Juneau has a good financial foundation to bring back a court alternative aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders in drunken driving cases and other alcohol-related crimes, according to its new coordinator.
Wendy Hamilton, hired to coordinate Juneau Therapeutic Court, said Tuesday that the program's approach will offer offenders an opportunity to address their alcohol addiction, combining the power of the court with the power of treatment.
Therapeutic Court will be a successor to Wellness Court, a program begun in July 2001 by Juneau District Court Judge Peter B. Froehlich, who retired Tuesday. Last week he said the program has been dormant, but he was excited about a grant to revive it under his successor.
Hamilton said she does not have a starting date scheduled for the new Therapeutic Court, but the funding includes pay for a quarter-time judge pro-tem should the next district court judge not have the time to preside over it.
To fund the program, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gave the Juneau affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence $257,800 and state and local matching funds provide an additional $28,644 for the first year of the program's three-year grant, according to Hamilton.
Similar programs already exist in Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley and Bethel. Another will begin operation Palmer this month. Grant money also has been allocated to start one in Fairbanks, where a group of judges and attorneys is looking at a program.
Hamilton said therapeutic courts work on the principal of drug courts, which began operating in 1989. About 1,500 such courts operate throughout the country. The courts involve a team approach that include judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment specialists, probation officers and police.
Through a diversion program including treatment, long-term monitoring and regular appearances before the judge, offenders will have the opportunity to address alcohol addiction, she said.
"Not only do offenders benefit, but public safety is also strengthened through the monitoring and accountability that occurs through the therapeutic court process," Hamilton said.
She said a Juneau advisory committee is being formed to implement that program. People seeking more information should contact Hamilton at 463-4756.
Tony Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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