Congratulations to Judge Shaun Floerke and his team for receiving the national award for St. Louis County DWI Court, their second such honor in two years from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. I was happy to see the award reported in the News Tribune ("County DWI court earns national award," June 8).
I first heard of DWI Court while participating in Leadership Duluth. Judge Floerke presented how transformative the program has been for our community by collaborating with agencies to reduce offenses through changed behaviors. The program utilizes interactions like home visits, court appearances, staggered sentencing that breaks up jail time, regular drug and alcohol testing, and more. As a result, we're seeing fewer repeat offenders and improved public safety.
The impact of this program reaches beyond offenders. Had a program like this been around when I was a child it would have made a big difference in my life and in the lives of my brothers, sisters, and others.
DWI sentences impact families and communities. Simple things like getting to school on time can be a challenge when jail leaves one parent working extra jobs to replace income and children home alone to fend for themselves. The alternative: not having food or money for essentials like rent.
One person's addiction becomes a burden for many. DWI Court gives offenders and families hope, while saving taxpayers money - a win-win-win.
But the program doesn't exist on its own. Donations from a network of unsung supporters keeps it going. I recently learned family-law attorney Jessica Sterle of Sterle Law is among them. Over nine years, she has donated over $10,000.
My goal is to shine a light on the program and share my gratitude for those who run and support it. You are difference-makers for entire families in the Duluth area.