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County committee receives accolades

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published June 27, 2007, 1:31 p.m.)

Walworth County's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee is one of the best intra-governmental bodies in southeastern Wisconsin, the Public Policy Forum decided.

The area's non-profit, non-partisan think-tank that promotes accountability in government, awarded the committee an innovation award for intra-governmental cooperation for its efforts to reduce taxpayer burden by reducing the county jail population.

"It involves several county departments that work together that examine alternatives to jail, save taxpayer money and figure out a way to make sure people aren't in a revolving door and being incarcerated," said Jeff Browne, Public Policy Forum president.

The committee combines a judge, district attorney, public defender, local police chief, health and human services administrator, jail administrator and county board supervisor to find cost-savings by reducing incarceration numbers.

It has implemented the use of electronic monitoring bracelets, revised internal jail programming and done a jail staffing analysis.

The committee's most recent efforts have focused on alternative sentences for alcohol-related offenses, which would focus more on rehabilitation.

The program will allow judges to order potentially maximum jail or prison sentences to repeat drunk drivers, but instead being locked up, convicts will instead complete strict rehabilitation measures through the health and human services department. Failure to do so will result in a one-way ticket to jail for that lengthy period.

Officials expect the program to start after August.

The committee, "serves an important role in bringing together elected and appointed officials to develop ways to reduce incarceration and recidivism," according to a press release from the Public Policy Forum.

Walworth County's unique criminal justice coordinating committee beat out five other nominations in the intra-governmental cooperation award category.

The Public Policy Forum monitors government activity in a seven-county region of southeastern Wisconsin.

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