January 10, 2020
Colleen Clark-Bernhardt, 608-266-3022
County Board

In a nod to their long-term commitment to look at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice, the Dane County Criminal Justice Council (CJC) applied for and has been awarded a grant from the National Association of Counties (NACo).  The grant will provide Dane County with technical assistance on ways to provide support for individuals with mental illness who also are involved with the criminal justice system.  Approaches will focus on a racial and ethnic disparities framework.  The grant is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative Dane County has been part of for several years.


Focused on maximizing justice, equity, and the safety of the public, the Criminal Justice Council of Dane County is committed to progress and innovation in all aspects of the criminal justice realm.  Engaging national and local experts, the CJC collaborates around criminal justice improvements.


Nationally, it is estimated that 2 million annual jail admissions involve a person with a serious mental illness.  In Dane County, 46% of jail inmates received a mental health diagnosis according to the Dane County Behavioral Health Needs Assessment completed in 2019. 


Many counties struggle to provide effective alternatives to incarceration for those with behavioral health issues coupled with a criminal activity.   Developing strategies will include data analysis, and review of national best practices.  Listening to those most impacted will also be key as Dane County moves forward.


District Attorney Ismael Ozanne will lead the Dane County team in the Peer Learning Network.  “I am dedicated to not only raising awareness of racial and health disparities across our criminal justice system, but ensuring we move forward with solutions that result in equal access, better outcomes, and healthier families in Dane County.  This grant will allow Dane County to partner with national experts and local leaders to craft effective policy and programs that will help address the busy intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice,” said District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. 

This grant will build on the work of the Sequential Intercept Model training the County completed in 2018, as well as help inform the Criminal Justice Council Behavioral Health Subcommittee – created in 2019 and chaired by Dane County’s Human Services Director, Shawn Tessmann.   


“We’ve done some great work on acknowledging the critical intersection between behavioral health and criminal justice, and the disproportionate impact on minorities, but we have much more to do in the future” said Sharon Corrigan, Chair of the Dane County Board of Supervisors.  “Partnering with national experts will help us to keep pushing the needle forward on improvements,” she continued. 


The County Justice Peer Learning Network will run from January 2020 to June 2021. 


For more information on the Dane County Criminal Justice Council go to https://cjc.countyofdane.com/