Dane County receives $600K grant to establish community court

MADISON, Wis. — The Dane County Criminal Justice Council received a $600,000 grant to establish a community court, officials announced Monday.

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Community Court Initiative is meant to provide another pathway for non-violent offenders instead of a traditional court. The goal is to address the root causes of alleged crimes.

“The Dane County CJC has been recognized nationally for using data to achieve criminal justice improvements,” CJC chair Carlo Esqueda said. “The Planning and Implementation grant will greatly assist us in our ongoing effort to improve in another key area – addressing racial inequities in the criminal justice system.”

The county began planning work for the court two years ago, with Executive Joe Parisi including $100,000 in his 2020 budget for a needs assessment. Parisi said that the new grant pairs well with restorative justice proposals included in his 2023 budget.

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“The award, coupled with my proposals for a community court coordinator and new Department of Criminal Justice Reform, will allow the County to move effectively forward in criminal justice reform,” Parisi said. “I’m pleased the Dane County Criminal Justice Council is being recognized as a national leader, and look forward to taking the next step.”

The court will begin work with a pilot phase of up to 60 cases in its first year. The CJC will then work with the community and national experts to increase its efficacy.