Local sentencing sense

The Ann Arbor News reports on the Washtenaw County Sobriety Court and our friend Judge Creal:

The defendant, who had been arrested for drunken driving, stood before 15th District Judge Julie Creal.

But unlike a typical sentencing, Creal asked questions of a more personal nature – wondering whether the death of a relative would impact the man’s sobriety.

“I’m dealing with it,” he said. “It’s a tough time for me.”

Creal asked how long he’d been sober.

“Sixteen months sober on Tuesday,” he replied.

The nearly two dozen people stuffed in Creal’s small courtroom for Washtenaw County’s Sobriety Court broke into applause.

“Fabulous,” Creal said as she clapped.

A judge who applauds? A group of defendants cheering each other’s successes?

That’s Sobriety Court, created by Creal four years ago to help repeat drunken drivers get treatment. Representatives from the prosecutor’s office, city attorney’s office, law enforcement and probation department also are present.

People who enter a voluntary, 18-month program and successfully complete it can avoid jail time and save about $1,000 in fines and fees. The program includes random testing at home, attendance at 12-step meetings, making small payments and staying sober.

Since it started, 157 people have entered the program. Of those who are no longer in the system, 60 have completed it successfully – a rate of about 76 percent.

The focus of the program is really about owning up to a problem.

I posted last week about how drug courts and health professional recovery programs are leading the way for the rest of us.

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