Officials: Rock County Drug Court saves lives, money

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Ted Sullivan
Saturday, November 13, 2010
— Rock County Drug Court is turning lives around, saving the county money and reducing the need for jail beds, officials said.

“It is changing lives and saving lives,” Judge Richard Werner said. “It’s amazing to watch the transformation.”

Drug court started in April 2007 to provide offenders with alcohol or drug treatment, life skills and other needs to prevent them from committing new crimes. Offenders who graduate have their criminal charges reduced or dismissed.

About 246 offenders have started the program, with 110 people graduating. Of those, 10 graduates have re-offended, said Elizabeth Pohlman McQuillen, Rock County criminal justice planner and analyst.

The numbers show the program’s success, but seeing graduates clean, employed and mending broken relationships is most important, Werner said. For example, seven pregnant graduates have given birth to drug-free babies.

“We have a less than 10 percent recidivism rate, which is quite a bit lower than the national average,” he said.

About 85 people have been terminated from Drug Court for committing new crimes, substance abuse or breaking other guidelines, Pohlman McQuillen said. Fifty-one people are currently in the program.

“Some people aren’t ready to lead a substance-free life. They don’t grab the opportunity,” Werner said. “We don’t expect we’re going to reach everybody.”

The number of jail days avoided because of drug court totals more than 21,500, Pohlman McQuillen said.

Neil Deupree, chairman of the Rock County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, said the program has the county’s full support after early skepticism. He said drug court has been so successful that the county might start an alcohol court.

“The thing that appeals to me about it is it is dealing with individuals at the root of the problem, rather than dealing with symptoms or just the results of what’s happened to them,” he said. “It’s really trying to get at what’s causing the issue.”

Werner said the program’s case managers and team should be credited for its success. He said the Rock County Board also has been supportive.

Last updated: 3:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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