DWI Courts Providing Solutions To Reduce Drunk Driving
This weekend wraps up extra DWI enforcement on Minnesota roads, but courts are turning to a specialized program to address the underlying problems for the behavior.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says a study of the state's DWI courts deters recidivism by up to 70 percent.
Every Thursday in Judge Hanks Waseca County Courtroom, it's not about handing down the law as much as it's about providing some solutions.
Waseca County Judge Carol Hanks said, "It's a total, different approach to the participants in drug court versus a defendant appearing in criminal court."
In 2014, Steele and Waseca Counties jointly launched a drug court program providing an alternative to jail with treatment, case management and supervision.
It included those with DWIs' until earlier this year when a separate track was created to better meet the needs of those charged with drunk driving offenses.
Steele-Waseca Drug Court Coordinator Nicole Grams said, "We don't need as intensive case management as drug court clients, however, we need to do more compliance checks to prevent them from getting behind the wheel of the car. We need to do more cognitive specific programming."
The biggest difference of DWI participants is they often have more stable employment, housing and better education compared to those in drug court.
The problem-solving courts reduce incarceration and criminal court costs with other economic benefits.
Grams said, "We are allowing them to maintain their intact families, we're allowing them to continue to maintain their employment, pay their housing expenses."
The DWI court has room for 20, with 16 now participating, also helping to open up spots in the drug program.
For participant Cedric Dow who started in March after a second offense, the program is making a big difference in his life maintaining sobriety.
Participant Cedric Dow said, "It's trying to help us out cause the program has a lot of resources. Those resources, those are things we can use to put to our use in the end."
A one–year $100,000 grant helped start the DWI court this year.
The program has reapplied for the funding for the next two years.
The DWI court can take 18 to 24 months to complete, with six months of additional, less intensive supervision after graduation.
--KEYC News 12