May 13, 2021
County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, (608) 571-6823
County Board

Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, who also serves as Chair of the Dane County Criminal Justice Council, announced today that the county has contracted with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) to conduct a needs assessment for a potential Community Justice Center.


A community justice center incorporates procedural fairness, restorative justice, and community centered transformative justice. Community justice centers include social services available for community members, regardless of their involvement with the criminal justice system. Notable examples are Red Hook Community Justice Center and Brownsville Community Justice Center. A link to further describe the concept is here.


The needs assessment and planning process will identify strengths and challenges, resource gaps, opportunities, and community priorities to inform planning, and set the foundation for the development of a future Dane County Community Justice Center. It will involve a systemic examination of quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of community partners and government sources, as well as an extensive public engagement process.


"It’s exciting to see this process beginning. Dane County is ready for a restorative approach to criminal justice. I’m eager to see the recommendations from this assessment," said District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.


The voice of the public is essential to help guide planning recommendations for a Community Justice Center – a project that may be transformative for the Dane County community. CCI will be reaching out to the communities that are most affected by the current Dane County criminal justice system to create a complete understanding of Dane County’s justice system landscape and community needs.


"We need to hear from everyone that is involved in the system. Those who are most affected by the criminal justice system provide valuable information about how we can think beyond our current way of doing things," said Eicher.


Dane County collaborated with seven community organizations in initial conversations to inform the first steps of the needs assessment in December, January, and February this year. The reports that were developed by these organizations are available here, along with a short video of highlights of their presentations to the Criminal Justice Council.


State Representative and County Board Supervisor Shelia Stubbs (District 23) said, "Our community members need and deserve to be included in this project. To truly have a community justice center, it needs to include the community."


CCI creates operating programs to test new ideas and solve problems, performs original research to determine what works (and what doesn’t), and provides expert assistance to justice reformers around the world.


CCI provided technical assistance in the past as Dane County developed the successful Community Restorative Court (CRC). Additionally, CCI presented in a virtual town hall on community justice centers in summer 2020 that included members of the community, stakeholders, and community leaders. 


The needs assessment will be conducted over the summer months with recommendations expected by the end of August.