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Intervention programs help reduce repeat OWI offenses: Part I

Wisconsin has tough drunk driving laws. In some cases, these laws are tough enough to keep first-time OWI offenders from violating again. However, strict fines, penalties and jail time will do little to stop many repeat offenders.

This is because repeat offenders often struggle with untreated addiction to alcohol. With this in mind, more than 11 Wisconsin counties (including Waukesha) have implemented intervention programs since 1993. These collaborative efforts focus on treatment rather than punishment.

Officially, they are known as pretrial intensive supervision programs (ISPs). The goal of an ISP is to get a repeat OWI offender into treatment as soon as possible after their arrest and before their conviction.

Judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials and repeat offenders work collaboratively to change the behaviors that lead to repeat drunk driving offenses. And addiction treatment isn't the only step in the process. While each of the 11 counties can operate their own unique ISP, the programs generally include:

• Treatment for alcohol addiction or dependency

• Sobriety monitoring

• The creation of a driver safety plan

• An agreement to pay fines and attend scheduled court appearances

Waukesha County has been operating a pretrial intensive supervision program since 1999, but Milwaukee County implemented the first ISP in 1993. Why have the programs been around so long? In short, they work.

The Chief Judge of Milwaukee County says: "The pretrial intoxicated driver intervention program continues to enjoy support from the Milwaukee County Court judges, who cite the program as one of the most important resources the courts have for dealing with repeat OWI offenders." He adds that an ISP "results in better treatment compliance."

A recent statewide evaluation of these programs confirms that they are effective. Check back later this week as we continue our discussion on this important topic.

Source: northlandnewscenter.com, "WI Implements Intensive Program For Repeat Drunken Drivers," Melissa Burlaga, 28 June 2011

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