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Wellness court a success

WALKER – Ninth Judicial District Judge John P. Smith, assigned to Cass County, reported to the county board Tuesday the success of wellness court since it began here.

While the recidivism rate for the average person going through court for driving while intoxicated offenses is 50 percent, Smith said only one of the 24 wellness court graduates since 2006 has re-offended.

Wellness court is designed as an alternative to regular court prosecution of DWI offenders. It is not available to violent criminals, Smith said.

Those who enter the program must complete a specialized treatment program and submit to regular counseling and frequent monitoring by the court. Eleven people who entered the program were terminated for not complying with the strict regulations.

While the program allows for people to slip once in a while, it does not allow flagrant or repeated violations, Smith explained.

Those who have been arrested for a gross misdemeanor offense must complete 18 months of wellness court. Those arrested for a felony must complete 24 months.

Successful graduates must gain fulltime employment or be going to school full time, Smith said. Those who succeed say the program changed their lives, he added.

Cass County’s wellness program is a cooperative one with Leech Lake Tribal Court.