at the jail.
He felt with community service, at least we get something back into the community.
Brey said a problem for him is that administration would probably be through his office. He said the goal of most defense attorneys is to keep their clients out of jail, and did not favor fully substituting community service for jail time when punishment is due, but would not mind that in combination with jail or instead of fines in some cases. He added in some cases, particularly for teenagers where family would just pay the fine, community service might be more effective because the culprit would need to report in person.
A lot of people dont mind sitting in jail, commented Majewski. I think this is a really good thing...let them know what its like to work. He also felt that for young people, parents usually pay the fine rather than see their child go to jail, but they might be willing to make them work.
Morrison said Probation and Parole people will supervise community service as an adjunct to probation.
A sub committee consisting of Morrison, Miron, Dumke-Marquardt and Schraven will look into how community service sentencing options work elsewhere and how they could work in Marinette County. Sorensen will collect information from other counties.
Majewski presented information on a 3M alcohol monitoring bracelet system that could be effective and affordable for local OWI offenders.
There was mention of a $3 per day cost for the bracelet, and questions as to whether this was in addition to the $30 per day jail fee they would be paying if they stayed in jail, or instead of it.
Miron said in this case, paying the bracelet rental would be a condition of release and they would have to pay the fee to stay out of jail, just as they have to pay the bond.
There are already disparities between people with money and good jobs or those who are poor or unemployed, Schraven commented, but he felt if $3 per day was the actual cost, that would be affordable for a lot of people.
There will be more information collected and future discussions on the possibilities.
Also set for future discussion is a program through which inmates could communicate with approved family members and friends via computers, which Elsner suggested could improve the family connections that are important in preventing inmates from repeating the behavior that put them in jail in the first place. He suggested this would be something for Majewski to explore as an alternative to the very expensive telephone system through which inmates can contact families and friends who pay for it.
Schraven many of his clients who have been out of contact with their families do reconnect while they are jailed, and this program would be another, and possibly less costly means for them to do that.
Families would pay a fee for the privilege of visiting via Internet.
Majewski felt this might be a very good alternative for those who live far away.
Sorensen suggested they all explore the idea and see how it could work. She said the county currently is going through an Information Services/computer needs assessment, and this idea could become part of that assessment. She will ask Information Services Director Larry Schultz to look into what would be needed for an Internet visiting program for Marinette County jail inmates.
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