Sawyer County Circuit Court Judge John Yackel stated in an email sent to the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors this morning, June 29, 2018, that bond testing will continue in Sawyer County.

Judge Yackel has released his letter for publication and readers may view the letter in its entirety below.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“On Monday I raised the concern over Sawyer County ending all Alcohol and Drug Testing of approximately 80 people.  This testing had been ordered by the Circuit Court and was part of a defendants criminal bond to ensure they maintain absolute sobriety.

“It is with great relief that the potential public safety nightmare has been avoided.  Through great effort, by many people, Sawyer County and LCO are moving forward in a collaborative effort to keep the bond testing in place and to expand the opportunities for meaningful drug treatment.  While at the same time continuing to monitor alleged offenders and to hold them accountable for their actions.

“This morning, myself, representatives from the Health and Human Services Department, the District Attorneys Office, the Sheriff's Department, the County Administrator, the County Board Chairman, the LCO Tribal Judge, LCO Tribal Counsel and employees of Sawyer County and LCO met to discuss the future of bond testing and drug treatment in Sawyer County.  This meeting was a procedural meeting between interested parties and staff and not a policy meeting.

“The transition to something positive and effective is not an easy road, but when well intentioned people put their minds together, great things can happen and movement in the right direction can occur.

“There will be no gap in the bond testing as I had originally feared.  With the assistance of Sheriff Doug Mrotek and his staff in the jail, there is a plan to continue the testing without interruption.  There are also plans for developing future testing and treatment through LCO Behavioral Health and Tammy Bergum.  The County has received criticism this week for what looked like an end to the alcohol and drug testing program.  But everyone connected with this meeting should be applauded for avoiding a crisis and for coming together in a collaborative effort to make our community a better place to live.”

Per John M. Yackel, Sawyer County Circuit Judge

**Original Post**

Judge Yackel Opposes Decision To End Drug & Alcohol Testing Services

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 | by Ben Dryden

Sawyer County Circuit Court Judge John Yackel has issued a letter to the Sawyer County Board of Supervisors stating his opposition to the Health and Human Services Committee's decision which eliminates all drug and alcohol testing for individuals who are on criminal bonds. Judge Yackel orders defendants to maintain absolute sobriety for all alcohol and drug crimes. To ensure compliance with that order, defendants are made to drug test either daily or randomly depending on the severity of their charges.  

According to Judge Yackel’s letter, Sawyer County Health and Human Services will unilaterally end the drug and alcohol testing services available to the court system on June 29, 2018.

At the very least, Judge Yackel is requesting that drug and alcohol testing services be maintained for the approximately 80 individuals who are already ordered to undergo testing until disposition of their circuit court cases.

Judge Yackel has released his letter for publication and readers may view the letter in its entirety below.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

"It is my understanding that Sawyer County is no longer making drug and alcohol testing available to the Sawyer County Court System as a means to ensure those charged with severe alcohol and drug crimes are maintaining absolute sobriety.  Over the past 2 1/2 years, there are numerous people who have been ordered by the Court to report for testing as part of their Bond. Currently there are approximately 80 individuals who report either daily or randomly to ensure they are sober.  This protects the community by making sure that if the defendant consumes drugs or alcohol, the criminal justice system can react. This powerful tool no longer exists as of June 29, 2018.

"I implore you, on behalf of the safety of this community, to extend the alcohol and drug testing for those already on bond.  I propose that all new cases that come before the court, I will treat as if testing does not exist. Slowly, but surely, we will process those who are currently testing and dispose of those cases in time.  If you follow through with the decision to cut off testing on June 29, everyone who currently is ordered to maintain absolute sobriety will immediately be unsupervised and the court system will not have a mechanism in place to deal with those who fail to maintain absolute sobriety.

"In addition, the decision to end testing on June 29, is an unwise one.  Next week is the 4th of July. Needless to say it is a high alcohol consumption week.  Please do not put the public at such an unnecessary risk. There is still time to act. But, If you fail to end the testing requirements in a safe and efficient manner, I cannot accept any responsibility for any tragedy that could occur by someone who is currently on a bond which requires testing.  

"My greatest fear is that someone who is on testing before June 29, begins using drugs or consuming alcohol after June 29.  Because there is no testing, no one will know. The person then gets behind the wheel of a car and someone gets killed or hurt.  That will be the responsibility of whoever ended the testing without any direct conversation with me. If that person is a County Employee, then it is ultimately your responsibility.  The bonds have all been set with the belief that testing would be available. Apparently, it no longer is after June 29. If the Board is comfortable with that risk, then I simply wanted to make sure that it was an informed one.  I am confident in telling you that if I were you, I would not be comfortable.

"If nothing is done, I will be letting my family and friends know to avoid the roads at all costs next week, and to be even more cautious than usual in the weeks that follow."

Per John M. Yackel, Sawyer County Circuit Judge left messages for on-the-record statements and comments for the Sawyer County DHS Director, Committee Chair, and County Administrator, however, we did not receive any replies.

It is unknown at this time if the County will reassess their current position before this Friday's deadline to end this program.

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