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Monday, March 24, 2008

For repeat drunken drivers, a tough program

By Kayla Bunge/Janesville Gazette

Walworth County officials hope a combination of alcohol-sensing electronic monitoring bracelets and group therapy will help stop repeat drunken drivers.

"It's a very tough program," said Dr. David Thompson, deputy director of the Walworth County Health and Human Services department. "There's a lot to do here."

Commitment, Accountability, Treatment and Evaluation is a voluntary program open to people convicted of their third or subsequent drunken-driving offense.

Participants are sentenced to 360 days in jail. The first 30 days they spend in the Walworth County Jail and the remaining 330 they are on an electronic monitoring bracelet.

"There's no real incentive for a person to complete the program ... unless there's some significant jail time over their head," Thompson said. "If they blow the program, they go to jail."

The program has a zero tolerance policy, which Thompson said is the "toughest part." Electronic monitoring bracelets worn by participants can sense alcohol through the skin.

"Even one drink, and they're back in jail," he said.

Participants also are subject to a $600 fine, license revocation for 24 months and an in-vehicle alcohol-screening device for 24 months. They also must attend individual and group therapy sessions, where they learn skills to maintain their sobriety.

Thompson said the CATE program is different from traditional drunken-driving treatment programs because it requires participants to develop skills to prevent relapse and practice them rather than "learn a little bit about why they shouldn't drink and drive."

"(That) doesn't work," he said. "That's why we have so many repeats."

The CATE program isn't for participants who aren't willing to commit, Thompson said.

"This is for people who want to make changes, who don't want to be back in the hot seat again," he said. "It's not for the person who just wants to get through their OWI sentence and move on. It's for someone who really wants to make a change."

The program is funded by a $200,000 contribution from Sal Dimiceli, founder of the charitable organization Time is Now.

Although the CATE program addresses third and subsequent offenses, the Walworth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee could expand it to second offenses "to catch things earlier," committee chairwoman Joyce Ketchpaw said.

The program just began accepting participants, and the court already has referred its first offender.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, Dirk Rudolf won't be back any time soon.

March 29, 2008 5:13 AM  

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