The results are in: Dane County has made achievements in decreasing racial disparities since the Race to Equity report was published four years ago.
A group of panelists discussed the report and Dane County’s progress Wednesday, specifically mentioning initiatives geared toward early education and criminal justice reform.
Some of the main problems in the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families report included the gap in graduation rates between black and white students, along with high arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans in Dane County.
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To address the problem, Dane County has established early age learning centers, a community restorative court program and pre-trail assessment.
Dane County Chair Sharon Corrigan said the criminal justice reform contributed to solve the racial disparity by helping re-entry criminals with various recovery programs.
“The goal is to keep young people out of the criminal justice system,” Corrigan said. “Once you get arrested and go into the system, it’ll be on your records.”
Instead of the going down the traditional criminal justice system route, the community court provides offenders the option of service and restitution. Offenders between the ages of 17 to 25 can volunteer to work with victims and perpetrators and realize the harm caused by their offenses.
Corrigan said the program is unique to Dane County. The program is so successful that 97 percent of the individuals have completed the program, she added.
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Ken Taylor, executive director of Wisconsin Council Children Family, said their organization is looking into focusing on supporting low-income working parents so they can be both “good parents” and work at the same time.
Instead of merely focusing on the black community, WCCF would also like to include white people in the dialogue, Taylor added.
“We need to make sure that white people are invested in closing the gap,” Taylor said.
To address the education disparity, Taylor said WCCF intends to make sure kids are receiving high-quality education at an early age. Taylor said they have already established a quality rating system to analyze the breakdown in race, the results of which will be released soon.
“We have to make sure kids of color also get high quality education. Dane County is pretty good. But we’re still not what we need to be,” Taylor said.