Racine County Judge Gerald Ptacek applauds after a defendant relates a story of success or progress in Racine County's Alcohol and Drug Treatment Court during this April 2012 session. Drug courts such as this one in Racine are seen as an effective way to cut incarceration costs and recidivism. But minority defendants in Wisconsin tend to be underrepresented in these diversion programs.

Experts: Drug choice, not race, fuels disparities in Wisconsin drug courts

According to a recent study by Washington University in St. Louis, 90 percent of heroin users are white, and most are young and live in the suburbs. By contrast, hospital studies show that African-Americans are much more likely than whites to abuse cocaine. And one University of Wisconsin-Madison expert said heroin addicts tend to commit less violent crimes than those on cocaine; many drug courts exclude violent offenders from participating. The result: Some drug courts, such as the one in Dane County, are now full of white heroin users.

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas conducts a hearing with advocates of a drug court participant, who is out of the frame. Colas provided access to the court but forbade photography of defendants to protect their privacy.

Wisconsin drug courts grow, but racial disparities persist

In 2012, about one-third of those arrested for drug crimes in Dane County were black, according to the state Office of Justice Assistance. But African-Americans made up just 10 percent of those participating in the county’s drug court that year, according to Journey Mental Health, a Madison nonprofit that provides treatment and case management for the program.

An infant monkey plays at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. Infant monkeys in psychiatrist Dr. Ned Kalin’s study will be exposed to adversity to study its effect on young brains.

University of Wisconsin to reprise controversial monkey studies

UW-Madison psychiatry professor Ned Kalin received approval to conduct the first experiment on campus in more than 30 years that will intentionally deprive newborn monkeys of their mothers, a practice designed to impact a primate’s psychological well-being. The protocol drew unusual debate from oversight committees, and it has raised questions about the degree of suffering acceptable in an experimental design with uncertain outcomes.

A center pivot manure irrigation system is used to spread manure on a Wisconsin corn field.

Manure spraying under scrutiny

Life for Wisconsin families has been disrupted by the relatively rare practice in Wisconsin of using water irrigation systems to spray liquid manure on farm fields. Now the issue has taken on new urgency as more large dairy farms consider using the practice.

Dianne Hendrickson and her son Eric, a sex offender confined to Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, inside the visiting area. The state committed Eric as a sexually violent person in 2002. The Hendricksons believe he has been denied discharge from the facility for rule infractions unrelated to the risk he poses to the community as a sex offender. Dianne Hendrickson is eager to see her son come home: “I have never prayed or wished for anything more than that.”

Sex offender awaits second chance

Day 3. Eric, 39, has been locked up for more than half his life. He finished his criminal sentence and was committed to the state as a sexually violent person in 2002. He has been confined more than twice as long as his original sentence and is now held for the future risk he poses, not for past crimes.

Larry, here at Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center, left the facility this past December on supervised release. He was confined for 19 years, most of them after he completed his criminal sentence for a sexual assault. He said he considers the commitment law “double jeopardy,” as offenders face a civil trial after they complete their criminal sentences. Sand Ridge officials asked that the Center not publish the last names of the offenders to whom it granted access, due to concerns about medical privacy.

Wisconsin freeing more sex offenders from mental lockup

Wisconsin officials have nearly quadrupled the number of offenders released from state custody after they were committed as sexually violent persons. The risks to residents are reasonable, officials say, because the state’s treatment programs are working and new data suggest these offenders are less likely to reoffend than previously thought.