As part of its ongoing effort to reduce the local jail population, the Dane County Criminal Justice Council Innovation & Research Team has received a $20,000 grant from the Urban Institute as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s effort to rethink America’s jails.

The MacArthur Foundation last year awarded $50,000 for the Dane County Community Restorative Court and the new money will complement that work by collecting and building a front-end justice data model.

Sun Prairie officially joined the Community Restorative Court on June 1. Officials from the Sun Prairie Police Department, Briarpatch, the Dane County Department of Human Services and the Dane County Restorative Court spoke about the program during a June 6 meeting held at the Sun Prairie Public Library as part of an effort to help reform criminal justice efforts throughout the county.

“The Dane County Board is committed to criminal justice reform and this grant will help us continue along that path,” said County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan (District 26, Middleton). “We thank MacArthur for recognizing the hard work taking place here and hope to continue the strong partnership.”

The new grant is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s “Safety and Justice Challenge,” a national $100 million initiative designed to reduce incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.

Dane County is one of 40 jurisdictions selected by MacArthur to design and test innovative local justice reforms that can address the racial and ethnic disparities in local justice systems.

The $20,000 grant will be used during the next 12 months to create a data model for tracking information regarding race, gender, age and the type of violation that led to an arrest.

Data collected can then be used to judge the impact or future expansion of current programs or policies which may include Dane County’s Restorative Court, Pretrial Services, the Criminal Justice Council-Racial Disparities Subcommittee and the Criminal Justice Council-Pretrial Services Committee.

“Data will be essential to move any improvements forward in criminal justice,” said Dane County Circuit Court Branch 5 Judge Nicholas McNamara, who is chair of the Criminal Justice Council’s Pretrial Subcommittee. “Measuring outcomes around race, ethnicity and gender will provide a pathway to better solutions for Dane County.”

Additionally, the data could prove useful with the National League of Cities “Cities reducing Jail Population” initiative and similar efforts from the City of Madison, according to County Supervisor Paul Rusk (District 12, north Madison), the chair of the Public Protection and Judiciary Committee.

“There is no easy solution to reducing the number of people behind bars, but we need a way to assess which programs are working and which one aren’t," said Rusk. “The generous support of the MacArthur Foundation is invaluable in our efforts going forward.”

More information on MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge is available at https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/justice-policy-center/projects/safety-and-justice-challenge-innovation-fund

More information on the Dane County Criminal Justice Council is available at: https://cjc.countyofdane.com/

The 37-member, nonpartisan Dane County Board of Supervisors represents the needs and welfare of all residents of Dane County, Wisconsin, and sets policy for county operations in the areas of human needs, infrastructure, criminal justice, the environment and county finance.

The Dane County Board of Supervisors meets twice monthly at 7 p.m. in Room 201 of the City-County Building in Madison.

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