Program helps offenders break the cycle

At 6 a.m., Anoka County Community Corrections Department agents visit the jail to begin bail assessment paperwork for inmates brought in overnight.

By being part of the Intensive Domestic Assault Pre-trail Program (IDAPP), offenders could have to an electronic monitor, agree to drug and alcohol testing and be required to go through counseling. Photo by Tammy Sakry

By being part of the Intensive Domestic Assault Pre-trail Program (IDAPP), offenders could have to an electronic monitor, agree to drug and alcohol testing and be required to go through counseling. Photo by Tammy Sakry

Among the waiting inmates may be the newest participants of the Intensive Domestic Assault Pre-Trial Program (IDAPP).

IDAPP is the offender component of the county’s Lethality Assessment Program (LAP), according to Dylan Warkentin, community corrections department director.

LAP, a program that includes members of Anoka County law enforcement, the county attorney’s office, city prosecutors and domestic violence services, takes a proactive step to address the issue of domestic violence, identifying and assisting those victims at greatest risk for injury or death from their intimate partner.

While LAP works with the victim, IDAPP works with the offender to prevent further domestic abuse incidents.

“Our hope is, that if we have early intervention, we can prevent new offenses and change the mind-set that creates (domestic abuse),” Warkentin said.

 

The program

Using the 12-14 questions on the LAP questionnaire, which indicates the level of risk for the victim, the court could order IDAPP for the high risk offender.

If it is ordered, the offender has three options – remain in jail, post bail or participate in the free IDAPP.

The program includes several personal contacts, including random in-person visits, said Sharon Clair, adult supervision director.

The IDAPP can include electronic monitoring, alcohol and chemical testing and has a drug/alcohol counseling component.

Depending on what chemicals are involved, the offenders will have to blow into a Breathalyzer three times a day and submit to drug testing, Clair said.

They will also be referred to domestic abuse counseling and/or chemical dependency programs, she said.

Approximately 70 percent of domestic abuse cases have some chemical involvement, Warkentin said.

“Alcohol consumption has a huge impact on behavior and domestic relations (as do) other drugs,” he said.

IDAPP forces sobriety on the participants and if the offenders are caught using while on the program, they will go back to jail, Warkentin said.

If the person participates in the program, his/her progress is shared with the court, including if the no contact order has been obeyed or any new offenses have occurred, and will be used for determining sentencing, Clair said.

 

Participants

Of the 798 domestic assault cases in 2011 that went through the pre-trial process, 71 offenders went through the IDAPP.

In 2011, there was an average of six new participants every month. This year, the average is 10 new participants a month, Warkentin said.

IDAPP had 64 men and seven women enrolled last year, he said.

The program, which has an average length of 47 days, is only used for the offenders with the highest risk, Warkentin said.

In the beginning, it was hard to get people to enroll in the program, Clair said.

Many of them just wanted to pay the bail and get out, Warkentin said.

Others do not think they are at fault and don’t understand why they have to do all the extra steps when they did nothing wrong, he said.

“I think a lot of the offenders are confused by the system and what has happened because of their own conduct,” Warkentin said.

“There are a lot of emotions and lot of questions (involved in domestic assault cases).”

Sometimes they have to work through all of that before they can make a decision, he said.

Hopefully, the program can soften their attitudes toward counseling, Warkentin said.

“We want them geared toward moving and motivating toward decisions that are positive and pro-social,” he said.

IDAPP, which was modeled after the department’s supervised alcohol program, is trying to reduce risk to the victim and create a safer community, not just do a short fix for public safety, Warkentin said.

“We are trying to… create a long-term better reality,” he said.

“We are doing what we can to curb the behavior.”

IDAPP is fully funded by a federal grant, with the exception of the electronic monitoring.

His department pays for the electronic monitoring, Warkentin said.

 

Public defender

Although it may seem unusual for the Public Defender’s Office to be involved in the IDAPP, Chief Public Defender Virginia Murphrey was asked to be a consultant for the program.

“Most of the time the domestic violence clients find themselves stuck in jail on a bond they cannot pay and they do not have access to chemical dependency program or domestic abuse counseling,” she said.

“From a defense perspective, (IDAPP) is a way for people to get out of jail and get into a program” while under intense supervision, Murphrey said.

But it is up to the client whether to participate, she said.

In the past, she has heard clients admit they need help and ask for that help because they could no longer live the way they were, Murphrey said.

Domestic violence is a social issue and it passes from one generation to the next, she said.

Some people participate because they want to change their lives and the lives of their kids, according to Murphrey.

If the client really wants to go to treatment they will or they will not choose IDAPP, Murphrey said.

“It is up to them to make that choice,” she said.

Murphrey said she appreciated being asked to be part of the IDAPP process.

IDAPP includes smart sentencing, which takes into account the offenders’ needs as well as the crime committed.

Studies have shown that addressing the needs, including alcohol and chemical dependency, of the offenders can reduce repeat offenses, Murphrey said.

“The goal has been a better result for everyone. When crime decreases, everyone benefits and public safety is better,” she said.

Since 2008, her office, which includes several counties, has been reduced by 18 percent, Murphrey.

With 40 percent of the criminal cases being handled by the Anoka County office, many of the attorneys’ cases have had to be prioritized to accommodate the accelerated court cases introduced by the LAP.

“The goal is to have the domestic violence cases done in 90 days, but if something needs more time would we demand it for our clients,” Murphrey said.

The trade off is that criminal damage to property cases get pushed back.

“If someone gets angry and breaks your windshield, the case will be delayed,” Murphrey said.

 

Offenders

One of the problems that individuals that want IDAPP could face is a large bail amount on top of the program, Murphrey said.

“It’s frustrating for us,” she said.

A lot of the times, it is the client’s first time in court and they are willing to do the treatments and supervision but are stuck in jail if the judge imposes a large bail amount, Murphrey said.

The program also requires a lot from the offender, she said.

If the offenders cannot comply with the requirements, they are out of luck, she said.

Some choose to stay in jail, Murphrey said.

“For the people who can do it, the program is great for them as well as the community at-large,” she said.

Tammy Sakry is at tammy.sakry@ecm-inc.com

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