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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dane County initiative strives for alternatives to jail

The Diversion Work Group, a new component of the 2016 Dane County Budget, presented its report, focusing on reducing the number of individuals in jail and promoting a more efficient criminal justice system, to the Dane County Public Protection and Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

The organization is made up of 11 appointed members from the community as well as county staff who were picked for their significant justice system experience and expertise.

The members of this group have been charged with building upon three goals regarding incarceration rates in Dane County, per the Report of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee: finding alternative to jail confinement, reducing the length of stay for individuals in jail and addressing concerns related to the jail confinement and use of solitary confinement for individuals with mental health issues. Additionally, the Diversion Work Group was instructed by Dane County to keep in mind concerns related to the disproportionate levels of incarceration of people of color.

The organization was also asked to review current adult and juvenile diversion programs, develop a framework to ensure access to existing diversion programs, identify barriers to enrolling and completing program, and develop a list of organizations that can offer services to benefit the clients enrolled.

Two key proposals came out of the Diversion Work Group’s research. The first was the need to increase the capacity and county-wide reach of the Community Restorative Court in order to effectively address the range of offenses committed by young adults. Many members of the group felt the CRC allowed an alternative to the formal court system while still maintaining a commitment to public safety.

The second recommendation advised an expansion of the Community Treatment Alternatives program, which would allow more staff to advise individuals with mental health needs that are at risk of recidivism.

The Diversion Work Group suggests that to improve decision-making and planning, the next steps should be to urge the Criminal Justice Council to consider expanding and supporting their committees to include diversion initiatives.

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