Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Executive Falk Releases Report that Recommends New Methods of Handling Inmates Who Abuse Drugs and Alcohol

August 09, 2002
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Cuts down on offender recidivism and reduces jail overcrowding. Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today released a major report that analyzes the Dane County Jail’s inmate population and makes recommendations to reduce recidivism by changing how the county handles inmates who have alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) problems. “Our goal is threefold: To reduce offenders cycling back through the criminal justice system. To increase public safety. And to turn lives around,” said Falk. “The result will reduce jail overcrowding, lower costs, and save lives.” Although the overall crime rate in Dane County is decreasing, drunk driving charges are increasing in Dane County. For example, between 1998 and 2000 there was an increase of 68% in the prosecution of repeat drunk driving offenses. In 2001 there were 797 alcohol related crashes in Dane County. These resulted in 20 people being killed and 565 injured. Seventeen people were killed in 798 alcohol related crashes in 2000. To reduce recidivism for offenders with AODA problems, the report recommends having about 100 jail diversion slots per day in a variety of different programs and facilities. Falk says that alcohol and other drug addiction is a primary underlying cause of repeat offenders. For example, 174 of the total number of 371 (47%) inmates serving sentences in the Dane County Jail on June 18, 2002, had one or more Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) charges. Nationally, about 60 to 80 percent of inmates in county jails suffer from alcohol and other drug addiction, the study reports. Dr. Cheryl Zimmerman, president of Zimmerman Consulting, Inc. of Racine, began the three-month, $24,800 study in May. For the past eight years, she has been designing innovative jail programs and managing jail diversion programs for the Racine County Jail. During 1998, she implemented a unique AODA treatment program inside the Racine County Jail, which is followed by a nine month after-care component. In preparing this study, Zimmerman met with numerous elected officials, the sheriff, district attorney, judges, county staff, AODA and mental health providers, Department of Correction officials and county corporation counsel. Zimmerman appeared with Falk at Friday’s press conference to provide a briefing on the report, entitled, “AODA Program and Facility Study.” Jail overcrowding and, particularly, dealing with repeat offenders, have been growing concerns in Dane County. The 2002 county budget included $1 million for jail planning and treatment facilities for AODA services. The $24,800 for the study comes from this allotment, leaving the balance for implementing programs approved by the County Executive and the County Board of Supervisors. Jail Population. In 2001, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office housed an average daily population of 1,018, which exceeded the jail system’s design capacity of 942. The jail’s population is a mix of categories, including: -- Arrested persons who are not yet arraigned or sentenced (29%) -- Prisoners in transit, waiting to go to other prisons (8%) -- State prisoners sentenced to probation (18%), and -- County prisoners sentenced to jail, most of whom are let out during the day to work under Huber Law privileges (42%) The Zimmerman report targets the last two categories, the state Probation Parole (P&P) holds, and the county’s Huber-release prisoners. These offenders account for the largest number of jail bed days used. In addition, since the Court has granted them Huber Law privileges, they are the most adaptable to participate safely in employment, counseling, education and treatment, the report says. For those sentenced to jail by the county’s courts, a one-day snapshot of the jail population taken on June 18, 2002 reveals that: -- The average length of stay for the total number of sentenced inmates was six and a half months. -- 184 of these sentenced inmates had an average length of stay of 11 months. Other charges directly or indirectly suggest inmates have substance abuse addictions. To name a few, they are possession of drugs (THC, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia), battery such as domestic abuse, disorderly conduct, shoplifting and theft. One reason for the rising inmate population in county jails is a change in state statute that now requires mandatory jail terms for second and subsequent OWI offenses, and for operating after revocation or suspension of a driver’s license. In addition, offenders sentenced for a crime may have their jail time significantly increased if they are charged as a “habitual offender.” Increasing numbers of state probation holds also adds to the tally. Diversion Efforts. “We’ve made serious efforts to stay ahead of jail overcrowding by implementing a variety of jail alternative and diversion programs, such as the Drug Court and the Treatment Alternative Program (TAP). We’ve made progress, but we need to do more,” said Falk. “Offenders who receive jail time for a substance abuse related offense are highly likely to return to prison again after they are released,” said Falk. “Drug abuse treatment is effective in reducing both drug addiction and drug related crime.” Zimmerman’s study found that at the end of 2000, 104 graduates of Drug Court had completed the program successfully and had been released from the program for one year or longer. Of these 104 graduates, there was only a 22% recidivism rate. By comparison, the recidivism rate among persons who did not complete the program was 65%. The report shows AODA treatment programs also save tax money. For instance, a sentenced offender who spends six months in TAP costs on average $5,671. It costs Dane County $11,026 to house an inmate for six months in the jail—more if additional jail space is built. Dane County has a system of programs; however, an AODA treatment program that is currently not available is an intensive treatment program with intensive monitoring. This program would target offenders with lengthy substance abuse histories, which include multiple drunk driving charges, drug charges and other charges. Recommendations. Zimmerman recommends Dane County implement intensive AODA programs for inmates in custody, and then follow-up with an after-care component that provides treatment and community supervision. The report recommends that the intensive treatment with strong community supervision take place in an in-custody facility or a residential treatment facility. The in-custody or residential facility options include a maximum-security jail facility, a locked or unlocked rehabilitation facility, or a locked or unlocked Huber facility. The county currently funds a number of residential treatment facilities including Hope Haven-Rebos United, Tellurian, ATTIC and ARC. There are a variety of ways to fashion the after-care phase of the program. Final recommendations include: -- Implement an intensive AODA treatment program with an after-care segment that targets 50 sentenced inmates and partner with the Department of Corrections for 15 inmates on probation. The state would be responsible for program costs dealing with the probation and parole holds. -- Increase the number of daily slots for the Treatment Alternative Program by 20. -- Increase the number of daily slots for Drug Court by 10. The cost of implementing these initiatives is estimated to be $1 million, some of which would come from reallocating funds from some of the current jail diversion programs. This includes expanding successful treatment programs as well as adding new initiatives. “We will now be sharing the findings of this study with stakeholders, including members of the County Board, judges, District Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s Department, AODA professionals and others. I will use it as a basis for determining program initiatives to put in my Executive Budget for 2003,” said Falk. (See statistics below.) Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) statistics: -- In 2000, there were 798 alcohol related crashes in Dane County. These resulted in 17 people being killed and 577 injured. (Source: WI DOT) -- In 2001, there were 797 alcohol related crashes in Dane County. These resulted in 20 people being killed and 565 injured. (Source: WI DOT) -- Preliminary numbers indicate that there were 2,875 adult arrests in Dane County for OWI in 2001. (Source: WI Office of Justice Assistance). -- In 2001, the Dane County Sheriff's Office responded to 789 incidents involving intoxicated drivers. (Source: Sheriff's web site) -- The number of referrals to the Dane County District Attorney's Office for a second or greater OWI offense increased 67% between 1998 and 2000. In 2000, there were 2,117 referrals for a 2nd OWI offense or greater. The number of prosecutions increased 59% during this same timeframe. (The majority of all cases are prosecuted.) (Source: D.A.'s Office)