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WI programs give certain criminal offenders a new lease on life

Wisconsin, like many other states in the nation, has a prison system that is at near capacity and may soon be in need of expansion. Hidden amongst this increasing general prison population are those who suffer from chronic mental conditions, as well as first-time heroin offenders who have no prior criminal history. Although criminals who suffer from drug addiction and mental conditions could benefit from treatment and rehabilitation programs, many of them are not given the resources that will allow them to be reintegrated into society.

Brown County has developed a program that will send low-level offenders through an intense rehabilitation process. People who have been convicted of a heroin offense and prisoners that have a controllable medical condition may qualify for these new programs. Although the exact details of the mental health court and heroin court programs are still being arranged, they may be similar to the current Drug Court program, which screens offenders using routine office visits and drug tests. Participants are also required to make a weekly court appearance to monitor their progress.

The existing Drug Court has shown to be effective at preventing criminals from returning to prison when compared to the current prison recidivism rate of 48 percent. Since its conception in August 2009, 49 offenders have been enrolled in the program. While 15 people were removed from the program and made to serve out their original prison sentences, 18 offenders have completed the program and have remained out of the prison system for at least two years.

The new Brown County court programs offer promise and hope for offenders who are able to be rehabilitated into contributing members of society. A reputable criminal defense attorney may provide vital legal assistance to those who are facing criminal charges.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette, "Mental health, heroin addiction to be targeted in Brown County's latest specialty ," Paul Srubas, June 7, 2014.

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