Plan in place to reduce repeat offenders in Chippewa County - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Plan in place to reduce repeat offenders in Chippewa County

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Chippewa County (WQOW)- There's a plan in the works in Chippewa County which could enhance public safety and help offenders get back on their feet at the same time.

"If you can change the way somebody thinks, you can change the way they feel.  And if you change the way they feel, you can change their behavior," explains Eau Claire County Judge Michael Schumacher.

That's the thought process behind evidence-based practices; a program Chippewa County wants to start that could reduce the number of repeat offenders in the county.

"What we are doing isn't working," admits Chippewa County District Attorney Steve Gibbs.  "So what we need to do is use the evidence on what works, what doesn't and take that and stop the individuals from reoffending."

The program examines whether a diversion program or court is the better option.

"We identify the right people.  We figure out what's driving their behavior and then the next important part is addressing that behavior," Schumacher says.

Eau Claire County already has this program in place; one of only three counties nationwide to receive grant money to start it a few years ago.  Here's an example of how it works:  treatment could be ordered much sooner for certain offenders, like drunk drivers, if the program determines they could reoffend.

"Now there's going to be a small portion of society that is always going to be offending," Gibbs points out.  "But it's the other portion, the medium to high that we can effect that we need to change."

A repeat offender is not only a concern for society.  It's also a financial problem for the justice system.  It costs counties both space and money; something Eau Claire County has saved since implementing the program.

"That was millions of dollars that they didn't have to stick into it because their evidence-based practice has lowered the number of high-risk offenders in their jail," Gibbs says.

It took Eau Claire County a couple years to get the program up and running.  But Chippewa County hopes to establish it sooner rather than later.

"This is the wave of the future," Gibbs states.  "Since we don't have to reinvent the wheel, we hope we can do it on a shorter period of time."

"With the end result being less crime, safer community and it really benefits everybody," answers Schumacher.

One question we had is how does the program determine who is the right fit?  Chippewa County says people are chosen after they complete a written test.  The county has applied for grant money to establish the program.

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