Door County Circuit Judge David Weber gave a presentation to the Door County Board of Supervisors on a treatment court that the recently established Criminal Justice Collaborating Council has been considering instituting in the county.
“We have a group of people who believe this is something we should seriously be looking at and trying to get established,” Weber said, explaining that the council includes District Attorney Colleen Nordin, Door County Sheriff Tammy Sternard, Public Defender Tara Teesch and Door County Human Services Director Joe Krebsbach.
Weber said treatment court aims to place people who have mental illness and/or are addicted to drugs under high supervision, with daily drug testing and contact, and a weekly court visit to check on their status. The idea is to break the cycle of addiction.
Weber said the only option he and his colleague Judge D. Todd Ehlers have when an addict’s probation is revoked is to send the individual back to jail or prison.
“Evidence shows us that doing that is not a very good thing,” he said. “It might protect society for a short period of time, but these people are not having their problems addressed.”
Weber pointed out that this is not a diversion program, and it is not soft on crime. Participants must plead guilty or no contest to the charges they face and take responsibility for what they have done. It is not open to sex offenders or those who have committed violent crimes.
“We as a team have to decide who’s going to get in,” he said.
Weber added that treatment court is not a panacea but is one more tool in the justice system, and that there are 86 treatment courts operating in the state already.
“We think it’s time for this to happen in Door County,” he said.
Weber said two other justice-system tools that Sternard has introduced are working well. One is Operation Fresh Start, a program for Door County residents who are committed to jail for at least 60 days. The program offers alcohol and drug treatment, education about housing and finance, and community service as ways to get time taken off their sentences and re-enter the community with better skills.
The other program is Pathways of Door County, a one-time diversion program for young, low-level offenders.
Weber said the council applied for a treatment-court training grant that was approved by the National Drug Court Association. The training will take place at Stone Harbor April 24-26, and he invited the public to stop in during the training to learn more about the program.