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Greene County DWI Court A Model for Other Courts

Greene County 31st Judicial Circuit Building

For the second time in three years Greene County is blazing a trail when it comes to DWI Court. The highly recognized program is creating a safer environment for its citizens and providing a learning opportunity for the country. KSMU’s Chasity Mayes has more.

Greene County’s DWI Court was named an Academy Court for the second time Friday by the National Drug Court Institute in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

David Wallace is the director of the National Center for DWI Courts.

“With the national center we go around and we train DWI courts around the country. And of course, to do that we want to hold up courts that are doing it right. Greene County DWI Court is doing it right. And we’re doing it as one of the best courts in the country. And so, this court is going to be recognized as an Academy Court where we’ll bring in courts from around the country then to train programs here,” says Wallace.

Currently there are 49 DWI Courts in Missouri. In Greene County, it’s mandatory that you participate in the program if you’re a felony offender on probation.

Peggy Davis is Greene County’s Drug and DWI Court Commissioner. She says the DWI program is based off of another successful court.

“DWI Court is based on the drug court model which has been in operation since about 1988 across the country. And what those models do is recognize that treatment can work if treatment is long enough and if we keep the folks in treatment,” says Davis.

So what exactly is DWI court?

Many DWI offenders face jail time before entering the DWI Court program. In Missouri you must have three DWI offenses in order to be put in the program. Davis says they only accept those offenders because they’re trying to focus in on those who are the biggest threat to the community.

Davis says the DWI Court is successful because it provides both accountability and positive reinforcement.

“And their attendance at treatment is reinforced by frequent court contact in which they are held accountable for their progress since the last time we see them. That may be a sanction or a consequence for using drugs which we have a detective through drug testing or it may be recognition of good behavior such as being clean and sober for six months. And those folks get that positive reinforcement for making strides toward their recovery,” says Davis.

Davis added that statistically it’s the positive reinforcement that creates the most change.

Although the program has shown success with repeat offenders it’s not for everyone.

David Wallace says they’re looking for people who are controlled by their addiction.

“The whole purpose of DWI Courts in general really across the country is to focus on what we call the hardcore drinking driver. Those offenders that are either repeat DWI offenders or have the high BAC because what it shows in many ways is that they’re dependent on alcohol,” says Wallace.

Wallace also says that the program is so intensive that people who aren’t dependent on alcohol can experience a negative effect if put through the program.

Currently there are 3,000 participants in Drug or DWI Court in Missouri.

For KSMU News, I’m Chasity Mayes.