The Usual Suspects: Judges and jails don't treat root problems - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

The Usual Suspects: Judges and jails don't treat root problems


DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- If you hang around the courthouse or jail long enough, you're likely to see some of the same people over and over and over again. Some are career criminals, but those in law enforcement say for many repeat offenders, problems run deeper.

Every morning Doug Potter goes from his so-called "morning office" at the Grand Tap to the courthouse. Potter is a bail bondsman, fronting money so people can get out of jail. His morning routine is to get some coffee at the Grand Tap and head over to first appearances at 8:30 a.m.

"I'm providing a service to let them out of jail," Potter said. "As long as they go to court and do what they're supposed to do, legally they've done everything and they've made me happy."

This year. he's bailed around 250 people out, some, more than once. Another commonality is last names.

"I've bonded out fathers of fathers, children of fathers that I know. First and second generations that... That's what they do," Potter said. "Someone taught them how to do this. Someone might've taught you how to be good at building houses. Someone taught them how to play the system."

Jail administrators also take notice of their revolving roster.

"You do know that there's certain people, certain individuals that you do see that are repeats. Sometimes you see that there's families. Last names that are family, that are related, that it's generational," Dubuque County Jail Administrator Captain Greg Egan said.

Most everyone in the local legal system will tell you many repeat offenders have common problems.

"The societal issues that we have. There's issues of people's poverty. There's issues of peoples addictions to drugs and alcohol, and there's peoples mental health problems," Judge Randal Nigg said.

For the top more than 100 repeat offenders over the last year, public intoxication is the most common charge, followed by probation and parole violations, then drug offenses. That puts alcohol and drug crimes at the top, and jail time doesn't treat addiction or mental health.

"We need to find other and better ways to solve root problems other than relying on fear of a judge or fear of going to jail," Nigg says of people with genuine health or addiction issues.

 One idea that the legal community says is working is drug court. Repeat offenders with drug addictions can be selected for an intensely monitored counseling and courts program that keeps them out of prison.

 "This is what did it for me after 30 something years and I'm just grateful I was given that opportunity," Dubuque County's first Drug Court graduate Guy Richman said. Richman was addicted to crack cocaine.

"By the grace of God I've made it this far, and I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and be successful in my life," Richman said.

The Drug Court program has been in Dubuque County and Delaware County for one year. Other states are now even experimenting with alcohol court and even domestic violence court -- trying to cut down on repeat offenders.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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