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Drug Courts Continue to Expand

| October 9, 2017

Sauk County Circuit Court recently held a celebration for the first three people to successfully graduate from their drug court as reported by Channel 3000.  Three participants engaged in an 18-month program aimed at reducing their criminal liabilities by focusing on treating the addictions that led to their crimes.

Sauk County, a mid-sized county located northwest of the state’s capital, decided the creation of drug court was a priority in early 2016.  Many Wisconsin counties, like Sauk, have a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council that acts as a sounding board for all the participants in the criminal justice system.  By bringing together the prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, treatment providers, schools, medical providers, and higher education officials, the ability to collaborate innovative approaches to alternative courts and other diversions is streamlined.  It was the recommendations of the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council that provided the blueprint for the drug court and is constantly evaluating again and again the progress to determine best practices.

The program in Sauk County is in its infancy but is hopeful to achieve similar success as other drug courts.  They have good reason to be hopeful.  Some drug courts have operated under grant programs offered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice for the last decade.  Using similar collaborative approaches, drug courts funded by DOJ grants have seen the anticipated positive results.  In addition to funds saved (DOJ estimates it saves $1.96 for every $1.00 spent on programs through reduced incarceration and reduction in future crimes), the similar DOJ programs have seen a reduction in reoffending and a significant drop in prison admissions from participants.  More than 90% of graduates from DOJ drug courts are not admitted to prison within three years of the completion of the program.

Using the collaborative approach to designing drug courts, Sauk County continues the work started in other counties and likewise will influence other jurisdictions in the quest for best practices to successful treatments and alternatives in the criminal justice system.

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THOMAS LYONS entered the legal field after receiving an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and a law degree from Marquette University. Working in offices in Kewaunee and Sheboygan Counties, Tom’s practice focused primarily on criminal defense, juvenile, and mental health law. Switching to the world of policy, Tom started as a legislative aide to a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, followed by a State Senator, and for a brief time Governor Scott Walker before joining Right on Crime on 2017.

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