DWI Survivors Tries to Help Reform Offenders

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COLUMBIA - Jerry Mitchell never saw it coming.

He was on his way back to his hotel after attending a 2003 Harley-Davidson anniversary party in Milwaukee when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit him head on. Mitchell and his bike scraped the side of the car and ended up in the bushes.

Mitchell lost his leg, suffered traumatic brain injury, and saw his life fall apart.

Now Mitchell speaks to drunk drivers at a court-ordered victim impact panel once a month in Columbia, trying to prevent others from experiencing what he has.

Crystal Perkins of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which runs the program, said the group speaks to 15 to 45 people a month.The courts send offenders from a variety of crimes to the sessions, requiring them to go in exchange for probation or other lessening of sentences. Regarding the program's effectiveness, Perkins said she has not seen anyone come back through the program in the past two years.

Mitchell said he thinks it helps get the message across because he can tell drivers exactly what he went through and how it affected his life. He said he does not preach to those ordered to attend because he used drugs in the past and has been arrested for DWI. He adds he knows what it is like to be in their shoes, but he also wants them to know what it is like to be hit by a drunk driver.