Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: Light shines on judge, court's effort on alcohol

Posted by: Website Admin on 1/20/2007

SOPHIA - the acronym stands for Stewards of Prophetic, Hopeful, Intentional Action - is an organization that unites congregations to build better communities.

Mark Doremus, president of the organization, said "SOPHIA puts people of faith face- to-face with decisions makers." He also refers to the biblical passage from the book of Micah: ". . . and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

Current members of the organization are Ascension Lutheran Church, Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Community of the Living Spirit and First Congregational United Church of Christ, all of Waukesha; Galilee Lutheran Church, Pewaukee; Church of the Resurrection, Delafield; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, New Berlin; Waukesha catholic Worker; and Waukesha Temple.

On Dec. 13, SOPHIA held a public ceremony and reception to present Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Kathryn Foster with its Civic Leadership Award for helping to create and maintain an innovative alcohol treatment center in Waukesha County. Under this program, the court gives third-time drunken drivers judicial supervision and treatment for one year instead of lengthy jail sentences.

The first step is required jail time. Following that, offenders wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet for a few weeks. Then - under careful scrutiny by Foster, who meets frequently with offenders to ensure they are clean and sober and following program requirements, including regular meetings with a case manager and counseling - they resume normal activities.

They are required to work, go to school or do community service. If they are successful, the level of supervision is reduced. If they do not follow the rules, they may be put out of the program and required to serve additional time.

A three-year, $450,000 federal grant underwrites the court. Participation is voluntary and limited to non-violent offenders over the age of 18. Although the court started last summer, it already is at capacity with 60 participants.

Because she was the chief judge at the time, Kathryn Foster worked with the Waukesha County Criminal Justice Collaborating Council to win support from county officials. She is currently handling the entire caseload. Although the work is demanding, she is able to help participants change their lives. Her goal is to help the community by lowering correction costs and reducing repeated criminal behavior.

Also speaking at the award ceremony were Jim Bickel, pastor of the Ascension Lutheran Church; Betty Groenewold , vice president of SOPHIA; Judith Williams of Waukesha catholic Worker; and Jeff Wartgow, pastor of First Congregational United States of Christ.

By Lorayne Ritt, Posted January 20th, 2007

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