County Is Still Waiting For Word on Drug Court Funds
Statistics continue to show increasing numbers of arrests and jail sentences for drug-related offenses in Marinette County, many of them committed by repeat offenders. Officials involved with law enforcement and criminal justice in the county, as well as personnel of the Health and Human Services Department involved with treating people with problem addictions, believe a proposed Drug Court and locally available drug treatment could help reduce those numbers. Heroin and other opiates are the primary problem drugs at this time, but there are others.
Prospects of receiving a grant to help establish the drug court and TAD treatments in 2014 appear good, according to discussions at a meeting of the Marinette County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee on Friday, Dec. 13.
Members include many of the top law enforcement/criminal justice people in the county - Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Judge James Morrison, District Attorney Allen Brey, Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke-Marquardt, Defense Attorney Bradley Schraven, Health and Human Services Director Robin Elsner, County Administrator Ellen Sorensen, Marinette City Police Chief John Mabry, County Board Supervisor Paul Gustafson, Child Support Director Corina Dionne, Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, Bryan Peth, State Corrections Officer Bobbie Christopherson, Marinette High School Principal Corrie Lambie and Marinette County Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison.
On October 17, with the blessings of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, Law Enforcement Committee and the full County Board, an application was submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Justice for $285,349 in grant funds to help establish a local Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) program and related Drug Court here in 2014.
The required county match of $94,183 is to come mainly from programs and personnel already provided through county departments, according to Sorensen.
Now the county is waiting for an answer. Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee members remain optimistic that the news will be good, although competition is heavy.
The TAD Grant requires a sign-off from the Attorney General, and he hasnt been briefed yet, Judge Morrison told the Committee. The state has $1.5 million to give away in the program, and requests have been submitted for $5 million, Morrison said, but added, Were very hopeful we will get the right answer...Were still on course for where we want to go. He said even if the grant is approved, training and setting up programs will require six to eight months of work before it gets fully underway. Plans are for a two-year program, but a second grant will need to be sought for the second year.
Sorensen said an answer to the initial grant application is expected any day, and the county has a press release drafted, ready to go out as soon as the word comes through. She commented the county had been prepared to submit two separate applications, one for TAD and one for the Drug court, but were advised from Madison to do it as one. Now she wishes they had done it in two parts.
Morrison noted $500,000 of the state funding allocations is for establishment of new Drug Courts, and the proposed Marinette County program would establish a regional Drug Court in cooperation with Brown County that could serve other counties in the area. That portion of the grant does not require a local match. He has been told the countys application is strong, and that Health and Human Services Administrator Robin Elsner did an excellent job on the application.
Sorensen too felt the county has a good chance, because it is a scalable program that could involve all counties in the Eighth Congressional District. She said the neighboring counties dont think they have a drug problem, but the probability is they just arent seeing the percentage of arrests achieved in Marinette County.
Morrison somewhat agreed. Im often asked why Marinette County has such a bad drug problem...I tell them we just have good cops ... Jerry (Sheriff Jerry Sauve) and the Marinette City Police do an excellent job of ferreting it out. He believes other counties may have just as much drug use, but the law breakers are not being arrested as often.
Morrison said of the six or seven felony sentencings waiting on his calendar between now and Christmas, all but one involves drugs, and that one is for an OWI, So I guess drugs are involved in all of them.
There also have been a higher than average number of drug-related deaths in Marinette County in recent years.
The drug related crimes add to all costs connected with law enforcement, from the arresting officers to the Clerk of Courts to the District Attorneys Office, to the courts and finally to the jail or the state prison system.
Lives can be saved, commented Sheriff Sauve. And for the price of one autopsy, one person can go through the whole process of the TAD and Drug Court system!
District Attorney Brey was disappointed that the grant application did not include any additional resources for his office. He said he has learned two things from speaking with District Attorneys in counties that have drug programs - first, that the programs work and are worthwhile, and second, that they will take more resources from his office.
I dont have any more to give! Without additional resources, I wont be able to participate, Brey told the committee. Im overwhelmed! He said there are 170 people waiting for him to review complaint files, some of them since April. I wont have my victims wait for more than a year for justice...Its unconscionable! he declared. He said taking care of those victims would have to come first.
Brey said for the last two years he had requested additional help at budget time, and both times he was turned down. He said Linda Dumke Marquardts Clerk of Courts office and the judges also have much heavier work loads due to the increasing number of felony arrests, but they also have not been given any extra help.
We have to find a way to make this work, Morrison told him, while agreeing, those are very legitimate concerns. He said the grant funds are flexible, and they can work together to make things happen.
(At a meeting of the County Boards Personnel Committee immediately following the Criminal Justice meeting, Sorensen reported that her LEAN team, made up of county employees trained to ferret out efficiencies that could be introduced into various county operations and departments, is currently mapping the District Attorneys office ...to determine if they do need added staff. She said they are doing the DAs office first, because there is a sense of urgency about that.)
At the start of its meeting, the Criminal Justice Committee had viewed statistics showing the average daily head count in Marinette County Jail had grown from 97.90 in 2005 to 134.02 in 2013, a 68.8 percent increase since 2004. Many of the sentences were directly or indirectly related to drug use.
Discussion turned to administration and oversight of the TAD and drug court programs, and Morrison said counties with drug courts all have an oversight committee that looks an awful lot like this one. He said they may need to ask County Board to change their description and give them oversight authority. Were not trying to reinvent the wheel!
Plans are to cooperate with Brown County on the Drug Court program, and Judge James Zuidmulder is eager to help, Morrison said.
Sorensen said as currently planned, Health and Human Services has fiscal oversight responsibility, but that could be rewritten. She will report back in January.
Christopherson said the Probation and Parole Department is looking at contracting for a day reporting center that the county could buy into as part of their TAD and Drug Court programs.
Sauve reported they recently renewed their housing agreement with Oconto County. In conversations with Sheriff Mike Jansen he had learned they are starting the process of building a new jail, but completion will take several years. By the time it is done, Marinette Countys jail will be overfilled if the current trends continue, and a reverse agreement may be needed, with Marinette Countys prisoner overflow going to the new Oconto County facility.
We need to be a good neighbor and keep that agreement in place, Sauve declared.
Sorensen said an addition to the Marinette County Jail is slated for 2018 on the 5-year capital improvement plan, and she thinks the county will increase the debt levy in 2016.
As much as you plan ahead, once you build it, theyll come, Sauve commented about the increasing demand for jail space.
Sorensen said when the current new Marinette County jail was planned no one foresaw the heroin problem or the changes in state laws that make more jail time mandatory for many offenses.
Jail Administrator Bob Majewski commented that in he old jail most of the prisoners were serving time for drunk driving or participating in a Thursday night pool fight. Now, one entire pod is filled with prisoners sentenced for drug offenses.
Sauve said the state institutions are full and they are seriously looking at again contracting with counties to house their prisoners.
Majewski said the current jail is pretty much filled, but the old jail was built for 44 beds and at the end of its time in 1983 there was an average of 77 prisoners. Beds were welded to the walls, he said, and sometimes prisoners had to sleep on the floor. We had a saying, if you can see the floor, theres room for more!
Morrison and Brey both decried the state pre sentencing reports. Fortunately, we dont have to listen to them, Morrison commented. He said they do a report that describes someone as bad or worse than Attilla the Hun, and then recommend jail and probation. Thats their answer to prison overcrowding, he declared.
Brey said frequently those reports just recommend probation. He said to be bad enough for prison for white collar theft you need steal more than $140,000 from your employer.
He said it is hard for him and the Sheriff to see the victims families and tell there is nothing they can do but let the person go.
There were 39 presentenced inmates in Marinette County Jail on Thursday, Dec. 9 for felony offenses and three for misdemeanor offenses.
One each had been sentenced for homicide, first degree sexual assault, arson, battery, battery DVO related, possession of child pornography, bail revocation, bail jumping, failure to pay, criminal trespass, threat to injure, and a threat to the life of a judge.
Three were being sentenced for felony OWI, two for operating a motor vehicle without the owners consent, three for being felons in possession of a firearm, and four for failure to appear.
Of the 39, 17 were being sentenced on charges directly related to drugs, including four for possession with intent to deliver heroin, one for manufacture of THC, six for manufacture or delivery of heroin, one for possession of cocaine, and two with possession of THC with intent to deliver.
Of the 37 sentenced inmates, 13 were there for misdemeanors and 24 for felonies. Of these, two were headed for Wisconsin state prison, 15 for probation holds, 10 for probation revocations, five for child support offenses, 15 for OWI related offenses, one for theft, one for burglary, one for cruelty to an animal, one for a bomb scare, two for reckless endangerment, and eight for offenses directly related to drugs. There was one prisoner being boarded by Oconto County.
Jail Program Officer Ellen Hanneman reported the Verschays will no longer be able to facilitate the parenting class at the jail and she is seeking someone able to start after the first of the year.
NWTC did the last GED testing on paper on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The jail had 35 GED completions in 2013, of which seven had Honors and nine had High Honors. Since the GED program started at the jail there have been 147 completions, and very close to half received Honors or High Honors.
All testing from now on will be computerized, Hanneman said. There will be fees charged for predictor tests, along with increased fees for the tests themselves and the jail will no longer be able to use vouchers from NWTC for low income inmates.
Goodwill is no longer utilizing Community Service workers from the jail, and in fact are not using community service workers of any kind.
Marinette City Council did vote to begin using the Community Service workers from the jail, but has not yet been contacted on when they would like to start.
All program participation is way up, Hanneman reported. The male NA facilitators stay to do two sessions and so does the male Religious Studies instructor. AODA has a two hour program, making it more treatment oriented, she said.
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