Treatment courts in Walworth County have had a positive impact on alcoholics, addicts, their families and the community.
People arrested for drunken driving or drug possession may be eligible to enter the treatment courts, which provide rigorous supervision and counseling.
In turn, the offender will avoid stiffer jail sentences or prison, and have the opportunity to turn his or her life around.
Nationwide, these types of courts enjoy broad bipartisan support and have proven to reduce recidivism rates. Taxpayers benefit, too. It costs less money to run the treatment courts than it does to incarcerate the offenders.
Treatment courts are a win-win for everyone involved, but in Walworth County, the program is in jeopardy.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld has threatened to pull his support of the treatment courts over an apparent power struggle with Walworth County Circuit Judge David Reddy.
Wiedenfeld wants more control over who is eligible for the program, and Reddy believes the current set-up best fits the community’s needs.
Frankly, we are not sure who is correct in this dispute. More importantly, we are not sure that it matters.
If the treatment courts end, the community loses.
Wiedenfeld and Reddy and the rest of the criminal justice community must come together to ensure that these courts do not stop.
The nationwide problem with opiate addiction has shown its ugly face in Walworth County for the better part of a decade.
The problem is so serious that the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services puts up billboards advertising the number of drug-related deaths in the county.
There have been 91 in the past five years. Ninety-one times families in our community have been left coping with the painful loss of loved ones due to drug addiction.
Katie Behl, who is the treatment court coordinator, told one of our reporters that the programs have been successful in helping alcoholics and addicts change their lives. She believes some drug addicts who died from overdoses would have benefited from the courts.
Behl is almost certainly correct in her assessment.
Whoever is right in the squabble between the district attorney and judge is irrelevant. We are talking about proven programs that are backed by nationwide research that reduces incarceration rates, reduces recidivism and likely saves participants’ lives.
Reddy and Wiedenfeld are both intelligent leaders in our community. They need to come together and resolve their differences. This is too important of a program for posturing.
The editorial board consists of general manager Robert Ireland, editor Scott Williams and community members Elizabeth DiVito and Patrick Quinn.