Specialized program aimed to reducing repeat offenders will launch in Norman and Red Lake counties on Jan. 1, too

    A proven model for reducing recidivism among high-risk DWI offenders is expanding in northwestern Minnesota.    

    On Jan. 1, three new DWI Court programs will open in Norman, Polk, and Red Lake counties. DWI Courts are problem-solving court programs dedicated to changing the behavior of repeat DWI offenders by addressing the root cause of impaired driving: alcohol and other substance abuse. These programs pair strict offender supervision – including frequent court appearances and random drug testing – with ongoing counseling, treatment, and other social services. The programs target nonviolent DWI offenders that are considered the highest risk to reoffend: those with multiple DWIs and addictions to alcohol or other drugs.    

    A recent evaluation of nine existing DWI Courts in Minnesota highlighted the effectiveness of these programs. The evaluation, conducted by a national research firm, found that offenders who completed DWI Court programs had re-arrest rates up to 78 percent lower than similar offenders who experienced traditional court processes.    

    The evaluation also found that by reducing recidivism among high-risk DWI offenders, these programs saved considerable money throughout the justice system. The nine DWI Courts included in the study saved taxpayers $700,000 per year, with a rate of return of up to $3.19 for every one dollar invested in the programs. A copy of the evaluation can be found here.    

    “Driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is one of the deadliest and most frequently committed crimes in our state,” said Maria Pahlen, the Drug Court Coordinator in Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District who will soon oversee the new DWI Court programs in Norman, Polk, and Red Lake counties. “DWI Courts are a proven, effective tool for changing the behavior of repeat DWI offenders by tackling their underlying alcohol and drug abuse. These programs save lives by reducing recidivism among DWI offenders, and give hope to individuals struggling with addiction.”    

    The new DWI Courts in Norman, Polk, and Red Lake counties are the result of a collaborative effort between the local district courts, county attorneys, county sheriffs, Tri-County Community Corrections, county social services, and area treatment programs. The three programs will independently serve residents in each of the respective counties, though the programs will share common administrative staff and presiding judges. The programs are being funded by a $300,000 grant from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, and recently received final approval from the Minnesota Judicial Council, the policy-making body of the state’s Judicial Branch.    

    Ninth Judicial District Court judges Anne Rasmusson and Jeffrey Remick will preside over the three new DWI Courts. In addition, District Court judges Kurt Marben and Tamara Yon – who preside over existing DWI Courts in Pennington and Marshall counties – will also assist in Polk, Norman, and Red Lake counties when needed.    

    DWI Courts are one of several types of Drug Court programs in Minnesota. With the establishment of the new programs in Norman, Polk, and Red Lake counties, Minnesota will have a total 50 Drug Courts – including 13 DWI Courts – across the state.