Winona County Drug Court Up and Running - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Winona County Drug Court Up and Running

Posted: Updated: Jan 29, 2013 05:31 PM

WINONA, Minnesota (WXOW) -- Winona County's new drug court program has now been in operation since December 11. 

Among its six participants is Dustin Williams -- who opted for drug court over a lengthy prison term following his fourth DWI conviction. 

"This is helping you see a better way of life instead of re-offending," Williams said. "It's really easy to get out of prison and just re-offend." 

Drug court participants are demanded to make weekly court appearances, although that restriction is eased as offenders progress through the program, which runs 13 weeks at minimum. 

Participants in the drug court are also subjected to random drug testing, required to call in nightly for curfews and attend treatment. 

Also required is work on community service and/or a job. 

"We're not going to let you just sit at home and think about using again," said Judge Nancy Buytendorp, who oversees the program. 

Buytendorp spent 20 years as a prosecutor in Winona County. She's now been behind the bench for four years.  

"I've seen the same people come into the system, we send them to prison and they come out 36 months later and commit the same offenses over and over again," she said. "Some of the participants in drug court right now are people I prosecuted 15 years ago."

"Prison is not working," Buytendorp said. "It's a temporary fix. It's costly to the community and it's not helping the defendants at all."

"The whole goal is to teach the participants how tax paying, upright citizens," the Judge said. 

Winona County's drug court program is primarily being bankrolled with a federal grant that runs for three years. Buytendorp said the county covers some small expenses. 

The Judge also said the county is already in the process of seeking out other grants to keep the program operating in the future. 


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