By: Allison Gowens
One special court in Athens Clarke County is working to help people with Driving Under the Influence charges by dishing out treatment instead of just punishment. The specialized DUI court has consistently received national Acclaim for it’s successful approach at treating addicts and preventing further DUI offenses.
“They become positive, contributing members of society and our community. It’s really been amazing to watch that transformation. Which is why people most people who are involved stay involved,” said Judge Charles Auslander.
You never want to see blue lights flashing in your rearview mirror, but in Athens-Clarke County, it happens a lot. Many young people later find themselves in court facing DUI charges. But in Athens Clarke County there’s hope for those people who might be facing even larger addiction problems. Judge Charles Auslander presides over the DUI court in Athens, which he believes is truly one-of-a-kind.
“Probably every week of so, I’ll have at least 2-5 calls from people asking how we do things, why we do things the way we do and how effective its been in our experience,” said Lee Rushton, Athens DUE/Drug Court Director.
The DUI court in Athens was created in 2001 as the first of its kind in the state. Eligible people can partake in the very rigorous program for incentives, such as reduced jail time. The court concentrates on treatment in the development of life skills rather than just punishment. The program is so successful, it’s been recognized since 2008 as one of only for DWI training sites in the nation.
“They get in trouble less often, much less likely to get another substance abuse offense, or another driving under the influence offense,” said Judge Auslander.
The program is rigorous, which is part of the reason supporters say it works so well. It’s measured in five different phases that requires group therapy sessions, random drug screenings, 24 weeks of treatment with work assignments, 16 weeks of relapse prevention sessions, followed by a continuation of care. Since it began there have been 424 graduates from the program. Only 8% of graduates have been arrested again for new DUI charges, compared to 37% of people who don’t partake in the program at all. To judge Auslander, these numbers are a success.