The criminal justice system is a state of transition from confinement toward treatment. This transition is supported through hundreds of studies and articles. The Wisconsin State Prison System has recognized the importance of this new path forward, treatment in lieu of incarceration can keep families together and save the lives of those facing substance abuse related crimes.
The humanitarian concerns aside, the significant fiscal savings for the taxpayers in Wisconsin is its own compelling argument for this move from incarceration to treatment.
Eau Claire County Treatment Courts
Eau Claire County has responded to this important manner of dealing with substance abuse related offenses by creating treatment courts. We will look at the four treatment courts that are currently in operation in Eau Claire County: AIM (Alternative to Incarcerating Mothers) Court, Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Chippewa Valley Veterans Treatment Court.
AIM (Alternative to Incarcerating Mothers) Court
AIM Court is designed with the intent to keep families healthy and intact, the ultimate goal of preventing families from irreparable harm that can be caused while mothers are incarcerated. This is accomplished through providing single mothers with mental health concerns and/or AODA issues wrap around services and empowering them to live a healthy crime free lifestyle, breaking the cycle of substance abuse.
AIM Court utilizes reliable and valid research tools in making recommendations to the Court based on risk/needs and readiness for change. AIM Court provides effective sanctions, rewards, continuing care, and treatment programming as a way to increase employment stability and reducing drug and alcohol related crimes, as well as crimes committed due to mental illness, this in turn increases community safety.
The benefits of AIM are extensive, participants will see less jail time, the Department of Corrections will be provided with intensive monitoring by the AIM team. The participant will be provided support in engaging in productive activity (e.g. employment, school, etc.), letters of support for employment, rental, and educational purposes. An ongoing sober support community even after completion. The judicial bundling of cases before the circuit court. The participant will be active in their own sobriety and will have supportive intervention and accountability to the AIM Team.
The aim of the Eau Claire County Drug Court is to restore sober, productive and law-abiding citizens to the community which in turn increases community safety. This aim of Drug Court is accomplished by breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction through effective, long-term treatment with intensive court supervision.
Drug Court provides a way for those facing substance abuse related charges to be actively involved in finding a path toward sobriety and personal responsibility. Those who are able to enter Drug Court instead of facing confinement are able to be present in their families lives, are provided the opportunity to seek their HS ED/GED. Drug Court encourages employment stability and expects the participant in the program to cover all Drug Court costs. The ultimate return on investment for the community is less drug and alcohol crimes and more productive community members.
The process to complete Eau Claire’s Drug Court is extensive and intensive. The process takes approximately ten months to complete. Participation begins with a comprehensive AODA assessment by the Drug Court coordinator, this informs the Drug Court Teams decision on the level and location of treatment.
Throughout the process the participant is under intense supervision and random drug and alcohol testing to ensure the participant is following the rules and expectations set down by the Drug Court. The frequency of random testing is based on the phase the participant is currently in and may change based on violations and the recommendations the Treatment Team.
Mental Health Court
The Eau Claire County Mental Health Court’s mission is to break the cycle of criminal behavior through effective, long-term health treatment with intensive court supervision. The successful implementation of Mental Health Court practices will increase public safety and restore productive community members.
Mental Health Court provides a path to support and safety for those with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies that avoids jail time. Participation in Mental Health Court is voluntary, each participant must have a diagnosed illness or co-occurring disorder that has contributed to their involvement in the criminal justice system. In order to maintain public safety, participants in the program are carefully screened prior to admission.
Participants in Eau Claire County’s Mental Health Court receive the benefits of obtaining treatment while remaining in the community, the possibility of a lessened criminal sentence, including the possibility of no jail or prison time. Mental Health Court participants may also be provided with other services, such as housing, job training and medical care.
Eau Claire County Veterans Treatment Court
The Chippewa Valley Veterans Treatment Court serves Chippewa, Eau Claire, and Dunn counties and provides an alternative to incarceration for veterans who are facing substance abuse related charges, as well as mental health issues that may have played a role in criminal behavior. The Veterans Treatment court provides resources, supervision, and accountability for veterans who are dedicated to gaining and maintaining sobriety and/or seeking mental health support.
The Veterans Treatment Court opened in 2011 and the need has been very evident, a survey published by the American Journal of Public Health of 596 veterans from the various branches of the military reported that 13.9% met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD, 39% met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse, and 3% met the criteria a diagnosis of some form of drug abuse.
The program for veterans runs about 13 months and includes random drug and alcohol tests, cognitive behavioral programs, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, one on one counseling, as well as weekly check-ins with the Veterans Treatment Court staff. Veterans can refer themselves to the court or can be referred by anyone working with them on their criminal cases.
Treatment Courts Make Our Community Better
The intensive steps taken by the Eau Claire County judicial system has been significant in providing a more humane and wholistic approach to drug, alcohol, and mental health issues.