DA: No Added Help, No Drug Court Work
The slated Aug. 1 start of the Drug Court and TAD (Treatment Alternatives and Diversions) programs in Marinette County may not become a reality. District Attorney Allen Brey told the Peshtigo Times earlier this week that unless extra help is provided for his short-staffed office, they will be unable to take on any additional duties, and in fact must eliminate some.
Brey said he personally will continue to cooperate with the Drug Court planning team to develop the policy and procedure manual for the new service, but if the county does not provide this office with new resources to participate in the Drug Court then this office cannot participate in the Drug Court.
He said his requests for additional help have repeatedly been refused, the last time following an hour and a half meeting on Friday, June 6 with the team currently handling administrative duties for Marinette County - Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, Finance Director Pat Kass and Human Resources Director Jennifer Holtger.
County Board rules prevent department heads, even elected department heads, from going directly to the elected supervisors on their parent committees for help without first getting permission from the county administrator. Following the resignation of former Administrator Ellen Sorensen last month, County Board assigned the duties of that office to the 3-member team.
Brey said he and the other two attorneys in his office, Assistant District Attorney Kent Hoffmann and half-time Assistant District Attorney DeShea D. Morrow each provided the county with over 50 unpaid hours of overtime per week attempting to meet the needs of their office. The result in 2013 was an all time high in production, he said, but it wasnt enough to meet the demand to service Marinette County Crime victims.
In addition to the two and a half attorneys, the DA office staff includes a four-member support staff. A legal secretary position was eliminated in 2004 and has not been replaced. Brey said the remaining staff is so busy that in addition to their own heavy work loads, he and the other two attorneys often must spend their time typing legal documents, work that could easily be done by a legal secretary, if they had one.
Weve been doing staff work, while we need to be doing legal work! Brey declared. Adding a legal secretary would do much to ease the burden on them.
Meanwhile, the case load continues to grow.
Brey said over the years, Marinette County law enforcement has grown in size, the number of arrests has risen dramatically, and there are new crimes not even dreamed of a few years ago, such as cell phone and Internet Predator crimes. Average daily jail population has risen from 55 in the 1990s to 120 or 130 today.
With the heroin/opiate explosion, drug crimes have sky rocketed, Brey said, as have other crimes related to drug use, such as armed robbery. In the mid 1990s there was perhaps one armed robbery a year in Marinette County. Now the average is one per month. Murders happened here almost never. Recently the average has been one a year. Investigation of those types of crime requires a great deal of time, Brey added.
All of the work of the 50 law enforcement officers in Marinette County is funneled through his office, Brey said, and county administration is expecting them to handle it without additional help.
There are 137 police referrals dating back to March still waiting to be reviewed by the attorneys in this office, Brey said. Each may have a Marinette County taxpayer waiting for justice.
He told of an elderly man who reported months ago that thieves had broken into his home and stolen his guns. Officers were able to apprehend the culprits and recover the guns. The case has not yet come to court. The gentleman, victimized in his own home, has died. He never had a chance to confront the culprits and did not live to see justice done.
Marinette County crime victims are waiting too long for justice, Brey declared. I will not agree to make that wait longer by diverting services to people who choose to use illegal drugs. Crime Victims come first. Community safety comes first. The countys feel good non criminal services are a distant second!
He said all victims deserve to see justice done quickly and all believe theirs is the most important case.
Brey also announced on Monday, June 9 that effective July 1 his office will be eliminating juvenile services except prosecution of juveniles who have committed crimes. This is the first step in reducing the criminal case backlog. Unfortunately, there may need to be additional service reductions in the future. The Crime Victims of Marinette County deserve better, Brey said, and repeated, This office will not be providing Drug Court services without additional staff.
Brey said ironically, the money that might be saved by a successful Drug Court and TAD program would easily pay for the help his office needs to help implement the program, and eventually result in far greater savings for county taxpayers. He feels making Morrows job full time instead of half time and adding a full time legal secretary would resolve most of their problems. He estimates cost, with benefits, would be about $50,000 for the remainder of this year, and less than $100,000 for a full year.
Brey explained the Drug Court/TAD Planning Team set the perameters for the new program. Law enforcement presents cases to the DAs office. The DA will take the case to comment on it, and decide whether it should go through Drug Court or the regular court system. Its his choice, with input from the TAD coordinator, Brey said. If the choice is to offer the Drug Court option he would suggest it to the defense attorney, who in turn would discuss it with his client. The client would then decide whether or not to participate, and if the decision is yes, the case would go to the TAD Coordinator in the Department of Health and Services for TAD recommendations, and the next step would be Drug Court. The idea is quick turnover, extremely close supervision, a treatment plan, and hopefully end with an offender freed of a drug addiction and once again a contributing member of society.
Drug Court is aimed at reducing the number of days spent in jail and reducing the number of times that persons convicted of drug related crimes reoffend and end up back in the system.
Currently a drug-related prisoner spends 160 to 180 days in jail from the date of arrest until either out of jail or sent on to prison. Records show that currently 100 percent of prisoners sentenced for drug related crimes offend again and come back for future jail stays.
With Drug Court the goal is swift action, followed by release with some stringent restrictions that hopefully will break the drug use/crime pattern.
The Drug Court plan calls for no more than 30 to 45 days in jail from the date of arrest until release. Thats a savings of at least 115 days per prisoner, at an average cost of about $75 or more per prisoner per day. Thats a savings of $8,625 each, or $86,250 if only 10 prisoners were handled through Drug Court for the remainder of the year. Once the program is fully implemented the annual savings should be far, far greater. It is even possible the county could avoid the need to build a $9 million additional pod for the jail, which is currently in the 5-year capital improvement plan as the existing jail is at or near capacity most of the time.
But, Brey said, without some added help his office cannot do its part of the Drug Court process. He said he asked the county early in the Drug Court planning process to include funding for the DAs office in its grant request. The county chose not to. Why, I dont know, he said, adding they had no problem asking for funding for the rest of the program.
In October of 2013 the county applied for $285,349 to finance the TAD program and the Drug Court that makes it work.
Early this year the state awarded a $124,502 state grant to help cover TAD expenses. The county match of $94,183 will come from existing program funds and savings. Judge Jim Morrison was successful in getting federal Drug Court training at no cost to the county. Robin Elsner, head of the countys Health and Human Services Department, was assigned to set up the TAD program.
Meanwhile, Brey was still struggling with ways to stretch his staff to do the additional work. He met on Friday with Mattison, Kass and Holtger, but to no avail.
He said they advised him that the county will not provide his office with the resources it needs to participate in the Drug Court service, and suggested that he should endeavor to persevere, he declared. He repeated that his office is overloaded, and without the added help it cannot be done.
This office cannot provide new services without new resources, he declared. The current office resources are inadequate and insufficient to provide the services currently requested.
He said during the meeting he and the co-administrators discussed the recently completed DA LEAN study and the action report it generated. The LEAN study had been ordered by Sorensen.
Among recommendations in that report was to investigate elimination of the DA backlog by acquiring additional attorney time to be paid by Marinette County, add some time-saving technology such as printers for each legal secretarys desk, connect scanner/copier to all DA staff and look into a scanning wand, standardize law enforcement paper referrals, get a dictation system to eliminate transcription by legal secretary, arrange office layout more efficiently, and electronically store all old law enforcement records to electronic files for easy retrieval.
The report then suggested time saved by those efficiencies could be spent to increase available DA office attorney time.
The LEAN Production Report shows that in 2013 the DAs office handled two homicides A&B, 320 hours; one other homicide, 80 hours; 238 felonies, 2,020.62 hours; 217 misdemeanors, 788.61 hours; 185 criminal traffic citations, 538.35 hours; 38 juvenile delinquent, 130.72 hours; 45 CHIPS cases for 270 hours and 56 CHIPS extensions for 196 hours.
The 4,344.3 hours of total production are based on a formula devised by the State of Wisconsin to measure district attorney office production. The formula provides 1,162 hours per full time attorney to perform the measured cases, with each type case assigned a number of hours to complete. The two full time and one part time attorneys available in Breys office had a total of 2,905 hours available to work, but the case load required 4,344.3 hours, which means that 1,439.3 of those case load hours were unpaid. Stated another way, the two and one half attorneys in the office provided the county more than 50 hours of unpaid work per week, Brey said.
He said he pointed out to the co-administrators that the study recommended more attorney time and recognized the work load on legal secretaries, but nevertheless they refused his request for extra help, particularly since he was being expected to take on the additional Drug Court work.
Last Friday the Countys Co-Administrators told me they will provide no new staff resources for the DAs office, Brey said. They asked that the DAs office continue to provide all the existing services. They also asked that the DAs office provide service to the new Drug Court.
I have repeatedly asked the county to restore the staff position that they eliminated Brey said. Those requests have been denied as not justified. The countys own study of the office recommends adding more staff. In light of the countys own study, the countys denial of the request for more staff sure is a head scratcher, Brey declared.
He said he has also repeatedly asked the state for more attorneys, and state records show they need one and a quarter more attorneys for the work they are producing, but those requests have been denied. He noted Oconto County this year did get additional attorney help from the state.
In a letter to the co-administrators dated Wednesday, June 11, Brey reminded them they discussed the 2013 production report for his office, which showed that production at an all time record. The attorneys worked unpaid overtime more than 50 hours per week to achieve that result. The unpaid overtime includes performing county staff work. The office produced as if one and one quarter more lawyers were working here.
He reminded them they asked what other counties are doing, and said to get the job done Brown County now provides two more lawyers and support staff to their District Attorneys office. When he requested that from Marinette County he was denied and told the requests were not justified, he wrote.
I asked for your recommendations for eliminating unpaid work. You had none....You recommended that the office continue to provide unpaid work to the County by participating in the Drug Court. Cuts have consequences. So does the failure to provide new resources for new services, he went on.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, Brey declared. Perhaps the county could ask the road builders on the County Highway BB project to donate more than 50 hours of work per week at no cost to the county. If the road builders agree, that might free up some money for more DA staff to service the taxpaying Crime Victims of Marinette County, Brey suggested in the letter.
Brey said neither the county nor the state has a severe shortage of money. The county has $70 million in reserve funds, and the state has a surplus, in this election year the state is giving about $14 a head to each taxpayer. I hope they enjoy the money and spend it wisely. I also hope that they are not crime victims!
Without new staff the only way for the DAs office to provide service to the new Drug Court would be to divert current staff work to the Drug Court. That would make the crime victims wait even longer, Brey declared. I told the countys co-administrators NO. I told them there will be no new DA Office services without new staff resources.
He said when it comes to his office, crime victims and community safety come first.
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