December 21, 2020
Colleen Clark-Bernhardt
County Board

Dane County Criminal Justice Council (CJC) is expanding its research effort around the pretrial phase of criminal justice. This builds on current research initiatives that focus on the pretrial stage of criminal justice.  Dane County recently joined a national collaborative to study current county pretrial services, and then look at recommendations for strategic improvements.



The collaborative includes eight jurisdictions across the United States that have teamed up with MDRC’s Center for Criminal Justice Research and Justice System Partners.  MDRC is a non-profit based in New York and California that is committed to finding solutions to some of the most difficult problems facing the nation. The collaborative is supported by Arnold Ventures, a Houston-based philanthropy dedicated to tackling some of the most pressing problems in the United States.



"Understanding what works, how much is just enough--versus too much--is key to effective reforms.  Dane County CJC continues to push improvement forward with local leaders and community and national experts," said County Board Chair and Criminal Justice Council Chair Analiese Eicher.



Jurisdictions across the United States are taking steps to reduce the number of people who are detained in jail unnecessarily while awaiting trial. Often times, jurisdictions use pretrial supervision to reduce the number of days spent in a jail awaiting trial.  Dane County has invested in increased capacity in the Pretrial Services Department, and that investment requires research around its efficacy and best practices.  



"We are excited about our partnership with Dane County on the Pretrial Justice Collaborative," said Chloe Anderson, the study’s manager. "By providing insight into the performance of the County’s pretrial release conditions and supervision interventions, the study will place Dane County at the forefront in contributing knowledge to inform ongoing pretrial reform efforts—both at home and in jurisdictions across the country." 



This research has the potential to inform a reduction in racial disparities, increase fairness, and reduce the role of the criminal justice system in perpetuating inequities.  Due to the multi-agency data sharing initiative that the CJC has developed, accurate data will be the center of the research.  MDRC will study the data, interview stakeholders, and develop recommendations to improve the pretrial phase of criminal justice in Dane County.  



"We are excited to work to fully understand the impact of the pretrial reforms in Dane County," said Clerk of Courts Carlo Esqueda. "Just as in medicine, it is key to provide the appropriate "dosage" of any treatment--this partnership will help illuminate that formula." 



This work is expected to take approximately a year to analyze and a report with any findings and recommendations will follow.