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Proposed OWI Law Changes Could Impact Marathon County Program

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The Marathon County board will be taking up a resolution from the Public Safety committee against proposed changes to the Wisconsin's operating while intoxicated laws. 

Those changes would eliminate the county's own OWI court system.

Justice system coordinator Laura Yarie explains what this would mean for those convicted of a 5th or 6th offense. 

“If the individuals go away to prison for a year and a half, there’s a good possibility they wouldn’t, with time served pretrial and things like that, they wouldn’t even be eligible for treatment in prison.  So they would come back out and not have that supervision and structure available to them.”

Yarie says only a handful of the more than 70 individuals who have completed the county's program have re-offended.

Those who have succeeded agree that the system is more effective than prison or jail.

“You’ll have a curfew, you’ll be home by nine o’clock.  A lot of them are on monitoring, so it’s very monitored, very structured.”

Yarie says in some cases those enrolled in the program have told them it would have been easier to just sit behind bars for a year and a half.

“We’re not going to allow you to continue to break rules.  Some of the participants come in and think they got out of this and it’s going to be easy and they’re going to skate through this, and they quickly realize that’s not the case.”

Yarie says the program allows those offenders to continue to be employed and active in the community while being held accountable. 

Yarie says similar programs in Rock and La Crosse Counties have had success as well.

They would like lawmakers to take a look at the process and consider implementing it statewide.