City and County officials announced the implementation of a pilot program Tuesday that would help decrease the number of youths in the court system.
Dane County received a grant for $208,000 from the Department of Children and Families through the Brighter Future and Early Intervention Program. The grant will allow 12 to 16-year-old adolescents who receive a municipal citation from the criminal justice system to be diverted into a restorative court.
The program includes a partnership between Madison, Dane County, the YWCA and TimeBank, and is set to begin Sept. 15, according to a county statement.
Disparities in the criminal justice system are a huge challenge in locally and nationally, Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive, said at a news conference Tuesday.
“We are very happy to be a part of a new partnership that will allow young people who would have received a municipal ticket to be diverted into a peer court or peer circle so they can do a restorative justice model and pay back to the community and learn from that mistake without getting a record,” Parisi said.
In 2014, 861 citations were issued to 12-16-year-olds, making up about a quarter of all Dane County citations. The program is designed to assist all youth who receive citations, but with about 75 percent of citations issued to youth of color, the program seeks to decrease some of the disparities in Madison, Mike Koval, Madison Police Department chief, said.
“When we looked at this program as a pilot option with partners from our county, it was a no-can-miss proposition for us, because something will be infinitely better than what we are currently doing,” Koval said.
Youth are often unable to receive as many services for a citation as they would for a criminal charge, Koval said. This program offers services to youth before they receive a criminal charge, hopefully deterring future crime, he said.
The peer courts and restorative circles allow the youth who received citations to step up and become leaders in the community, Lorrie Hurckes, Youth Court coordinator and co-director for TimeBank, said.
“It helps youth connect with other people and move forward in a more positive way,” Hurckes said.
All MPD officers will be trained to hand out brochures containing the YWCA phone number upon issuing a citation, and will follow up if a youth fails to enroll in the restorative program.
The program currently has secured funding through the end of 2015, but local officials intend to reapply for the grant to continue the program into next year.