Portage County drug court
Behnke reports on justice programs
By Taylor Hale
Justice Programs Director Andrea Behnke gave a justice program 2021 report during an April 20 county board meeting.
Justice programs “provide explanations of new trends, programs, and initiatives that may have the potential for lowering incarceration rates, curbing social problems related to criminality, and diverting offenders from traditional justice system sanctions.”
The report focused on programs like treatment court, pretrial supervision, post-sentence supervision, and others.
“If you look at medium-security if they were to go to prison rather than be in treatment court we have avoided close to $400,000 in our treatment courts,” said Behnke.
In 2020, the county had nine members in their treatment court program and many more recommendations in 2021. Behnke noted that drug courts that require a treatment representative usually provide nine times greater savings.
Roughly 60 percent of those being referred to the treatment court said their drug of choice was methamphetamine; followed by heroin at 26 percent; marijuana at 6 percent; crack/cocaine at 4 percent; inhalants and alcohol make up around 4 percent.
The Pretrial Supervision Program monitors OWI defendant compliance with court-ordered conditions through assessment, case management, and supervision. The county saw 23 participants in the program in 2020.
“If you look at the jailed savings of people being on a program rather than sitting in jail on a bond, for them staying in Waupaca county where it’s $38 a day, it was $422,000, and $1.1 million in savings if an inmate was in a Portage County jail,” Behnke said.
Currently, Portage County has the lowest percentage of the population incarcerated in the area, coming in at .001 percent; Adams and Waupaca County have .002 percent; and Marathon, Waushara, and Wood County have .003 percent.
Behnke sees the justice programs as a way to save the county money and keep non-violent offenders out of jails. She noted that the county is in the process of improving its Pretrial Supervision Program by providing an electronic monitoring program, pricing court date reminders, and looking into a step-down process for participants doing well in the program.