Wisti not seeking re-election: Judge proud of treatment court

Judge proud of treatment court

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) 97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti is seen in 2018 after receiving a state Treatment Hero award for his work with the regional treatment court. Wisti recently decided he will not seek re-election to the bench.

HOUGHTON — 97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti will not seek a third term because of health concerns, he said Wednesday.

“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while,” he said. “But I decided last week I wasn’t going to run again.”

Wisti, who was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2017, underwent a double lung transplant the next year.

He was first elected in 2008. Before serving as judge, Wisti spent 22 years as an attorney.

His biggest achievement as judge has been the establishment of the treatment court, he said. It diverts defendants with substance abuse issues to treatment programs rather than incarceration. Established in 2013, it is the first regional treatment court in the country.

“That really was an accomplishment of people that worked in the treatment court as much as anything else,” he said. “I was just a small part of that.”

In 2018, Wisti received a Treatment Hero award from Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals (MATCP) for his work with the court.

About 80 to 90% of the people who come through the court system are there because of problems stemming from substance abuse, Wisti said. The program has had about a 75% success rate.

“The community response is phenomenal, and I certainly hope that continues,” he said. “Basically what we’ve been doing in the criminal justice system is counterproductive, and it’s time to start saying that. … it’s much more effective to be offering them treatment programs.”

Wisti said he intends to serve the rest of his term. He said whoever the next judge is should have thick skin. They should also have some knowledge of substance abuse and mental illness, he said.

“This is not what I expected when I got into the judgeship,” he said. “You have to train yourself for this, because you’re not trained for it as an attorney. It’s a very radical change in the way things are done.”