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Dane County jail cell

Dane County officials will be trained in January on how to divert the mentally ill from incarceration, a continuation of a process to provide treatment instead of jail sentences for those in need.

Policy Research Inc. (PRI) will conduct a 1½-day workshop for criminal justice professionals and community advocates, on how to identify and help the mentally ill at different points in the system, so jail might be avoided.

“People with mental illness do not belong in jail,” said Dane County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan. “Our work with PRI underscores our commitment to diversion.”

The workshop will center on the Sequential Intercept Model, a way to identify points of contact at which to intervene, provide resources and prevent individuals from entering or heading deeper into the justice system.

“Behavioral health and criminal justice systems often collide, creating significant barriers to treatment and support services,” said Travis Parker of PRI.

“Sequential Intercept assists jurisdictions looking to develop and implement plans for community change through cross-system collaboration and organizational change and by enhancing practice,” Parker said.

Dane County was chosen last year as an innovation site by the MacArthur Foundation, which provided support to the Dane County Community Restorative Court, a program begun in 2014 and aimed at giving young, nonviolent offenders facing misdemeanor charges the chance to work at repairing the damage their offenses caused while staying out of the criminal justice system.

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.