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As the old police saying goes about arresting people: “take no sh*t, cut no slack, just hook ’em, book ’em and don’t look back!” The question becomes what should our attitude be toward repeat DUI offenders? Do we just react with the police attitude? Do we try to use a multi-faceted approach (psychological, jail, random testing, etc.)? Do we use the Barretta approach of don’t do the crime if you cannot do the time?
Monterey County is launching a DUI treatment court for repeat offenders. The program is akin to the drug treatment court which focuses on the defendant willingness to address their crime and addiction issues. The program will coordinate with the County’s Probation Department, Behavioral Health Services, the prosecutor’s office, the public defender’s office and the Sheriff’s Office. Monterey county is only one of nine counties in the state using this program. The program requires substance abuse treatment in connection with accountability, education, court monitoring, formal supervision as well as frequent and random alcohol/drug testing, psychological therapy, family counseling and social skills training. The program begins with the second or third conviction.
Seventy five percent of adult criminal drug court graduates remain arrest free for at least two years after leaving the program according to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. The DUI court hopes for the same or similar results. The DUI court is only funded for one year. But as the old Chinese saying goes, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Perhaps this is the proverbial first step to get people out of the criminal justice system.
If jail and fines alone do not achieve the desire result (of not drinking and driving again), should we as a society care about what other options are available to keep offenders from becoming repeat offenders? Which options should be used to help these people (assuming they want help). Should we make the repeat offenders have mandatory participation in a program or let them make their own decisions about their lives?
What say you?