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

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.

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. Continue Reading

The community digester located near Waunakee is the stateÕs first to process manure from more than one farm. Roughly 100,00 gallons of manure from 2,400 cows on three nearby farms is pumped daily through underground pipes to the digester. Its purpose is to keep phosphorus from polluting the Yahara watershed.

Manure digesters seen as best hope for curbing lake pollution, but drawbacks remain

Since 2001, manure digesters have been popping up across the state. Wisconsin now has 34, the most in the nation, with two more scheduled to begin operating by 2015. In all these digesters, bacteria eat biomass like manure, food scraps or whey and emit energy in the form of methane gas. Continue Reading

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Ignored and underfunded, mental health care thin at county jails

Inmate at La Crosse County jail

Key findings:
• Wisconsin’s county-run jails are overloaded with people with mental illness — but services are largely inadequate.
• The state Department of Corrections is charged with oversight but does not evaluate the quality of jails’ mental health care.
• For nearly a quarter-century, the Legislature has required the DOC to collect and summarize annual reports on jails’ mental health care, but most jails have not provided the information, and the DOC acknowledges it has not been asking for them.
• One-third of Wisconsin’s jails have been cited for inadequate suicide prevention efforts. Continue Reading