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Project Drive Sober: OWI Treatment Court

Posted: 5:14 PM, Jul 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-23 23:49:29-04
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Brown County is trying a new approach to reach multiple OWI offenders.

A team of people in the system launched the Brown County OWI treatment court earlier this year. It's an intensive program where fourth or fifth OWI offenders meet with a judge, case manager, probation agent, and do regular alcohol and drug testing.

"It helps me realize that I need the help, and I got a team that helps you in the treatment court," participant Curtis Willard said. "They give you a chance to move ahead instead of be stuck."

With a focus on treatment, the program has seen positive early returns. There have been no re-offenses. When the program is completed, their OWI sentence with be withheld. If an offender is not complaint, they could go back to jail or spend time in prison.

"They're going to have a newfound way to move forward in their life," criminal justice services manager and treatment court team member Mark Vanden Hoogen said. "They're going to have the tools to succeed and not rely on alcohol to get through their day to day issues."

On the bench is Judge John Zakowski. He said the system should work to try to change behavior, and this program does that.

"I think it's a proactive way to try to help these individuals who obviously have a problem drinking and driving," Zakowski said.

If the treatment court can reduce drunken driving, Zakowski said that all of society benefits.

Willard hopes to be one of the stories of success as he works toward his goal.

"Sober, and my health, and being with my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids," Willard said. "She was just born, so I want to be around to see her."