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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County To Seek State Grants For Alternate Drug Sentencing

Hopefully by this time next year Marinette County will have local treatment options available for minor drug offenders. Hopefully by this time next year there will be a Drug Court functioning which can order and supervise treatment in the community for drug abusers. Hopefully the population of the Marinette County jail will have started to go down, and Marinette County will have begun to lose its dubious distinction of ranking first in the state in the percentage of heroin abusers and suicides related to drug abuse.

All these hopes led the county’s Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to authorize Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner, Community Services Supervisor Rob Valentine and Judge James A. Morrison to apply to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for funds to establish a Drug Court and a Treatment and Alternatives Diversion (TAD) program to go with it. They are to write the grant application with the help of County Administrator Ellen Sorensen, who chairs the Criminal justice Coordinating Committee and is another vocal supporter of the Drug Court and the TAD program that goes with it.

Deadline for submission is Thursday, Oct. 17, and decisions are expected from the state in December. After that, local efforts could get underway to set the programs in motion. Elsner said he expects to seek $200,000 to $250,000 for the two programs.

Tuesday morning’s decision was supported by all committee members present, and came after intense discussion at their regular monthly meeting on Friday, Sept. 13, at the Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Monday, Sept. 11, at a state Department of Justice grant writing workshop last week and at various meetings for the past several months, particularly since Marinette County’s growing drug problem drew the attention in the national news media several weeks ago.

The only reservations were voiced by District Attorney Allen Brey and Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke Marquardt. Both said they believe in the Drug Court program, but their offices cannot handle any additional work load without additional staff. Judge Morrison assured them the grant application will include provisions for extra help for their offices.

“I have a permanent staffing deficit in my office,” Brey declared. I simply cannot offer to do any more work in my office. We have nothing left to give!” He said victims of crimes are waiting six months or more to see the offender brought to court. He lost an administrative secretary in his office months ago, and in the 2014 budget process he had sought another person for his office, but that request was rejected by Sorensen. “She said it was not justified!” Brey declared.

Dumke-Marquardt said although she thinks the programs are very good, her office too cannot handle additional work without additional help. She noted participants in Drug Court will pay a $700 fee and there may be other costs involved. Her office likely would need to collect and track those fees, as well as provide court reporters and maintain files. All that means more work, and her office too is already under staffed.

Morrison agreed both she and the District Attorney will need more help and assured them that will be part of the grant. He said Sorensen has indicated to him that in two years the county should be able to provide help for his office and Dumke-Marquardt’s, particularly if the jail population does indeed decline.

At a recent Towns Association meeting Morrison had reported it costs $70,000 a year to house a female prisoner at Tayceedah state prison, $35,000 a year for male prisoners at a state correctional institute, and $80,000 a year to send a youngster to Lincoln Hills - “more than it would cost to send him to Harvard.”

Morrison said the state, with only nine Drug Courts in force, is already saving $11 to $12 million a year in prison costs.

He noted that Ellen Hanneman also came to the jail on a grant program, and her work in educating prisoners so they become employable has proven highly valuable.

Elsner said even though initial funding will be for only two years, it is a 5-year grant program, “and with the Attorney General’s office behind it, I don’t see it going way soon, especially with John Nygren also behind it.”

Elsner and Valentine will be doing most of the preparation work for the applications. Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, chairing the meeting in Sorensen’s absence, asked them to meet separately with Brey and Dumke-Marquardt to determine their needs. Brey suggested there are economies of scale, and if he had a full time legal secretary, he might be able to manage.

The decision to go forward with the grant applications with 100 percent support of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee will be forwarded to the Law Enforcement and the Health and Human Services Committees in a quest for their blessings as well. Approval is expected.

Sorensen has said she expects Health and Human Services to be the lead agency, since they will be in charge of treatments. They will be working with the state Department of Corrections as well as the courts and law enforcement.

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting Judge Morrison reported that he, Elsner and Valentine had learned the details of the programs at a day-long conference they attended at the Attorney General’s office in Madison on Friday, Aug. 23 on “TAD” and “Smart Sentencing.”

He said the two-pronged approach is aimed at non-violent offenders who are committing crimes because of their addictions, not necessarily those charged with drug-related crimes.

TAD is pre-trial intervention, in which offenders could receive suspended sentences in return for participation in some very intense, difficult programs. Drug Court is for people who have been convicted of non-violent offenses but might be returned to society as productive citizens if their addictions are addressed.

Reports are that of the 107 Marinette County residents currently in the Marinette County jail, 33 are there for offenses directly related to the more minor type of drug offenses that could qualify for TAD.

“If less people come to jail I would be very happy,” declared Majewski, who is jail administrator for the Sheriff’s Department.

Both Morrison and Judge Dave Miron have frequently expressed frustration over having to sentence fairly minor offenders to prison because there are no local treatment alternatives available. Those sentences have proven totally ineffective in preventing repeat offenses, Morrison said.

Committee discussions stressed that 100 percent of drug addicts who serve costly jail and prison terms repeat offenses shortly after they get out and are back in the system again.

By contrast, 50 to 60 percent of offenders handled through TAD and Drug Court alternatives successfully turn their lives around.

Judge Morrison feels Marinette County has a good chance of getting its grant applications approved. Representative John Nygren chair of the Assembly’s Finance Committee, strongly supports setting the two programs up here. Marinette County last week was the first area in the state to have a training session for the grant applications. At that training they were advised to apply for both grants. The grants are for five years, but funding is awarded for only two years at a time because the state has a bi-annual budget. Funding for the full five years is anticipated, after which it is anticipated that the county can support the programs with savings realized by the number of prisoners diverted from jail.

The drug court grant does not require any local matching funds. The TAD grant requires a 25 percent local match, but that can be in the form of work by county employees or use of county facilities.

He said the grants are an opportunity for Marinette County to jump start the Drug Court and the TAD programs, which he believes will benefit everyone.

Elsner distributed a sample program from Wood County, which he said, “lays it out well.”

Committee members also received a Drug Court flow chart showing how persons arrested move through the system, subject to reports from the Sheriff’s Department, prosecutor (District Attorney) review, and team staffing with District Attorney approval. Team Staffing will be done by the TAD Coordinating Committee, which he expects will be essentially made up of current members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

The defendant can accept or decline the program, and Morrison noted the requirements are so stringent that many do choose to simply serve their jail or prison terms rather than comply. Daily testing and counseling are required. Defendants must either have a 40-hour per week job or put in 40 hours per week of community service, and they must remain drug free. Only persons found to have drug addictions are eligible.

Sorensen has said that the Health and Human Services Committee will be the committee of jurisdiction over the TAD and Drug Court program, “which has a case management philosophy versus a law enforcement philosophy.”

“We have to do something, and this is where it starts,” Sorensen said at the meeting on Sept. 13. “They need treatment so they can become good citizens of our community.”

Both Morrison and Elsner stressed repeatedly that the TAD and Drug Court programs are only for non-violent individuals who are at moderate to high risk to re-offend if nothing is done. They said emphatically that the programs are not for “king pin drug dealers,” armed robbers, or anyone who participates in a violent crime. Addicts who sell minor amounts of drugs, or perhaps commit thefts and break-ins to support their habits are eligible. Large-scale drug dealers are not.

Assessment may be by an ADAPT team, likely through the state-supported COMPASS program, as recommended by State Probation and Parole Officer Bobbie Christopherson. She said the state provides free training and uses the system, so notes from her office would already be in there.

“Part of the idea is to knock down the silos,” she said. “To be sure there is transparency, so all facets of the criminal justice system can see what the others are doing.”

Elsner said he had no problem with the COMPASS system, but Morrison noted others present do, and that was a detail that can be worked out. Meanwhile, the goal is to get recidivism down from 100 percent to hopefully 50 percent.

Elsner said the TAD Coordinating Assessment Team will most likely be made up of all members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. They are Sorensen, Morrison, Majewski, Brey, Dumke-Marquardt, Elsner, Sheriff Jerry Sauve, County Board Member Paul Gustafson, Citizen Member Bryan Peth, Christopherson, School District Representative Corry Lambie, Public Defender Bradley Schraven, Marinette City Police Chief John Mabry, and Child Support Director Corinne Dionne. In general, the appointments are for the position, not the person.

Peth noted the dug problems are starting younger and younger, and wondered if there would be funding for programs in the schools. Morrison said part of the grant is for prevention, and there will be work with the schools. Marinette Community Foundation, Teen Courdt and a local community task force are already lined up to help.

“There are substantial things we can offer kids, but there is absolutely nothing in place here for adults,” Christiansen declared.

The program will not be for OWI offenders, at least not at the start. It is specifically aimed at drug-related offenders. Eventually an alcoholism component could be added.

Dumke-Marquardt asked about cooperation with Menominee County, and Morrison said they will do that to an extent, but the grants are supposed to be aimed at Wisconsin residents. They may contract for some residential care, and perhaps will need a halfway house.

Valentine, from the audience, said the focus is to empty jails and prisons of people who are low risk to the community and help them get off drugs or prevent them from starting.

Dumke-Marquardt told of a lady in court for cocaine possession with intent to sell. She was 32 years old and had been an addict for over 15 years. She functions to an extent and has never committed a violent crime, but she was sentenced to prison. Morrison said she would be a classic case of someone they would be able to work with through drug court or TAD, “but there is nothing in the system now to help her.”

Brey said he has spoken with presenters where programs like the ones they were discussing had been explained. He said the Hudson/St. Croix County program, set up to deal with a meth/amphetamine problem, was probably the first of its kind in the state. The District Attorney there came up with the idea and it has proven highly successful. Despite the problems his office may face, Brey declared, “This is a good program. I will be supporting it. It should work!”.

He said St. Croix/Hudson has a full time attorney on the Drug Court. “On the Drug Court side the work is intensive,” he said. “They do a complete review every day, at half an our per individual, or perhaps more.”

Elsner said in Wood County the TAD coordinator does a lot of the preparation work, but the initial review starts with law enforcement.

Successful grant applicants will share in a $1 million pool of money to set up TAD programs and $500,000 for Drug Courts.

Sorensen said at the Sept. 13 meeting that she has asked Elsner to apply for “a Cadillac system,” and if it needs to be cut down, they could do that later.


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