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Library hosts open discussion on cash bail system

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) --- The La Crosse Library welcomed the public to their open discussion called, "Unseen Costs of Cash Bail."

La Crosse County Judge Elliot Levine, La Crosse County Justice Support Services Manager Mandy Bisek, and La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke spoke about the pre-trial system.

"A lot of people have concerns about our system that when people are arrested they get released prior to trial, and they're some very good reasons for that," said Gruenke. "It just might help to educate the public a little bit about why some people can get out when it seems like they shouldn't."

Pre-trial risk assessment tools have played a vital role in helping La Crosse County judges make better decisions in what type of bond to impose. La Crosse is one of seven counties in the state that is part of a pilot program examining a person before they make their initial appearance. The tool looks at how likely a person is to miss their initial appearance and commit another crime.

"When a judge has more information than just the complaint at hand... When they have levels of risk, when they have understanding on potential mental health or substance abuse issues that a particular person might be struggling with, when they have levels of that type of information, we can make better decisions at the end of the day," said Bisek.

Bond and bail discussions are not new to La Crosse County. The most recent took place in July during a county Criminal Justice Management Council meeting. Leaders like Bisek, Gruenke, and Judge Levine look forward to public feedback while working to improve the system.

"The goal is to educate people that are there about the system and how it works currently, and then, also talk about what we're doing in La Crosse to make it better," said Gruenke.

Other topics of conversation focused on community engagement in pre-trial proceedings and programs to help people going through the system. According to Bisek,

Mike Beiermeister

WXOW Weekend Anchor and Reporter

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