Criminal Justice Management Council hosts pretrial tour for area legislators

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) –  Local elected officials get a behind the scenes look at what happens after someone is arrested.

The Criminal Justice Management Council invited La Crosse area legislators to get an overview of the booking process and better understand the phase between arrest and going to court.

Senator Jennifer Shilling and Representative Jill Billings took part. La Crosse is one of seven Wisconsin counties doing a pre trial pilot program. The goal is to connect inmates with needed resources to make sure they don’t end up right back in jail.

The day was meant to help better understand how research and evidence-based decision making is used by the La Crosse County court system.

Two groups got to see the screening and booking process and learn about justice support services.

Since March, the county has used a new body scanner to make sure people aren’t bringing drugs or weapons into the jail. They also have an amnesty box, where you can give up any drugs without fear of getting charged.

It “keeps drugs out of jail because it’s not uncommon inmates intentionally get arrested to smuggle in drugs,” said Sheriff Jeff Wolf.

And Sheriff Wolf said it’s working. In 2018, jail staff had to use Narcan 20 times. So far this year they’ve only used it once.

After the booking process you go through a mental health screening. Justice Support Services gets involved to help find alternatives to incarceration through a pretrial assessment.

They “assess individuals who are appearing in court for bond. We want to give them baseline information that focuses on pretrial risk,” said Justice Support System Manager Mandy Bisek.

A risk assessment is done on the inmate to make recommendations to attorneys and the court. “We have a matrix that has been developed that is our foundation for making those recommendations,” added Bisek.

Those recommendations are based on their evidence. Justice Support staff say it is an objective approach and one that is working, with a 77% pre-trial release rate. Now they just need to make sure these programs stay in place.

The group also observed intake court. One of the goals of the Criminal Justice Management Council is to ask legislators to look at getting some state funding help to pay for outside attorneys and get prosecutors to different counties, which they say will help streamline the criminal justice system.

Brittany Lake

Brittany Lake

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