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Rotunda Report
  • Rotunda Report
    October 26, 2017

    Joint Legislative Corrections Committee Hears Testimony on Evidence-Based Decision Making

    Kristen Durst


    Evidence Based Decision Making

    Oct. 26, 2017 – Wisconsin’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council recently highlighted its work implementing a national criminal justice initiative at a joint informational hearing of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and Assembly Committee on Corrections.

    The State’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council was created in 2012 by an order of Governor Scott Walker. The council is composed of a variety of stakeholders in the justice system—including the departments of Justice and Corrections, local law enforcement, courts, district attorneys, public defenders, and other key community partners.

    In addition to the state council, there are now 52 local county criminal justice coordinating councils.

    What is EBDM?

    A key part of the state and local CJCC’s work focuses on the implementation of Evidence-Based Decision Making in Wisconsin. EBDM is an initiative of the National Institute of Corrections; it promotes the use of research to make decisions at all levels in the justice system. The initiative is currently being piloted in eight Wisconsin counties.

    EBDM Subcommittee Vice-Chair and State Public Defender Kelli Thompson told the committee that the use of research is “not to supplant or to replace individual discretion in decision making, but to support that really in a systemic way of looking at the criminal justice system.”

    Through the collaborative work of the CJCC, research and best practices are shared with the various partners. Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King says that EBDM brings together all parts of the local criminal justice system to create a shared vision of desired outcomes.

    “This is about a systematic approach to bring everyone to the table to collaborate and to improve results in all parts of criminal justice system practices,” he says.

    Some examples of EBDM include:

    • The use of objective data by law enforcement to help decide whether to issue a citation or release.

    • Prosecutors, defenders, and judges use defendant risk information to determine if pretrial release supervision is appropriate and use offender need assessment data to establish post-conviction release conditions.

    • Jailers assign offenders to skill-building programs and community corrections officials assign offenders to supervision levels based upon risk and needs assessments.

    • County commissioners and executives fund programs that research demonstrates to be effective in reducing offender risk—and eliminate programs that research has proven to be ineffective.

    EBDM Successes

    Janesville Police Chief David Moore testified that EBDM has led to a significant change in how his community handles persons with mental illness. He says a person suffering from mental illness is 16 times more likely to be shot by a police officer. Moore says they worked with mental health providers to identify people who frequently require mental health services and developed a system that flags those persons so an officer knows that when they respond.

    “Some of the anticipated outcomes of our project are less use of police force, fewer stays in the hospital with respect to mental commitments, reduced calls for service, better patient care, better patient outcomes, and less use of the criminal justice system,” Moore says.

    In Milwaukee County, Judge Jeffrey Kremers says they now screen everyone who comes to jail to determine their risk needs. With the use of universal screening, he says they are able to screen for early interventions and get those people who should not be in the system out of the system.

    “We’re protecting the community and we’re letting more people out at great savings,” Kremers says.

    The CJCC is continuing to implement EBDM in the eight pilot counties and is developing plans to expand to additional Wisconsin jurisdictions.

    Video of the hearing is available on Wisconsin Eye at http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/11899.

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