The Dane County Board on Thursday approved a 21-part criminal justice reform package aimed at reducing racial disparities and creating alternatives to incarceration.
The long list of initiatives includes a commitment to concrete projects, such as the development of a mental health crisis center and a community justice center, as well as recommended changes for law enforcement, the court system and the state Department of Corrections.
“There’s different pieces of this that are able to be driven and implemented by the County Board and others that we see as connected that we are recommending to our partners,” said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, who introduced the package along with Sup. Shelia Stubbs, 23rd District.
Also Thursday, the County Board voted 33-3 to keep the number of board members at 37 instead of reducing the seats to 35.
The criminal justice reform package comes after a summer of protests against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Protesters have called on those in power to make systems more equitable and find alternatives to policing, especially for people of color and those experiencing mental illness.
“All of the protests that I’ve gone to, I hear communities say, ‘Less talk, more action,’” Stubbs said. “These alternatives are actionable steps.”
But some members of the public who spoke at Thursday’s board meeting said the package doesn’t go far enough because it fails to halt the $148 million Dane County Jail reconstruction project.
“The community needs you to cancel the jail project immediately,” said Lev Simmons, a member of the local activist group Socialist Alternative.
The jail plan includes building an eight-story tower on the parking lot behind the Downtown Public Safety Building jail and closing two jail facilities that Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney has said are outdated, dangerous and inhumane.
Sup. Yogesh Chawla, 6th District, proposed an amendment that would have delayed the jail renovations until the design team presents a plan to keep the project to its budget — it’s running over by millions — and adapted it so that space for beds can be converted to programming space.
But supervisors rejected the amendment on an 11-25 vote in part because the project has already been delayed so architects can ensure it comes in at or under the $148 million budget.
Residents were also frustrated that some of the language in the resolution was changed from “demanding” action from law enforcement, the courts and other groups to “encouraging” or “urging.”
Stubbs, however, said the County Board does not have that power. “We cannot demand they do things, but we can encourage them,” she said.
One of the cornerstone initiatives in the package is the development of a Mental Health Triage and Restoration Center, which would serve as an alternative place for people to be taken when experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Our officers, deputies, they know that not everyone needs to be taken to jail,” Eicher said. “But right now their options are jail or the emergency room.”
Individuals would be able to seek walk-in mental health services, be referred by a community partner or be brought in by law enforcement.
Last month, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Eicher committed to providing $300,000 in the 2021 county budget for the center.
The package passed Thursday sets the goal of having a site identified and plans created for the center in the next six months, and for the center to open by 2023. It also asks several groups to start work on the development of the center, including design plans, choosing the services that will be provided and gathering community input.
A related measure in the package commits the County Board to pursuing a partnership with the city of Madison to create a mental health first responder pilot program.
The pilot project would be modeled after similar initiatives in other cities, such as the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon, in which a team consisting of a medic and a social worker respond to some mental health 911 calls.
Stubbs noted that police do not need to be called for every emergency.
“If a person is having a crises, a mental health breakdown, why are we calling law enforcement? We should be calling social workers. We should be calling counselors,” Stubbs said. “We should be getting them the services they need for mental health, not incarcerating them.”
The county also encouraged the courts to create a Mental Health Court.
Another major proposal is the creation of a Community Justice Center, which would provide court and other criminal justice-related services in the community instead of the more formal setting of the courthouse.
“It’s not intimating,” Eicher said. “It’s rooted in people.”
The center would include a community court and services in education, housing, peer mentoring and restorative justice. Other aspects of it are still taking form.
The package asks a subcommittee of the county’s Criminal Justice Council to continue developing the center and make recommendations on services, site options, costs, potential revenue sources and community engagement by June.
A related measure commits to expanding use of the existing Community Restorative Court.
Many of the other initiatives ask criminal justice leaders to review changes that were made during the COVID-19 pandemic and explore whether they could become long-term reforms.
“What we saw at the beginning of the pandemic was this amount of collaboration and innovation within the criminal justice system that we had never seen before,” Eicher said.
Among changes that could be continued after the pandemic are: limiting arrests, having weekly meetings to reduce the jail population, digital meetings for court and holding parole and probation revocation hearings outside of the jail.
The Department of Corrections, judges, the Sheriff, the District Attorney, the clerk of courts and local law enforcement will also be asked to outline other changes that could be continued.
Other initiatives include urging the collection of data on traffic stops broken down by race, the publication of law enforcement’s use-of-force policies throughout the county, posting of incarceration statistics, including by race, on the county’s website, a review of jail-related fines and the development of a plan for digital weekend court.
“Keeping the status quo is not an option,” Stubbs said.
Pain and protest: Madison responds to the police killing of George Floyd
Pain and protest: Madison responds to the police killing of George Floyd
Protests erupted across the country, including Madison, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man May 25. Here's a look at local coverage so far.
Protests erupted across the country, including Wisconsin, to condemn the police-related death of a Minneapolis man, George Floyd, on May 25. H…
On June 23, protesters in Madison wrapped chains around “Forward,” the bronze statue of a woman located at the State Street corner of Capitol …
After demonstrators against racial injustice toppled the “Forward” and Hans Christian Heg statues last Tuesday at Capitol Square, community members have grappled with whether the art should be restored or replaced entirely.
“It’s kind of beautiful how you can show what you’re doing through a peaceful form like art,” Lowell fifth-grader Nelson Lashley said.
Madison officials are struggling to protect protesters' First Amendment rights while keeping citizens and property safe amid continuing protests Downtown.
Two groups for students of color say Abraham Lincoln's history as anti-Indigenous and anti-Black warrant replacing him with someone who "who stands for the justice of all people."
Man arrested for involvement in toppling of Civil War statue; activist charged with extortion.
Several State Street business owners said the disturbance at Coopers Tavern was not an isolated incident.
The statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, torn down by protesters at the state Capitol on June 23, honors a Norwegian immigrant from Wisconsin wh…
Protesters knocked down two statues Tuesday evening, one that has come to represent women's rights and the other honoring an abolitionist.
"The police department is hesitant because they don't feel that the City Council and definitely the mayor has their backs," Ald. Paul Skidmore said.
Some drivers ran through small crowds of protesters Tuesday, causing injuries among those who were supporting Black Lives Matter.
The School Board is voting Monday to remove police from high schools before fall, and the Madison City Council is expected to introduce a similar resolution to end the contract.
The poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden widening his lead over President Donald Trump in the state and a declining concern among Wisconsinites over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Madison School Board is creating a subcommittee to work toward removing police officers from schools, but opponents of police in schools are calling for more immediate action.
Protesters tore down statues of Forward and a Union Civil War colonel, assaulted a state senator and set a small fire in a city building Downtown on Tuesday night after the arrest of a Black activist seen causing a disturbance in a restaurant earlier in the day.
In the wake of COVID-19, riots and looting they're asking the street be turned into a temporary pedestrian mall, that subsidies be offered to new tenants filling vacant spaces; outdoor cafe and restaurant spaces be expanded and safety measures improved.
Madison mayor suggests person who hit 24-year-old Black woman might have committed a hate crime.
Natural light, customers and hope have begun to return on State Street. But uneasiness remains even as the plywood starts to come off the windows.
Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes unveiled Friday a package of bills that would ban the use of chokeholds by Wisconsin police officers, as well as limit other uses of force.
Communities with disproportionate numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths have other health struggles.
The Dane County Board on Thursday took a first step toward declaring racism a public health crisis. "First and foremost we have to recognize that there is an issue," Supervisor Shelia Stubbs said.
The announcement comes as protests nationwide, including in Madison, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, continue into their third week.
The projectile launchers, which fire sponge rounds, were used against protesters during the first two days of demonstrations and unrest in Madison.
The Madison Police and Fire Commission's attorney said two proposed police oversight measures could conflict with the commission's authority.
Many of the measures were initiated after the shooting of Tony Robinson in 2015.
While much of the meeting was focused on police reform policy, the end turned into an emotional conversation about race and community healing.
Rhodes-Conway said in a statement Wednesday she "failed to center" a message of racial justice in a seemingly private video she sent to police expressing gratitude and sympathy.
In a statement Tuesday, Reyes said she will now support removing school resource officers from the high schools and plans to form a committee "to pursue a viable alternative to SROs in our buildings."
Day 10 of protests against police violence in Madison featured a grill out and block party, public defenders marching for black lives and "DEF…
Acting Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl said around 15 officers marched alongside protesters Sunday because they are also angry about George Floyd's death.
The crowd of around 100 attorneys took a knee outside of the Dane County Courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck.
Madison Teachers Inc. is reversing its stance on school resource officers, but is only calling for their removal if 33 new support staff positions are added at the high schools.
The march was yet another gathering of its kind in Madison and across the nation protesting police brutality and white supremacy after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Temporary paintings on plywood covering windows have turned the street into a pop-up gallery that is drawing crowds and making a statement in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.
A survey of 100 of the 152 businesses on the street indicates that about 40 likely won't reopen.
As a "week of action" in Madison after the police custody death of George Floyd wraps up, three organizing groups vowed Saturday to keep pursuing the abolition, and not reform, of current policing structures.
By the thousands, citizens of Madison and surrounding communities have hit the streets every day — and often well into the night — for the las…
Day seven of protests against police violence in Madison was a celebration of Breonna Taylor's life. Organizers hosted a barbecue and party at James Madison Park.
The seventh day of protests in Madison honored the birthday of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13. …
“These kids are the organizers,” said Ebony Anderson-Carter, 29. “This ain’t about me. It’s about them.”
The list is not comprehensive, as police continue to use video and other evidence to investigate crimes committed over the three nights.
"The Guard, I think, has done exactly what we asked them to do," Evers said.
On the fifth night of demonstrations in Downtown Madison, hundreds gathered at the top of State Street to celebrate and remember unarmed black people killed by police officers.
Also at the event, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County said it would hire 75 "peace keepers" to de-escalate tension with protesters and police.
The bill would ensure each law enforcement agency in the state has a use of force policy that meets certain requirements.
For three nights, business on and around State Street in Downtown Madison have been sitting ducks for those who have taken advantage of the up…
City Council members condemned the death of George Floyd, refused to extend a state of emergency and curfew, and moved to secure more oversight on the Madison Police Department
Following peaceful daytime protests, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway urges protesters to "stay home," and not engage in looting and other destructive behaviors.
People began looting and damaging State Street stores and other property just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
For a second day in a row, protesters shut down John Nolen Drive in Madison as part of a demonstration against the police killing of George Fl…
Police reported there were multiple break-ins and looting at stores outside the Downtown as well.
Anti-police protests in Madison continued for a third day, with a crowd marching Downtown and shutting down John Nolen Drive. Local organizers…
Police were trying to stop looters from shattering glass at the restaurant Teddywedgers, 101 State St., and Tobacco Mart, 103 State St.
“This vandalism, all this other stuff is ridiculous,” Murphy said. “It makes no sense to me.”
Madison Downtown business owners found themselves cleaning up again Monday after protesters for a second night broke windows, looted businesse…
The driver was able to drive away and has not been apprehended, but several people took photos that have been shared with police, the center said.
A second night of tear gas and broken windows gripped Madison on the Capitol Square.
For a second night in a row, protesters clashed with police in Downtown Madison following a peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd…
Hundreds of people defied Madison's curfew Sunday night and clashed with police Downtown, bringing more vandalism and tear gas for a second ni…
Volunteers swept broken glass, scrubbed graffiti and helped city workers right toppled planters along the pedestrian mall, where Madison police said about 75 businesses were looted or damaged during the riot, in which a police squad car was torched.
A cleanup effort was underway Sunday morning on State Street where Madison police say approximately 75 businesses were damaged, looted or both.
A crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered peacefully on the state Capitol grounds in Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd…
Madisonians took stock of damage and cleaned up Sunday after a night of destruction and looting in Downtown Madison. A peaceful protest Saturd…
There were signs early Sunday that the violence was spreading into other parts of the city.
A peaceful demonstration in Downtown Madison on Saturday to condemn the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis turned destructive later on State…