The takeaway from Friday’s treatment alternatives and diversion symposium in Madison was pretty clear: there needs to be a better way to prevent those who are arrested from coming back.
The conference, held at an upscale hotel, was made up of law enforcement, court personnel and, most importantly, lawyers who need CLE credit.
It aimed to caffeinate and feed its audience while keeping their attention as speakers talked about high incarceration rates and ways to ease a massive justice system filled with many who do not have the means to stay in the hotel.
The big announcement came around lunchtime, when Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced a grant program to help counties pay for TAD and drug court programs. From there, much of the program was spent telling attendees how to apply for grants and how effective they could be.
As for me, I was just there to learn. I’ll probably bring this up a few more times, but I’m still new around here. It was good to just listen for a day, even if some of the talk was a bit technical for my taste.
In Wisconsin, nine counties – including Milwaukee and Dane – have TAD programs, which are designed to find alternatives to incarceration before and after a criminal conviction. Several more have drug and treatment courts.
But several speakers said their programs have worked and can be expanded. It’s only been a few years since these type of programs started popping up in Wisconsin, but the results are encouraging.
In Milwaukee County, for example, Judicial Review Coordinator Holly Szablewski said 85 percent of those charged with a felony crime will show up for their court dates. For misdemeanors, it’s about 67 percent.
The state Department of Justice grants come from money set aside in the budget passed in June. There is $1 million allocated for new TAD programs, while $500,000 is allocated for new drug court programs.