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The Third Branch

Jackson County targets effective justice strategies

By Judy A. Luttio, Juvenile Court Clerk/Deputy Register in Probate, Treatment Court Coordinator, Jackson County

Jackson County utilizes several alternative court programs in an attempt to lighten court dockets and to find more effective solutions for dealing with offenders.

Since its inception in 2000, Teen Court has heard more than 500 cases. During 2012, 34 teens served as jurors and seven adults volunteered as judges. As part of the program, Jackson County youth are provided with an alternative to appearing in court and paying a fine. They are required to return to Teen Court and serve on the panel as part of their sanction. Instead of parents being solely accountable, each teen is being held responsible for his or her actions, and this is demonstrated to the community through sanctions, such as community service.

In 2009, Small Claims Mediation was introduced. All contested cases go through mediation immediately following court with volunteer mediators who have settled approximately 75 percent of those cases. Also implemented in 2009 was the Adult Community Service Program. Created to help develop a meaningful way to save tax dollars, address jail overcrowding, and improve the community, it is primarily used as a sentencing option for ordinance violations, as well as some minor, non-violent criminal sentences in lieu of paying fines when a genuine hardship exists.

The Intoxicated Driver Intervention Program, or IDIP, provides intervention and monitoring to help break the pattern of drinking and driving. In addition to IDIP, also offered are Intoxicated Driver Programming and Underage Alcohol Violation Programming. The flagship of the alternative court programs is the Treatment Court, which was implemented in 2008.

Jackson County's newest venture is the Jackson County Collaborative Justice Coordinating Council. A $50,000 grant in August of 2012 provided for a coordinator to assist in the council's mission to provide coordinated leadership to establish and foster innovative and effective programs and design an integrated early intervention model that targets the needs of families affected by offenders' actions. An important goal of the council is to preserve the family unit whenever possible. It will work to address domestic violence through immediate intervention in the court system and speed permanency for the children involved.

Headed by an executive committee, the council has eight subcommittees, covering topics from workforce development, juveniles and families to resources and funding. Each monthly meeting is attended by people from interested departments and agencies. Several projects and initiatives are underway, including implementation of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) assessment tool to measure risks and needs. Consideration is being given to the use of a Law Enforcement Proxy tool that can be used in arrest and detaining decisions by law enforcement as diversion referrals for low risk individuals.

A collaborative Welding Institute began in 2012. Expansion of the welding lab at the high school is taking place in order to accommodate up to 16 students. The welding institute is a collaborative effort of Black River Falls High School, Western Technical College, the state Department of Corrections and the county treatment court program, headed by Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas E. Lister.

A steering committee is working toward implementation, policy and resource development and the associated needs assessments and volunteer pool needed for a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children program. Transitional and sober housing options are being addressed as well as transportation needs to help improve employment options. The collaborating council requires no county funding and is able to apply for another $50,000 grant for implementation.

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