County Officials Announce Community Court
October 20, 2014
County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, 608.345.6961 County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan, 608.333.2285
Restorative Justice Expert Ron Johnson to Coordinate Unprecedented Restorative Justice Project; Local Team Headed to New York to Learn Best Practices
The Dane County Board of Supervisors joined County Executive Joe Parisi, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and community leaders in announcing a new community restorative court to deal with minor offenses on Madison’s south side. The court will use a “restorative justice” model which is designed to repair harm, reduce risk and re-build community for young people aged 17-25. Long term consequences for the offender and community will be lessened as cases are processed more quickly and with those affected by the crime helping to create the solutions.
“Our goal is to strengthen communities and empower neighborhoods to help turn the tide on crime and violence,” said Ron Johnson, the newly hired Community Restorative Court Coordinator. “This is a community response to crime. It is not meant to replace the traditional criminal justice system, but to enhance it and to give us another tool. Offenders will still be held accountable for offenses and victims and community stakeholders will be given an opportunity to play a role in repairing the harm that crime causes.”
“Once a young person is in the traditional criminal system, it’s really hard to get out,” said Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, who represents the district where the court will operate and who championed the resolution creating the Court. “You can make a mistake at 18, 19, 20 years old, pay the price, and years later it’s still on your record making it hard for you to get a job or to move on with your life. The Community Restorative Court lets the community do what it has to do to deal with crime, but without letting it hang over people for years. It’s just like in a family or a friendship -- you do something wrong, you make it right.”
“I am excited about the new Dane County Community Justice Restorative Court,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “It is in line with my commitment to address racial disparities by reducing the number of low-level offenders entering the criminal justice system and building stronger communities by repairing harm done by offenders.”
Johnson, a Milwaukee native, taught history at Harambee Community School in Milwaukee and served as a middle school principal. He was director of Milwaukee Youth Opportunities Collaborative, an organization dedicated to gang prevention and intervention, and founded Project Ujima, a youth violence prevention program at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. He also served as the community resource coordinator on restorative justice at the Marquette University Law School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee and attended graduate school at Marquette University.
Johnson will join a collaborative team which includes County officials, law enforcement, and community members on a three-day trip, from October 21 through 24, to New York City to observe and learn best practices from the Red Hook Community Justice Center, the Center for Court Innovation, Harlem Community Justice Center and Brownsville Community Justice Center. Dane County’s portion of the trip is funded by a grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance—Technical Assistance and Training Division.
The Community Restorative Court (CRC) was developed in a sub committee of the Dane County Criminal Justice Council. The 2013 Race to Equity Report noted that 469 of every 1,000 African American youths were arrested in 2010, compared to only 77 per 1,000 white youth.
“That report was daunting,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “I’m proud that the County Board didn’t let those findings overwhelm us. Supervisor Stubbs and I and many others have rolled up our sleeves and gotten to work, and the establishment of the Community Restorative Court is a positive step toward increasing equity in Dane County criminal justice.”
The County also announced that a Community Conversation will be held on Tuesday, November 11 from 6 to 8 pm in Community Room C at Villager Mall. Community members will have the opportunity to learn about the restorative justice and the goals of the Community Restorative Court, meet the new coordinator and take advantage of volunteer opportunities.
More information is available at http://crc.countyofdane.com.