Study: DUI, Drug courts reduce risk of re-arrest

May 22, 2024

CHEYENNE – On average, a graduate of Laramie County’s DUI Court program was arrested more than eight times before he or she started the program. Post-graduation, they have been arrested an average of 0.32 times per person. “We’re getting people that are not committing any further crimes when they’re coming out of this program,” Drug Court and DUI Court Director Kurt Zunker said. “I don’t know if any of the criminal justice programs that operate in this county can say that,” he continued. “People who come out of these programs are becoming productive members of our community, so that’s a big deal to me.” Zunker gave a presentation Wednesday evening at the Laramie County Library. He focused on a study he recently conducted to determine program graduates’ recidivism rate, or their risk of committing new crimes. “Are we using these programs to the maximum benefit in the community? Probably not,” Zunker said after the presentation. “We shouldn’t have any openings in either program, but I have openings in both; and when you look at that arrest data – that should speak for itself.” Zunker examined Drug Court graduates admitted to the program between July 2009 and December 2014 and DUI Court graduates who were admitted between March 2010 and October 2014. Numbers show that the Drug Court graduates had an average of 4.8 arrests before they started the program. During the program, they had an average had 0.08 arrests per person. Post-graduation, they have a per-person arrest average of 0.4. “The results, in my opinion, are pretty impressive,” Zunker said. “They are almost arrest-free once they graduate the program.”

DUI Court graduates show a similar success rate. In the time period studied, DUI graduates were arrested an average of 8.36 times before they started the program. During the program, that particular group had zero in-program arrests per person. Post-graduation, the average arrest rate per person went up to 0.32. “I always describe the criminal justice system as a merry-go-round,” Zunker said, describing the process in which an offender is arrested, sentenced to probation, has his or her probation revoked and reinstated once, twice, maybe more times, and then is sent to prison, with the process likely to start over after release. “Prisons don’t reduce crime, that’s been out there for years,” Zunker said. Court-supervised treatment programs such as Drug Court and DUI Court, on the other hand, are designed to treat people in order to break that cycle. But not everyone who enters the programs is completing them. Drug Court has a 60 percent graduation rate, while DUI Court’s graduation rate is at 70 percent. Numbers show that 67 percent of the people who are terminated from Drug Court fail to comply with program requirements; 25 percent abscond from supervision; and 8 percent are charged with a new crime. Of the people who are terminated from DUI Court, 50 percent fail to comply, 17 percent abscond and 33 percent opt out of the program. “We try to get them to get into compliance, and eventually they say, “you know, heck with it,” and they take off, and that in the end only hurts themselves,” Zunker said. Part of that is a result of how rigorous the program is, he said. Participants are required to attend nine to 20 hours of treatment a week. “Both judges in the programs tell (them), ‘Your first priority is getting to treatment, and your second priority is getting to court. If you’re not doing either one of those things, you know, there’ll be problems,’” Zunker said. Participants have to appear before a judge every week for about six weeks. Then the frequency reduces to every other week for a while until it decreases to once a month. Zunker said appearing before one of the program judges can actually be a positive and productive experience for participants. “It’s not all about punishment and staying on them,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive reinforcement that takes place, you know, (and) a lot of these people have never been told they have been good at anything or they have never been told that what they’ve done has made somebody else proud or happy.” Published on: Wednesday, Jun 10, 2015 – 11:41:38 pm MDT Sarah-Zoellick Sarah Zoellick Criminal Justice Reporter Call: 307.633.3122 E-Mail Sarah Zoellick Follow on Twitter

Skip to content