No action taken on proposal for handling DUI convictions

A proposed new way of dealing with people convicted of driving under the influence likely would be unpopular with the public, so Shawnee County commissioners took no action on it Thursday.

State law requires 48 hours of “imprisonment” for anyone convicted of their first or second DUI offense.

A better alternative is an intense two-day program of education, counseling and treatment, commissioners were told Thursday.

The program was described by Christopher Joseph, a Topeka attorney speaking on behalf of Vanguard Offender Management Inc. and Sims-Kemper Clinical Counseling and Recovery Outpatient Services.

District Judge Thomas Conklin would make the decisions on who would be sent to the “DUI Intervention Program” and who would be sent to jail.

The alternative program would be only for first- and second-time DUI offenders.

Ideally, the program would be conducted in the county’s new work-release center, which is under construction and expected to be completed in January across from the Shawnee County Jail on S.E. Adams.

Initially, the plan is to use a block of rooms at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center.

Off-duty law officers would be employed to keep the participants in that limited space for the 48 hours.

Conklin was present at the commission meeting and spoke in favor of the program. Joseph said the proposal had been explained to all of the county’s judges in a recent meeting and they all approved.

But commissioners had concerns.

Among them was the public perception that people who had broken the law would be “put up in the Ramada Inn for the weekend.”

They also balked at giving their blessing to the program without sufficient time to study it. The item was added to the agenda for the meeting, rather than being placed there in advance as is the usual practice.

After lengthy discussion, the commission took no action, but simply moved on to the next item on the agenda.

In other action, the commission approved $47,000 worth of repairs to a sewage pumping station in the Lake Sherwood area.

Mike Hall can be reached at (785) 295-1209 or [email protected]

 

By Mike Hall
THE TOPEKA CAPITAL-JOURNAL

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