In Wisconsin Rapids in June, 2017, 140 participants from 29 counties and 11 full treatment court teams completed the Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards 101 Training, which was designed to provide guidance to new treatment courts, as well as new treatment court staff for existing programs. This training was developed based on the Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards, and was made possible under a discretionary grant from the US Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). The trainings were coordinated by the DOJ, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals (WATCP) and the Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office.
This 2.5 day training was developed as a follow-up to the highly successful Treatment Court Standards Trainings, held in late 2015, and the overwhelming response to the training reflects the continued emergence of new treatment courts throughout Wisconsin. The development of the Standards and the resulting Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards Trainings represent unprecedented steps in the development and coordination of Wisconsin’s treatment courts.
Wisconsin’s first problem-solving, or treatment court was established when Dane County in developed an adult drug court in 1996. The most commonly known problem-solving court is the drug court but a wide range of specialized courts including OWI, mental health, veterans, etc., have been developed to specifically address the underlying issues related to criminal behavior. These courts work across disciplines and with other institutions to deploy interventions that treat the offender while also holding them accountable for criminal actions.
In recent years, following national trends, the State of Wisconsin has seen a rapid expansion in the development of local problem-solving courts. These problem-solving courts have historically developed locally, absent funding or oversight from a state coordinator or governing body. This has caused each local program to be unique, and as treatment courts in Wisconsin have been developed and evolved into a variety of models, they have done so without the existence of universally accepted operational standards.
In 2014, WATCP published the Standards. The core of the Standards is the Ten Key Components of Effective Drug Court Operations and seven evidence-based principles published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Additional research, evaluation and lessons learned from across the nation are incorporated into the Standards, as well as aspects of the NADCP Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards, Volume I. The 17 Standards each outline key areas and practice points that support evidence-based practices in treatment courts.
Following publication of the Standards in 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Justice was awarded a $200,000 Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The goals of this grant were to improve the functioning and outcomes of Wisconsin’s treatment courts through the development and implementation of a statewide training program and prepare Wisconsin treatment courts for statewide evaluation. The training plan was subsequently expanded to incorporate the Wisconsin Performance Measures for Adult Drug and Hybrid Courts, which were finalized in 2015 in collaboration with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
The training curriculum was designed to provide teams with comprehensive instruction on each of the 17 Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards and the Wisconsin Performance Measures. The 2 ½ day training provided necessary time for breakout sessions to develop team action plans for further integration into their local practices.
While federal resources for training such as the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) or the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) provide a valuable resource for training for coordinators and treatment court teams, as more and more treatment courts expand throughout Wisconsin and nationally, access to these resources has become more scarce without proper planning and access to adequate funding. The Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards trainings addressed this issue by bringing a locally developed, team-based training to every region in the state. In addition, the trainings were not only provided free of charge, but they also included mileage, meals, and lodging reimbursement through the grant. In fact, the large majority of the grant budget was budgeted solely for travel expenses for local participants to attend the trainings.
Another advantage to holding these trainings regionally-based in Wisconsin is that treatment court teams were provided a unique opportunity to interact with both their team members as well as other treatment courts in their region as they reviewed each standard in the context of the current operation of their court. The trainings also provided a wealth of resource materials designed to provide treatment court teams with valuable information related to their treatment court operations and ideas for continuous improvement even after the trainings, including the development of Action Plans for each treatment court team.
The Wisconsin Treatment Court Standards 101 Trainings were coordinated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, in collaboration with WATCP and the Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office, and their development and delivery reflected the true collaborative nature of the treatment court movement. The training curriculum was developed as a collaborative effort between the partner agencies and a team of local treatment court subject matter experts, including the Departments of Corrections and Health Services, in addition to judges and coordinators from across the State of Wisconsin. The training was also delivered using this collaborative model, with teams of experts partnering to facilitate different sessions to the local treatment teams over the 2.5 day trainings.
In addition, a key benefit of this collaborative effort was the fact that the trainings were developed and delivered by many of the same experts who assisted with the development of the standards and performance measures, and who had direct experience as part of a treatment court team. These trainings would not have been possible without the expertise, support, and dedication of the following individuals who donated their time to developing and delivering the trainings:
- Katie Behl, Walworth County Treatment Court Coordinator
- Jared Hoy, Policy Initiatives Advisor, Department of Corrections
- Dr. Constance Kostelac, Director, Bureau of Justice Information and Analysis, Department of Justice
- Judge Elliott Levine, La Crosse County Circuit Court
- Reneé Lushaj, Justice System Improvement Specialist, Department of Justice
- Bethany Robinson, Alternative Treatment Coordinator, Outagamie County
- Kristin Schier, Treatment Court Coordinator, Grant County
- Judge Lisa Stark, District 3 Court of Appeals
- Katy Burke, Wisconsin Statewide Problem-Solving Court Coordinator, Office of Court Operations
- Lorie Goeser, Criminal Justice Coordinator & Human Services Crisis Disaster Response Coordinator, Department of Health Services
- Sara Tupper, Justice Programs Coordinator, Department of Justice