The city of Spokane recently began a new effort to address chronic drunk drivers. The Spokane Municipal DUI COURT launched in January and aims to direct those who are repeatedly arrested for driving under the influence into treatment, rather than a jail cell.

"The theory, like other therapeutic courts, is to do intensive supervision in lieu of jail, and get to the crux of the problem as opposed to just warehousing people," says Judge Tracy Staab, who presides over the DUI court.

The court requires intense supervision, treatment and drug testing throughout the five-phase program. Each person wears a bracelet that can detect whether they drink alcohol and will alert a probation officer. Participants also submit to frequent random drug tests.

The court secured a grant to help participants pay for the bracelets, random urinalysis testing and bus passes, Staab says.

Participants also get a mental health evaluation and could be required to participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, says Hans Horstketter, the court's probation officer. The program is tailored to fit the individual needs of each participant.

"It's all about ending the cycle of drinking and driving. It's behavioral change," Horstketter says.

In addition to the judge, a probation officer, the DUI Court team includes a prosecutor, a public defender, a WSU researcher, a treatment provider and two Spokane police officers, who visit participants at home.

The entire program takes at least 18 months to complete and in the end can result in less jail time for those who graduate. To qualify for the court, generally a person has to have two or three DUIs within seven years, or is accused of other crimes fueled by drugs or alcohol. There are currently only a handful of participants, Horstketter says, as the program is still in its infancy. But he anticipates that the court will grow each month.

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.