There were success stories, and, yes, a few failures.
Although there were "some that didn't make it," a number of the graduates of the Brown County Court-at-Law's DWI Court have stayed in contact with the court, which shut down on May 31 after 5 1/2 years due to funding issues, Court-at-Law Judge Frank Griffin said.
Griffin presided over DWI Court, which wasn't a separate court but was "a specialty probation" that included a yearlong period court dates, intense supervision and counseling, Griffin said.
"Most of (the graduates) indicated the court had helped them change their life to stay away from alcohol," Griffin said.
The court had 33 graduates, with the final graduation on May 31. A state grant had provided funding for the court, but criteria for obtaining the grant had become geared for larger populations. It was criteria "you can't meet in a small town," Griffin said.
On Monday, county commissioners approved Griffin's request to transfer what remained of DWI court funds — $45,655 — to the county's general fund. “There was too much of a chance that we would have run out of money with someone halfway through the program,” Griffin told commissioners.
Elisha Bird, now a felony prosecutor, was assistant county attorney when the DWI court began. Bird participated in DWI court sessions along with other officials including probation officer Jay Curtis, defense attorney Genetha Chastain, court coordinator Brenda Arp and counselor John Sommer. As judge, Griffin relied on reports and recommendations from those officials as the court progressed.
"We need it," Bird said of the DWI court. "It had an important function for the county. There were several people who had lifelong alcohol addictions who I know now are contributing members of society, and have conquered that problem, or are on the way to conquering it.
"There needs to be an alternative to regular probation or incarceration, and that is the only alternative that has any teeth to it."
Arp said DWI court was a "wonderful program" and described "watching them change as people. When they start, it's obvious they have a problem."
Participants were typically quiet and withdrawn and rarely smiled when they began DWI court, Arp said. "You could tell the program helped them," she said. "They were happy, they were outgoing compared to when they came in."
In one sense, a little bit of the court continues. "We're attempting to use some of the things we learned to better serve" regular DWI probationers, Griffin said.