My blog post several weeks ago discussed the increase in the number of treatment courts in Wisconsin (see The Continued Expansion of Treatment Courts in Wisconsin). My goal was to outline the issue from a policy standpoint. As a follow up, I would like to offer a more personal perspective on treatment courts, one that most members of the public do not have an opportunity to see: the “face” of an individual successfully completing treatment court.
One major author of each story is a dedicated and collaborative treatment court team. Although the composition of each team may vary, membership generally includes a judge and representatives from the District Attorney, State Public Defender, Department of Corrections, and local treatment provider. Depending on the court, law enforcement, human services, and others may be represented as well.
K’s Story. Prior to court, K had been in and out of mental hospitals and jails. For the first three weeks that K was in the mental health treatment court, his odor permeated through the courtroom. He would keep his head down and would often wear sunglasses in court. He did not respond to his defense attorney. All members of the team stepped beyond their traditional roles to work together to find solutions for K’s individual needs. After four months of participation in the treatment court, he was living in a new apartment. He showers, holds his head up, and plays guitar at open-mic night. He is just finalizing the requirements for earning his GED.
T’s Story. T came into the drug/operating while intoxicated (OWI) treatment court after being sentenced for a felony OWI 4th. He was working at a minimum-wage job and was experiencing a great deal of family stress, due in a large part to his drinking. While in treatment court, T attended his treatment sessions and even established his own AA meeting in a Wisconsin community that did not have such meetings. T’s family relationships improved, and he found a much better job. Upon completing his program through the treatment court, he has agreed to act as a mentor to other participants.
J’s Story. J was sentenced for a drug charge and started to participate in drug treatment court. She was held accountable for her actions, and the treatment court judge asked her hard questions. The judge also recognized her struggles and supported her accomplishments. While in drug treatment court, J lost her job and her certification for her chosen career. In her own words, she started “putting one foot in front of the other, doing the work I need to do.” Embracing her recovery, J earned back her certification, found a job, and enrolled in college to further her career. As J pointed out in her own words, “the entire drug court team supported me, challenged me, and stood by me.” She recently fulfilled her treatment court program and is becoming a contributing member of the community.
These success stories represent just a few of those seen throughout Wisconsin’s treatment courts.