Today I saw an interesting article from Denver about their “sobriety court” which is an alternative way to dispose of a DUI case for serious alcoholics. Here is part of the article:
In Courtroom 3C, Judge Brian Campbell presides over Sobriety Court, modeled after Denver Drug Court. Campbell says this type of program reduces the usual 90 percent relapse rate by 8 to 12 percent.
“The ultimate thing that you’re preventing is loss of life. When you start to sit there and think about the 8 to 12 percent and the people who might have died as a result of that, it’s a sobering experience,” Campbell said.
The program requires offenders to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.
Bauer estimates the total cost to her and her parents is $15,000, the cost of daily drug and alcohol testing, weekly counseling, bi-monthly trips to the court and probation office.
The judge, prosecutor, public defender, and others hold a meeting before each session. Offenders who meet the strict requirements get praise and prizes.
Those who don’t meet the requirements can end up back in jail, which has critics like Denver DUI attorney Jay Tiftickjian concerned.
“It could lead to a much longer sentence down the road,” Tiftickjian said.
In my experience, most DUI offenders are not alcoholics — they are either social drinkers or, worse, alcohol abusers. What makes these people different from alcoholics is that they have the ability to control their drinking. Oftentimes, the combination of a DUI arrest, prosecution and alcohol treatment is enough to wake them up to their reckless behavior.
But there is a small percentage of drunk drivers who are serious alcoholics — these are people who typically need to drink on a daily basis, are unable to cut back or quit drinking, and have allowed alcohol to take over their lives to the point that their lives are unmanageable. These people need serious intervention — and a stint in jail or prison won’t do it. All that does is keep them from drinking for a while.
I believe that our justice system should attempt to rehabilitate people instead of warehousing them. And I believe that a “sobriety court,” if done right and not abusively, as has sometimes occurred with drug courts, can be a way to help people and protect the public.
It is definitely something that Illinois should look into.