Today, Senator Kohl questioned Benjamin Tucker, a National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Deputy Director, at a Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearing on treatment courts. Kohl raised questions on the role of government agencies in the expansion of treatment courts and discussed the effectiveness and success of implementing treatment drug courts, DUI "Driving Under the Influence" courts and veterans courts in Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin has been a model for creating and using treatment courts to strike the right balance between holding non-violent offenders accountable for their crime, but also helping them to break the cycle in and out of the system. Our adult and juvenile drug courts, DUI courts, and veterans courts enjoy broad support back home from Democrats and Republicans, law enforcement and judges, and local communities. Wisconsin's 41 treatment courts draw such broad support because they have proven successful at reducing recidivism while saving state and local governments millions of dollars every year," Kohl said.
Wisconsin has been a leader in the creation of treatment courts that focus on drunk-drivers. For example, Waukesha County's DUI court works with people who've been convicted of their third DUI. Under the program, in addition to serving their sentence, the judge and mental health counselors work with repeat offenders to stay sober and get their lives back on track. This program's success has been a model for similar courts throughout the country and most recently in Dane County, WI, where Republicans and Democrats are working together to implement a DUI court.
Additionally, Wisconsin's veterans courts have continued to expand. In 2008, the State Public Defender's Office and the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs led an initiative to bring veterans courts to Wisconsin. Now, Wisconsin has six veterans courts, and most recently, Brown County is establishing its own veterans court to serve the Green Bay area.
At the hearing, Kohl stressed the effectiveness of treatment courts in saving taxpayer dollars by helping low-level offenders stay out of jail and overcome their addictions. Kohl questioned Tucker about how we can work together to maintain the courts we have and start new ones in light of severe budget constraints at the federal, state, and local levels.
Tucker responded that collaboration must continue and everyone must come together to produce results. He highlighted the cost savings and effectiveness of the programs and said that even when dollars get tight people come together when they know they have a program that works.
Additionally, Kohl asked, "What is the ONDCP doing to use the successes we are seeing in DUI courts like Waukesha's more broadly throughout the country?"
Tucker acknowledged the value of DUI courts and stated that the ONDCP is doing a number of other things to counter drunk and drugged driving including educating drivers, working with organizations to raise awareness, providing resources for road side testing and educating officers to identify drunken drivers. He also noted that drugged driving is a priority of ONDCP and fits with the DUI court structure.