Wisconsin Court Records
How do Wisconsin Specialty Courts Work
Wisconsin Specialty Courts are problem-solving courts that use heterodox methods to process crimes and problems in the justice system. Thus, instead of imposing jail time on offenders, the courts use other interventions to help the offender, while also holding offenders accountable for their actions. This approach has been rapidly growing throughout the Wisconsin justice system and has mainly been successful compared to orthodox methods. Civil servants run problem-solving courts in collaboration with other government agencies and institutions, including:
- The National Center for State Courts
- An advisory group of judges
- District court administrators
- County program coordinators
- The Wisconsin Department of Justice
- The Wisconsin Department of Corrections
- The Office of Court Operations
- The office of the Director of State Courts
There is a wide variety of problem-solving courts in Wisconsin, each with its unique way of processing offenders. However, all of the courts share the common goal of addressing the underlying issues of a participant’s criminal behavior. The average length of participation in the program is 12 months. The types of problem-solving courts in Wisconsin include:
- Drug & OWI courts: These are the most common types of problem-solving courts in Wisconsin. The program works to reduce drug use, relapse, and repeat offense among defendants and offenders. Eligible offenders must pass risk and needs assessment before the court can accept them into the program. Generally, participants are first-time offenders with a non-violent history. The program uses judicial interaction, supervision, incentives, and sanctions to ensure that participants display commitment. To graduate, the participant must complete a treatment or rehabilitation program, attend counseling sessions, and build skills that increase the ability to lead drug- and crime-free lives.
- Juvenile courts: Juvenile drug courts apply a similar approach to drug & OWI courts, except the program is tailored to the needs of youth with substance use disorders.
- Mental health courts: This program seeks to address the needs of adult offenders with mental disabilities or illnesses. The judiciary runs the mental health court program in collaboration with local mental health service providers.
- Reentry courts: The program seeks to prevent and address former inmates’ challenges after completing jail time. These include drug addiction, mental illness, unequal access to education, inadequate skills, or job experience, which may result in repeat offenses.
- Domestic violence courts: This program works explicitly with domestic violence victims and ensures that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. The program also seeks to promote information sharing between advocacy groups, government agencies, private institutions, and the judiciary.
- Veterans courts: This program exists to tackle the unique criminal and civil legal problems veterans face, including child support, divorce, unemployment, and foreclosure. At present, the veterans’ court program covers 33 counties in Wisconsin. Depending on the county, eligible participants receive free legal aid but must agree to regular court supervision for a period. During this time, the court assigns mentors to veterans who guide mentees in resolving the challenges faced.
These are the ten (10) principles that guide the operation of drug treatment courts in Wisconsin.
- Integration of drug treatment services with justice/case processing
- Non-confrontational approach to promoting public safety
- Prompt and early enrollment of eligible participants
- Providing access to treatment and rehabilitation services
- Monitoring participants’ sobriety with frequent drug tests
- Sanctions and incentives to ensure participants’ compliance
- Continual judicial interaction with every participant
- Periodic evaluation of the program’s goals, achievement, and effectiveness
- Continual interdisciplinary education of program coordinators and partners
- Strategic partnerships with other courts, public agencies, and community-based organizations in Wisconsin
Problem-solving courts go by different names in Wisconsin. And according to the map provided by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, there is at least one program in each judicial district in Wisconsin. The following is a list of the location and contact information of problem-solving courts in Wisconsin: