Dane County leadership introduced fourteen new criminal justice reform measures today.
Put forward by County Board Chair Analiese Eicher and Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, the reforms would create new jail diversion programs, amend charging and sentencing procedures and establish new transparency policies for Dane County’s police.
The proposals are the result of years of study by the county, says Eicher.
“There have been years of recommendations and a lack of willingness to implement these recommendations,” she says. “Now is as good a time as ever. I’m disappointed we haven’t done this before. Folks are asking for action and the county’s done the groundwork so we just need to implement.”
The county board is seeking to establish a new medical response team for those undergoing mental health crises. In many cases, according to Eicher, police aren’t adequately equipped to handle situations involving complex mental health issues.
“This is really about de-escalation,” Eicher says. “This is really in response to our law enforcement telling us over the years that they are not equipped to address issues of mental health, and that is not their role.”
Programs to keep residents out of the county’s jails, also known as diversion programs, are a major focus of the new reforms.
The new recommendations would also expand the city’s Community Restorative Court program. According to County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs, the program offers an essential alternative to jail time and potential lifelong impacts of going through the standard court system.
“The beauty of the Community Restorative Court is that people don’t have a CCAP entry. And removing that barrier for someone, makes it so much easier for you to navigate difficult conversations,” she says.
Not all of the proposals are within the county board’s authority. New measures for charging and sentencing, as well as changes to local jails and prison operations would require collaboration from city, county and state-level agencies. That includes the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Dane County police departments.
According to Eicher, the recommendations won’t be up for a vote by the county board’s next meeting on July 9th. She says they still need to be assembled into final form before they go before the supervisors for a final vote.