Background & Approach
p>Dane County, located in the southern part of the state, is the second-most-populous county in Wisconsin and encompasses the city of Madison and the surrounding region. Dane County increased the use of restorative justice through its Community Restorative Court (CRC), whose mission is “Repair Harm, Reduce Risk, and Rebuild the Community.” The CRC focused specifically on diverting more youth ages 17-25 from the traditional criminal justice system. Participating in the program provides a young person who has committed a low-level offense the opportunity to work with community members (who are trained as peacemakers) to ensure accountability, determine restitution, and repair the harm done. The CRC also provides wraparound social services to respondents and a voice to victims. Dane County expanded the CRC by training and onboarding more community peacemakers and law enforcement departments.
The Criminal Justice Council also hosted community meals and conversations for individuals interested in learning more about the pretrial justice system in order to create a necessary link between criminal justice leaders and those with lived experience. Not only did this bring together members of the community and criminal justice stakeholders to share a meal, but it also helped community members have a voice in work moving forward. Their questions provided critical insight into the creation of a pretrial data model.
To meet the needs of individuals with behavioral health challenges within the criminal justice system, Dane County also developed a Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) project to find opportunities for services and ways to divert those individuals out of the criminal justice system.
Dane County also found ways to collaborate and share data across the Dane County criminal justice system, ensuring that policy makers could use accurate data to inform better decision-making. In addition to the executive level Criminal Justice Council, the county supports three subcommittees to better tackle their goals: the Racial Disparities Subcommittee, the Pretrial Reform Subcommittee, and the Behavioral Health Subcommittee.
Dane County continues to engage with the Safety and Justice Challenge Network to rethink and redesign its criminal justice system so that it is more fair, just, and equitable for all.