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Portage County & State start pilot corrections program this month


STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) -  Portage County is ready to begin a five-year pilot program with Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections designed to help rehabilitate selected prisoners, cut jail populations, and save money.

It’s called the Community Cognitive Services Program, or CCSP, and will work with about fifteen people in a much different setting than the usual jail and extended supervision model.

Ross Dick is the Portage County Justice Programs Department Director. He says the CCSP helps target specific guidance towards improving life skills, dealing with substance abuse, and can even teach basic cooking, money management, and child rearing skills. He says participants will be not be violent criminals, but will be people that are at a medium or high risk of repeating crimes again.

Ross says this program is designed to be flexible and can be tailored in many ways to address specific issues that lead to criminal behavior. They have tools available to help them screen offenders and figure out what types of intervention can help put that person on the right track. Ross says the new program will be using mentors for the offenders, to help them think about why they commit crimes.

Portage County Executive Patty Dreier is excited about the county’s pilot program partnership with the state’s Department of Corrections. She says the program will be for participants that may benefit from having programs and guidance to keep them from reoffending and going back into the court system. Dreier says the new program will help determine if we can rehabilitate some criminals, lower jail populations, and also save money. Additionally, Dreier llikes the program’s ability to deal with mental health issues that are tied to repeated criminal activity, and a chance to break the cycle.

Participants in the new Community Cognitive Services Program will all be from Portage County. No sex offenders or violent criminals will be eligible for it. The county will manage the program, but utilize local resources like Portage House halfway house and Justice Works, which will have involvement in mentoring and guidance plans. Attic Clinical Services will assist offenders with substance abuse issues.

The program will utilize bed space for six offenders at Portage House, which has received permission to expand to 12 residents. These offenders should expect close supervision and a highly-structured daily routine. Gaining or maintaining employment is a central expectation in the program, which is expected to last an average of about 16 weeks per offender.

Between $300,000 to $350,000 has been made available annually to fund the program for five years.  The first participants are expected to begin the program before the end of the month.

Editor's note:  You can listen to the entire interview with Ross Dick and the interview with Patty Dreier which includes comments on this story by clicking on the applications above.