MADISON (WKOW) -- A Dane County program that helps alcohol and drug offenders break free from their addiction celebrated seven years of successful rehabilitations Friday in Madison.
Dane County created the Pathfinders program in 2003 to improve public safety, reduce recidivism in and out of the county jail, save tax dollars and turn lives around.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk says on any given day, more than half of the sentenced inmates in the Dane County jail are there for driving drunk. Falk added that doesn't include people doing time for a crime committed while they were intoxicated.
In the seven years of Pathfinders existence, 156 people have successfully graduated from the program and a recent one-year review of graduates found over 70% had not re-offended.
Falk says every person kept from re-offending and going back to jail saves Dane County taxpayers $29,200 per person every year. That means the 156 graduates of the program have saved taxpayers over $1.5 million in saved jail beds.
Several graduates spoke at today's event including Jimmy Doris. Doris said he was referred to the program after getting 3 OWI charges in a 4 month period. He described his level of alcoholism by telling a story about an arraignment for one of those OWI charges. Doris said he showed up for the 9:30 a.m. hearing, was given a breathalyzer test and had a blood alcohol level of .352 which is more than 4 times the legal limit of .08. Doris said he wouldn't have been able to turn his life around without the Pathfinders program. "The Pathfinder program for me has given me a new lease on life. I've been able to grow and excel professionally, academically and about all personally. Without the Pathfinder program, I would be getting out of jail. Getting out of jail broke. I'd be getting out of jail without a job and I can guarantee you I'd be getting out of jail with an attitude a little less than positive."
County officials say 94% of people who complete the program leave with a stable job and 100% leave the program with stable housing in place.
Dane County budgets about $200,000 a year for Pathfinders which is contracted to Hop Haven-Rebos United which is run by Catholic Charities.