Programs Are Keeping Inmate Numbers Down in County JailIssue Date: April 25, 2019
Thanks to a good economy and the success of programs like Drug Court, Mental Health Court, inmate education programs, and monitored release, the population at Marinette County Jail has been kept to a manageable level, with 103 inmates reported on the latest official count. However, that has created a new problem.
Members of the Marinette County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee were informed at their quarterly meeting on Friday, April 19 that currently there are not enough eligible inmates to fill the requests for community service workers and spring roadside cleanup work. Inmate workers through the community service program were scheduled to start Tuesday, April 23 with the City of Peshtigo Parks Department, weather permitting.
Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, who chairs the committee, said representative of Goodwill Industries had met with jail staff in March to discuss reincorporating their company into the community service program. They had also discussed potential opportunities for inmates to get post-release employment with Goodwill if they were deemed successful while on community service. Those talks will continue.
Sheriff Jerry Sauve reported that County Board Chair Mark Anderson had told him an employer up north wants workers, but most of the 103 current inmates are people who cannot be allowed to leave. He said with the current economy, most of the prisoners with Huber Law privileges are already working. However, he said they will take a look at who else may be allowed out under supervision.
Currently there are 7 inmates released on the SoberLink program and three on electronic monitoring.
About a year and a half ago there was talk about possibly needing to expand the jail. Occupancy was soaring to an average of 145. The jail has 164 beds, but no more than 131 should be used, due to need to keep inmates separated by gender, as well as meet the requirements for handling inmates with special needs, and keeping those who are intolerant or hateful in places they won't interact with each other or other inmates.
Sgt. Joe Moser, head of Inmate Education and Program director for the jail, said he and NWTC Instructor Gary Johnson will be speakers at the Annual Wisconsin CEA Training Conference at Elkhart Lake. "We will be informing members in one of the breakout sessions on some strategies to help improve GED test taking in county jails and also how to improve GED attainment within jails, he said.
Marinette County has been recognized as having one of the most innovative and successful inmate education programs in the state.
Julie Krause, of the state Probation and Parole office, suggested adding life skills to the Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) program offered at the jail. She said numerous studies have shown that there is a greatly reduced rate of recidivism for lawbreakers who earn their GEDs.
Moser reported four adults are currently enrolled in the adult education program. In 2019 26 GED tests were administered, and 20 had passing scores. Six individuals completed their GEDs while incarcerated so far this year. There are currently two high school age students, and one is on schedule to get his high school diploma next month.
He said they continue to run building workshops with multiple inmates meeting with members of the Job Center of Wisconsin to discuss and practice interview skills and other strategies to improve employability along with developing resumes and applying to local jobs.
There are several other programs including a family reunification program with 11 participants.
Child Support Director Suzanne Hinch reported that last month County Board approved the "Children First" program for her office. That approval had been recommended by the Public Services Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, April 9 in a motion recommending that the Administrative Committee approve spending up to $10,000 in 2019 to fund the county's portion of a part-time Children First Case Manager position for the Child Support Office, effective Immediately. There were no negative votes at the county board meeting or the committee meeting.
There is to be an OWI Victim Impact Panel at the Law Enforcement Center on Thursday, May 2, with Mike Knetzger as speaker.
Nicholas Murtha gave a detailed presentation on Vivitrol, how addiction affects the brain and how counseling and medications can be used to help treat opiate and/or alcohol dependence. He said Vivitrol blocks the receptors so there is no euphoric feeling from taking opiates, and a danger is that they may overdose by taking too much in an effort to "get the buzz". It also helps with alcohol addiction but he cautioned that a long term alcoholic will not be cured with a few doses of vivitrol. Combined with counseling and time, it can work if the alcoholic wants to quit.
Community Member Dorothy Sadowski said this is just one piece of a very comprehensive program, for which they would need a partnership and a physician's oversight. A doctor in Shawano County is doing this, she said.
Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner said they have the Vivitrol protocol in place at Anthony House, and Dr. Powers has used it for opioids. District Attorney DeShea Morrow wondered if Marinette County has enough personnel for supervising.
"We have a lot of mental health treatment in this community, but we need more AODA treatment," Elsner said, adding that he is thinking of asking County Administrator John LeFebvre to eliminate a mental health position in his office and create an alcohol counselor position instead.
Elsner reported that Share Academy in the Town of Peshtigo (formerly known as Crossroads) is finally licensed and the first resident was to move in over the weekend. He said in the next few weeks they should have three or four. The maximum is eight. Residents will include males and females, housed on separate floors. There are numerous security cameras in hallways and around the building. There hopefully will be a "swing bed" left open to be used as short-term detention for juveniles who otherwise would need to be transported to facilities in Sheboygan, Fond du Lac or Washington County.
The opening has been a long time coming. The county bought the group home for juveniles from the Group Home Association nearly a year ago, in June of 2018, after being informed that the Marinette County Group Home Association would no longer operate the facility due to liability concerns and staffing difficulties.
The county now contracts with Advocates For Healthy Living to operate the facility, which Advocates leases from the county. The delay was caused by state Group Home licensing issues,
"We're getting to be a mature Drug Court," said Judge James Morrison, who heads both Drug Court and the relatively new Mental Health Court. With him at the meeting was Sara Plansky Pecor, who works with the lawbreakers assigned to the special programs.
There are six participants in Mental Health Court, which is a problem solving court that serves defendants charged with a criminal offense while struggling with serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. It is an 18 to 24 month voluntary program that promotes stability and sobriety through the cooperation and collaboration of the courts, mental health system, and corrections. The program couples judicial reviews with intensive probation supervision including input from a multi-disciplinary team of professionals led by the judge.
Morrison said Marinette County is incredibly fortunate that Dr. Richard Powers, a psychiatrist, meets with them every week. "No other Drug Court has that," Morrison declared.
Drug Court now has 19 successful graduates and an equal number that didn't make it," Morrison said. That is an excellent result, considering that without Drug Court the recidivism rate among addicts is nearly 100 percent.
There are 21 persons in the Drug Court program right now, including one who is coming back from treatment after spending some time in jail. He termed it "incredibly important" that there have been five or six healthy babies born to mothers who were sober because they were enrolled in Drug Court.
Marinette County has been transporting juvenile law breakers to facilities including Sheboygan County and farther, due to lack of closer juvenile detention facilities, and the need for juvenile detention is exploding, Morrison said. He has learned that Brown County is thinking of managing their adult jail population in a way that will allow them to again open their juvenile pod for short term secure detention. He suggested that Marinette County should consider contracting with them for a specific number of beds so we know we have a place for them to go.
Juvenile detention in distant counties is extremely expensive due to time that officers need to spend transporting them to and from the facility for court appearances.
Present for the meeting were County Administrator John Lefebvre, County Board Supervisor Glen Broderick, Majewski, Morrison, Sheriff Sauve, Elsner, Public Defender Brad Schraven, Hinch, MPD Chief John Mabry, Dorothy Sadowski, Morrow, Clerk of Courts Sheila Dudka, School Representative Matt Hanson and Probation & Parole Officer Julie Kraus, Moser, Sara Plansky-Pecor, Fae Olson, Secretary, and members of the news media.
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