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Dane County town hall kicks off community justice center planning

Dane County town hall kicks off community justice center planning

Alex Calabrese

Judge Alex Calabrese, the presiding judge for the Red Hook Community Justice Center in New York, will be participating in a town hall on Oct. 29 about community justice centers. 

As a part of envisioning criminal justice in Dane County, the Criminal Justice Council plans to hold a town hall with national experts and local leaders on Oct. 29 to discuss the future of a local community justice center.   

Alex Calabrese, the presiding judge for the Red Hook Community Justice Center in New York, described community justice centers as “showing the way forward, bringing court, community, and police together.” In a video about Red Hook, Calabrese discussed how the center is rooted in the community. 

“The first decision I have to make is protecting the community — community safety,” Calabrese said. “Once I’m satisfied about that issue, then we can really look at the person and say, ‘What does this person need to get his or her life back on track?’”  

In 2015, Dane County partnered with the New York-based nonprofit Center for Court Innovation  to learn about community courts and restorative justice. This ultimately led to the creation of Dane County’s Community Restorative Court and the hopeful development of a Community Justice Center. 

Dane County approved $100,000 for a community justice center in the 2020 budget. The funds are proposed to carry over through 2021. Dane County Board Chair Analiese Eicher said next steps include developing a request for proposals for the project after community conversation and engagement.  

In terms of timeline for the project, Eicher said there’s not a firm schedule, but it is a focus area for the end of 2020 and the beginning of next year. A community justice center is a “logical next step” for Dane County she said. 

The town hall event is meant to create an opportunity for residents to hear from national leaders in the community justice center movement, ask questions and share ideas about how a future local community justice center could change criminal justice in Dane County.

"This town hall event will build on the work we have been doing to make Dane County a place where justice is equitable and accessible to all," said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said in a statement.

The virtual community event will take place at 5 p.m. Residents can register online to join the online event. Those attending the town hall can ask questions following the presentation and submit them in advance by emailing them to engagedane@countyofdane.com

In addition to Calabrese and Ozanne, the conversation will include a presentation from Brett Taylor, senior advisor at the Center for Court Innovation; Dr. Alex Gee, president and founder of Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development and County Board Supervisor and State Rep. Shelia Stubbs. 

"The community justice center provides Dane County with a unique model to put into action what we’ve been talking about by creating, with the community, a multi-service center that has the potential to truly transform how we do criminal justice in Dane County," Stubbs said in a statement.  

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