Dane County Hosts National Expert on Racial Disparities

April 08, 2011
Colleen Clark, Office of Equal Opportunity (608) 266-3022
County Executive


On Tuesday, April 12th Dane County will host one of our nation’s experts on sentencing policy, race and the criminal justice system—Mr. Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project.  Mr. Mauer has directed programs on criminal justice reform for the last 30 years, and is widely published.  Most recently, he was invited to testify in front of Congress regarding sentencing policies. 


This national level conference is a direct reflection of the efforts of the County Executive’s Office, the Dane County Task Force on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System Implementation Team, and the Dane County Criminal Justice Council.  It is supported by a grant from Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance.


“The chance to hear a national expert, as well as our own local leaders speak about such an important issue is critical.  We can look to national best practices and see where Dane County can improve,” said County Executive Falk.  “We need to ensure each and every one of our nearly half-million county residents are treated equally and fairly.”


County Executive Kathleen Falk and County Board Scott McDonell have been the catalyst in their commitment to reduce racial disparities in the Dane County criminal justice system with the creation of the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System in 2008. In September 2009, the Dane County Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System issued a comprehensive report (see www.co.dane.wi.us/oeounder racial disparities report icon) offering over 80 recommendations for ways to improve the fairness of the criminal justice system. Upon completion of the report, Falk and McDonell created a group to begin work on implementing those recommendations—The Implementation Team. 


Chair of the Implementation Team, Celia Jackson states, “Dane County has been identified as a place with some of the highest racial disparities within the criminal justice system. Too many Dane County parents of children of color must now live daily with the fearsome reality that their boys are subject to a fifty-fifty chance of entering our county's criminal justice system when they become adults. We need to keep challenging ourselves to engage in the difficult conversations to reduce the gap and ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of being in one of the best places to live.”


The conference: Project Justice: Transforming Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System is offered on Tuesday, April 12th at the Sheraton, Madison.  Conference Cost is $25.00, but scholarships are available.