August 20, 2020
County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, 608.571.6823
County Board

Dane County Board leaders today announced the introduction of a resolution endorsing far-reaching criminal justice reforms, including the development of a behavioral health triage center and a Dane County community justice center. The resolution also includes recommendations put forward at the end of June by County Board Chair Analiese Eicher who represents district 3 in Sun Prairie and Representative Shelia Stubbs who represents the 77th district in the Wisconsin State Assembly and district 23 on the County Board.


"Keeping the status quo is not an option. We have worked for years and our community is ready for action on reforms and initiatives which embed racial equity, community voice, and national best practices, as well as lessons learned from the current pandemic. Creating strong alternatives will create real change," said Supervisor Stubbs.


This resolution brings to life recommendations developed by community and stakeholder collaborative bodies of the past, as well as the voices of current stakeholders and community members.

A critical component of providing services for those experiencing a mental health crisis is ease of access without needing to involve law enforcement. A mental health triage center in Dane County would be a resource not just for people in police custody, but also a space available to anyone having a behavioral health crisis– underscoring that care available at a triage center should be accessible, compassionate, and equitable.


An estimated 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year. Nearly 15% of men and 30% of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition.


"We need to continue to push innovation and reform that focuses on restoration, addressing the root causes of crime, while improving our public safety. This resolution includes two critical initiatives. One focused on the nexus between criminal justice and behavioral health, and the other focuses on community-centered justice," said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher.


In addition to the triage and restoration center, the resolution also calls for planning and piloting of a community justice center to provide an alternative vehicle for justice in Dane County. A community justice center embraces a holistic approach to respondents, victims, and the larger community. In addition to a community court, the center would feature access to wrap around services including education, housing, and peer mentoring.


"With this resolution I am standing up and saying I support smart justice in Dane County," said Stubbs. "Just like our work in establishing the Community Restorative Court for 17 to 25 year olds, I want to address criminal justice issues that solve the problems of crime. We are saying that it is time to address the connections of crime to mental health, addiction, employment, education, housing and social inclusion," she concluded.


The Dane County Board has substantially invested in racial equity training and criminal justice data accuracy—both will be utilized during the current critical planning process. Robust community and stakeholder involvement will also be critical in the success of these reforms.


The Dane County Criminal Justice Council, and its subcommittees, have benefited from national experts from organizations which include: MacArthur Foundation, Arnold Ventures, Urban Institute, Center for Court Innovation, Vera Institute of Justice, Harvard’s Access to Justice Lab—and most recently national experts in the intersection between behavioral health and incarceration, Policy Research, Inc (PRI). The resolution brings those national recommendations to the forefront.


"As the recently elected Chair of the Dane County Criminal Justice Council, I am keenly aware that system-wide change requires trust and partnership," said Eicher. "Working together, we can make these aspirational innovations a reality for county residents. I look forward to robust community discussion of this resolution and these proposals."