Study: DWI courts curb repeat offenses

Minnesota's DWI courts reduce repeat crimes and save taxpayers around $700,000 a year, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by a Portland, Oregon-based firm, looked at courts in nine counties created to reduce the number of repeat driving while intoxicated offenders by combining drug and alcohol treatment with the criminal justice system.

Shannon Carey, executive vice president and research associate at NPC Research, said in eight of the nine courts, people who completed their court-ordered treatment programs were less likely to re-offend than people who didn't finish them. Carey says most counties with DWI courts spent less on law enforcement and jail costs.

"If people are getting arrested - even a little less often - and if they're getting re-arrested for less-serious crimes then they're spending a lot less time in jail."

The study also found DWI court participants are most likely to be white, male and employed.

Hennepin county's experience with DWI courts diverged from others: its DWI court was more expensive than the normal system. According to the study, the county lost $796,717 on DWI court participants since it was created in 2005.

Researchers say Hennepin County is unique in that people who fail to complete the DWI court program are more likely than people in other counties to be sent to jail, which is expensive.

Carey said the county may be over-serving its court participants.

"They are doing the appropriate services. The issue is, they're also taking people who don't need all those services. So, if they adjust accordingly, they're going to be in good shape."

The study also included DWI courts in Beltrami, Cass, Crow Wing, Lake of the Woods, Otter Tail, Ramsey, Roseau-Kittson and St. Louis counties.

There are several other similar courts in the state, which weren't included in the study. Court officials said other courts were not included because they were created within the last few years, and wouldn't yield enough useful data for the study.

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