Dane County officials are hoping to curb repeat drunken driving and domestic violence offenses with a 24/7 hour alcohol accountability pilot program included in the county budget.
The pilot program will be the first of its kind in Wisconsin and would require people convicted of drunken driving or domestic violence offenses to take a breathalyzer twice a day and pay a four dollar fee each day for the tests. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi pledged $25,000 in his budget to test the program on 100 individuals, according to a statement from Dane County.
Dane County officials would work with the Dane County Sheriff’s Department as well as Safe Communities Coalition on the implementation of the program, Parisi said.
Josh Wescott, chief of staff for the Dane County Executive, said the program was replicated from a South Dakota program that was successful in lowering the number of arrests for drunken driving and domestic violence incidents.
South Dakota saw a 12 percent decrease in repeat DUI offenses and a 9 percent decrease in domestic violence arrests on a county wide level, the Dane County statement said.
“We’ve been encouraged by the results of the program in South Dakota,” Wescott said.
Dane County Supervisor Tim Kiefer, District 25, said Wisconsin and South Dakota had some of the highest rates for drunken driving in the country, which he said necessitated the proposed program. Kiefer said alcohol abuse and domestic violence are linked, because most perpetrators of domestic violence are under the influence of alcohol.
Wescott added alcohol related crimes are currently costing taxpayers money because it is one of the main causes of incarceration for people in the county.
“Alcohol abuse and alcohol related crimes are the most prevalent and the most prevalent root cause of people ending up in the county jail,” Wescott said.
Kiefer said the proposal for the budget was cost effective and would most likely be supported by the Board of Supervisors when they hear Parisi’s budget proposal on Oct. 1.
Kiefer, a former prosecutor for Dane County, said the program would most likely cost taxpayers less than paying for the defense and jail time of someone convicted of either of those two offenses.
“It’s much cheaper to have someone out of jail and doing an alcohol test twice a day instead of someone sitting in jail 24/7,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer said the proposal makes sense because the county should focus on treating the problem of alcohol related crimes instead of just incarcerating offenders. Kiefer said the strategy outlined by the pilot program will be more effective in dealing with alcohol related crime.
“I think what we need to do is not get tougher about crime, but smarter about crime,” Kiefer said.
Dane County Supervisor Nick Zweifel, District 3, said the program will be re-evaluated at the end of the year and the data will show whether it could be implemented on a larger scale.
Zwiefel said the program was an important step forward in addressing the increase in domestic violence and alcohol use in the county.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in domestic violence and drug use and alcohol use in the county over the past few years for sure,” Zweifel said. “The county is trying to attack this on a lot of fronts.”