Report: Criminal Justice Overhaul Begins With Data

September 18, 2015
County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan, 608.333.2285
County Board

Three community workgroups offer ten recommendations each; all say more data needed to reform criminal justice system


The Dane County Board of Supervisors today released a report of recommendations designed to improve the criminal justice system.  The recommendations were developed over the summer by three workgroups comprised of community members, criminal justice stakeholders, and county staff.  In keeping with the Board’s commitment to racial equity, transparency, and community partnerships, the diverse work groups were established in May to build solutions to address racial disparity, mental health, and safety issues in Dane County’s criminal justice system.  The workgroups all agree on one immediate need: more data, including data on race, ethnicity, and gender.


“What isn’t measured isn’t managed. In a world that embraces data-driven decision making, it is simply not acceptable to lack this capacity in criminal justice,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “We need to commit to collection of meaningful information, data analysis, and transparency of the results for a criminal justice system that spans local, county, and state government and numerous different data systems,” she added. 


In addition to identifying the need for data collection and analysis, the three workgroups -- each comprised of 11 members, including grassroots advocates, systems players, and county staff, and led by a facilitator --  offered ten recommendations to address specific areas of need: Alternatives to Arrest and Incarceration; Length of Stay; and Mental Health, Solitary Confinement and Incarceration. Each group offered some recommendations that would impact the budget and some that would not.


“I want to underscore the unique nature of this process,” said  Supervisor Paul Rusk, Chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee.  “I am delighted that we were able to bring community to the table, and am pleased that it has resulted in substantial recommendations to move us all forward.”


“I appreciate and value the passion, dedication, and commitment of the residents, staff, and facilitators who worked throughout the summer on the workgroups,” Corrigan added.  “We’ve heard from all three groups that, in addition to the conclusions they reached and the needs they identified, the process itself was extremely valuable. We brought people together who either had never met, or who might have considered themselves opposed to each other on some issues. We got them sitting at the table together, talking and working to solve problems together. That’s the ideal way of getting things done in Dane County,” she concluded.


The workgroups made 31 recommendations to address concerns with aspects of the criminal justice system.  In addition to the overarching recommendation regarding the need for data, two other themes that cut across the recommendations of the criminal justice workgroups include:

  • There must be a common understanding of implicit bias, racial equity, and cultural competence.Training is necessary in county government, courts, as well as with local law enforcement and service providers.

  • Criminal justice system staff should reflect the demographic composition of residents of Dane County and there should be an effort on the part of service providers to hire staff who reflect the racial and ethnic identity of their clients.


The recommendations will be presented to the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee at 5:15 p.m. on Monday, September 21 at Alliant Energy Center.


To further engage the public on this critical topic and gather feedback on the recommendations, the County Board will hold a community conversation on Monday, October 12 at 6 PM to 8:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Alliant Energy Center.  Residents are encouraged to attend.


Details of each recommendation are in the full report, which is available for download here: