TAD Drug Court To Celebrate 5th Anniversary In SeptemberIssue Date: July 25, 2019
As they do four times a year, a group of Marinette County's leading law enforcement professionals got together at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 19 for the quarterly meeting of the Criminal Justice Information Sharing Committee. They gather to share information about the effectiveness of programs they are working on, and explore ideas for solving present problems and improving things with future programs.
Many of the programs they have promoted were and are aimed at reducing jail population and repeated criminal activity by treating drug addictions and mental health problems and providing counseling and educational programs for jail inmates and offenders on probation and parole in hopes that they will not re-offend. Often those programs have proven successful.
Among the success stories are the Treatment and Drug Court (TAD), and the educational program for jail inmates in which Marinette County was a pioneer. The new Mental Health Court is up and running, but it is too soon to see results.
Sergeant Joe Moser, Inmate Education and Programs Director for Marinette County Jail, reported that four inmates are currently involved in the adult education program. So far in 2019, 51 GED tests were administered for inmates, with 43 percent receiving a passing score. Eight individuals completed their GED requirements while incarcerated this year. "Gary Johnson (GED Instructor in the jail for NWTC) does a great job!" Moser declared.
Since it is summer there currently are no high school educational services provided, but during the school year underage inmates get to take high school classes.
Moser reported that in early June he and Johnson had spoken at the annual Correctional Education Association conference in Elkhart Lake. Their breakout session focused on strategies to assist correctional facilities on GED completion and identifying strategies to assist students while they are incarcerated.
On Monday, June 10 three students who received their diplomas from the jail, along with their friends and families, attended the annual graduation ceremony for GED students on the NWTC Marinette Campus, Moser was pleased to report.
"Lots of credit for the success of the GED program goes to our Public Defenders," Judge Jim Morrison commented. Morrison said he knows the defenders tell their clients that completing that GED will look good on their records. Bradley Schraven, who represents public defenders on the committee, agreed that getting or working toward the GED is very good for them.
Everyone agreed that completing GED requirements helps inmates get paying jobs after they are released from jail, and some commented that often is enough to get them to turn their lives around and not re-offend.
"That one accomplishment alone has paid huge dividends," Sheriff Jerry Sauve declared.
In regard to other jail programs, Moser reported the next OWI Victim Impact Panel is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 1, with Jeff Niesen and Melissa Martinez speaking.
They have not facilitated an anger management program for this year, but Moser hopes they can do that when the new mental health worker becomes more familiar with the materials.
In June they hosted another AODA program for 10 female inmates, and seven completed the program. To date this year they had 20 participants complete the program, which is facilitated by "Off The Couch Wellness."
There are also programs on domestic violence facilitated by Rainbow House, a female self esteem program facilitated by Jail Volunteer Gail Wanek, and a financial management program for personal finances facilitated by Stephenson National Bank and Trust.
On a happy note, Moser said he has had contact from a previous repeat offender who had spent years being in and out of jail, and then about 10 years ago turned his life around and has not been back. He wants to come to the jail and speak with inmates from the viewpoint of someone who has been there, Moser said.
Moser reported the jail has been able to provide the Marinette County Maintenance Department and the City of Peshtigo Parks Department with inmates for community service projects sparingly throughout the spring and summer but due to lack of eligible inmates they have not been able to assist previously approved community service sites such as the Salvation Army and Riverside Cemetery Group.
Goodwill Industries has been receiving assistance from one inmate in the community service program and has expressed interest in hiring the individual full time once the jail time is done.
There were comments that programs through which minor offense prisoners are released on monitoring bracelets and Sober Link, as well as TAD and now Mental Health Court are reducing the number who are eligible to leave the jail for community service work.
Sheriff Sauve said in prior years a program in which jail inmates did roadside cleanup work along county highways proved very popular, but right now they do not have enough jail staff to go out and supervise them. "If and when we ever get enough jail workers again we will again do the roadside cleanup," Sauve promised.
Jail Administrator Robert Majewski, who chairs the committee, reported that average jail inmate count in June was 119.4, down from a high of 136.97 in 2013. On June 29 there were a total of 115 jail inmates, 89 of them males and 26 females. Capacity, depending on gender, is about 166. When there are too many prisoners the county is forced to have them housed at other facilities, at considerable cost to Marinette County taxpayers.
Of the 53 prisoners awaiting sentencing, 51 are facing felony sentences and to misdemeanors. The offenses include four felony OWI counts, one misdemeanor OWI, two operating after revocation, three fleeing, one possession with intent of non-narcotics, four for intent to deliver meth, 11 for possession of meth, two for possession of heroin, one each for manufacturing and delivering heroin, possession of meth paraphernalia, possession of coke, possession of child porn, ZID theft, felon with a firearm, failure to support, strangulation, threats to a law enforcement officer and resisting or obstructing an officer. Four are jailed for child support, four for bail jumping, four for burglary, two for sexual assault of a child, and two for homicide.
Majewski said as usual the majority of inmates are jailed for OWI and alcohol related offenses. The other big one is Meth. There also is an increase in people in jail with mental problems, and they have had a lot of inmates with other health issues.
Judge Morrison commented that using Meth does not help people stay healthy.
The jail has 10 people out on Sober Link.
Morrison asked if there had been complaints from any of them about false positive readings. He said a person who had been in his court for a violation after 10 years of sobriety had told him she had three false positive hits this winter.
District Attorney DeShea Morrow said some things can cause a false reading, for example mouthwash used too close to the test time, but in that case they need to test again in a specified time. If mouthwash was the problem the reading will drop sharply. If it was alcohol, the reading will also be down, but not as much.
Majewski said he had not heard of any complaints about the SoberLink. Schraven said the same. Everyone seemed to agree the company is very good about providing service when needed, checking out problems and keeping things working.
Judge Morrison, who had been among the primary movers for both the TAD and the Mental Health Court programs, reported that in September TAD will celebrate its 5th anniversary. TAD's first Drug Court session with participants was in September of 2014.
There have been 20 graduates, and the program is currently at its capacity of 20 participants, with one more on the waiting list. He said they cannot take more than 20, and the process is somewhat slow because it is very, very intensive.
Morrison said in the five years TAD has been in progress there were 7 or 8 babies born sober to addicted mothers who would otherwise been abusing drugs while they were pregnant Morrison has said previously each baby born drug-addicted costs society more than a million dollars, so for that reason alone the program has ben highly successful.
Another plus is that the 20 graduates, although not all of them remained sober, had gotten jobs and earned paychecks, many of them for the first time in their lives.
"Failures are always going to exist," Morrison declared, "but overall it's been a highly successful program!"
To questions from Morrison, TAD Coordinator Sara Plansky-Pecor said the celebration is planned for noon on Monday, Sept. 23.
Morrison was very pleased with the progress of Mental health Court, which is one of only five Mental Health Courts in Wisconsin, and only a handful in the nation.
"Our team is incredibly talented and diverse," Morrison declared. Among team members is Psychiatrist Dr. Guy Powers, who Morrison said had been at every planning session for the Mental Health Court and continues to attend every session. He said no other Mental Health Court has that sort of commitment from a psychiatrist, and his participation also shows the commitment that Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner has to the program.
Morrison said they have 12 very talented people involved in setting up the Mental Health Court and recommended they organize some retreat-type training in order not to waste that talent.
He noted the law enforcement people and Health and Human services people have different mind sets toward mental health problems, and they need to work together. "This isn't treatment facility, it is a court facility that uses treatments in its program. He said for example there are people with mental health problems that the court will not be able to help, but the can, for example, help a paranoid-schizophrenic who is not taking his medications.
Back to the TAD program Morrison said alumni TAD members are extremely helpful, and there have been some really great success stories. They volunteer to work with people coming into the TAD program, sponsor them at AA, and provide moral support when needed.
Majewski commented there are currently six Mental Health Court participants, 10 jail inmates out on SoberLink and 20 TAD participants. He noted if it were not for these programs they would all be in jail,which would put the inmate count at 160 and they would be needing to board them at other jails in other counties, at great expense to Marinette County taxpayers (There also had been talk during the high head counts about five years ago of needing to build a new jail pod. Right now that doesn't appear likely to be needed.)
"Not only are these programs good for the people involved, they are good for the taxpayers!" Majewski declared.
Morrow said thank to good law enforcement her office has been very busy, and thanks to the programs the system can handle the results.
Schraven commented that even the "failures" are not totally failures. He said some who fell out of the program and went to prison came out of prison with the tools they need because they had been in drug court, and were able to have contact when they got out with people who could help them. He believes many who came out of prison will not be re-offending because of things they gained through drug court.
Morrison said nationally it takes five tries for people addicted to drugs or alcohol to quit, and commented, "You never know how much good you do."
Sauve told of a previous repeat offender who kept coming back to jail, and then, "All of a sudden he had an awakening, and now he's helping others!"
State Probation and Parole Officer Julie Krause reported Attic Correction Services had been awarded a new contract on July 1, to work with parolees needing treatment for substance abuse. She said under the new contract they will get AODA assessments and Attic, not her department, will decide what track they should be placed in. She felt this is an improvement.
What to do with juvenile law breakers has been an ongoing problem for Marinette County and many others. Marinette County has no secure detention facility for juveniles. They have been placing them in the Sheboygan County facility, and bringing them back and forth for court appearances costs about a full day of an deputy's time.
The closest thing Marinette County has is Share Academy in the Town of Peshtigo, which is a residential center, not a secure facility. It recently re-opened and Elsner said it is at its capacity of eight - five males and three females.
Marinette County previously had discussions with Brown County about the possibility of Brown County building a regional juvenile detention center in which Marinette County and others in the area could rent space. Morrison said he had spoken recently with Brown County people who "remain quite interested in expanding their facility to serve us," but right now they are struggling with their county budget. He said Share Academy is a great facility, but it is not secure. The state had planned to close the two existing facilities - Lincoln Hills for boys and Copper Lake for girls - and build smaller institutions in scattered parts of the state. However, bids had come in 250 to 300 times higher than anticipated, so that program is on hold.
Meanwhile, Marinette County continues to use the Sheboygan County detention Center, "as much as necessary but as little as possible."
Morrison commented these are juveniles who are incarcerated for some very serious crimes. He attributed the huge increase in juvenile law breaking in recent years to two factors - one being the total breakdown of families, and the other the availability of drugs. He said he cannot remember the last time he saw a juvenile in his court that had a mother and father who were married and lived together with their family. He also said virtually every juvenile convicted of a felony has a history of using booze or marijuana and/or childhood trauma before the age of 15.
Elsner said Marinette County has two juveniles in Lincoln Hills at a cost that is over $400 a day and will be $600 a day by the end of 2020.
Morrison said the problem - and the cost - could get worse. Currently 17 year olds are considered adults, not juveniles, for criminal purposes, and there is a push on to make that age 18. If they are handled as adults and convicted they go to prison, and the state pays the bills. If they are convicted as juveniles they go to Lincoln Hills, and the county pays.
When setting up the agenda for the next meeting Majewski suggested including discussion on use of Vivitrol for jail inmates convicted of OWI offenses. He said if they can start treatments in jail they might see a drop in the number who come back to jail for re-offending. At the April Criminal Justice Information Sharing Committee meeting Nicholas had done a presentation on the benefits of combined counseling and medication to treat opiate and alcohol addictions.
At the start of the meeting Sheriff Sauve had introduced Lindsey Lesperance, who was taking minutes for the first time in her role as his newly appointed Secretary. She replaces Faye Olsen, who retired.
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