Yakima's DUI Court still working to get more graduates

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Yakima County's DUI Court program is now in its third year and is in danger of losing state funding.

Josh Reeves was the first graduate of Yakima County's DUI Court program back in September. Previously a repeat DUI offender, he says it turned his life around, which is what the team members like Therese Murphy like to hear.

"Our goal is to try and change whatever it was that caused them to get behind the wheel of that car on that particular day intoxicated," said Therese Murphy, Manager of District Court Probation Services.

It's designed as a four-phase, 18-month program for people who have become dependent on alcohol. They regularly meet with a probation officer, participate in intensive treatment and take drug tests to prove that they're staying sober.

Yet two years into the program, and $200 thousand deep, Reeves is one of only three graduates. KIMA asked if that was a waste of money.

"I don't think you can necessarily equate the spending of $200 thousand to just three graduates," said Murphy. "We're talking the spending of $200 thousand with up to 20 individuals that we've worked with at any given time to try and change their behavior which is what this court is about."

Yet when it's supposed to be an 18-month program, it seems some participants have fallen behind, taking up more time and money.

"This is a very, very slow process, we work very diligently trying to address the needs of offenders so that way they make better choices," said Murphy.

KIMA wanted to gauge the opinion of other lawyers in Yakima. Some feel it needs more time to see if the participants will put in the effort to make it worthwhile.

"There's a lot of great ideas that are passed around in every element of our government, but a lot of them are based on idealisms that sometimes don't pan out," said Daniel Polage, a traffic law attorney.

Successful graduation ultimately takes away the participant's DUI sentence. Time will tell if the program can rehabilitate enough drunk drivers to keep its wheels spinning.

Spokane County also has a DUI court. They've had a mandatory 12-month program for certain offenders since 2009, and they've had about 80 graduates.