A forum for the Dane County Judge and Madison School Board candidates was held Thursday night, giving the candidates the opportunity to express their plans for systematic change in the justice and school systems.

Marilyn Townsend and Susan Crawford are running for Dane County Judge. Both have worked in law for years, with Townsend as a judge and Crawford as a lawyer.

Panelists from theĀ 100 Black Men of Madison, the Urban League of Greater Madison and the African American Council of Churches, which also hosted the forum, asked Townsend and Crawford a series of questions related to topics like immigration, the high incarceration rate of minority groups and the problem of finding pro-bono attorneys for accused people.

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Townsend, the daughter of an immigrant mother, said she has a first-hand account of what immigrants can contribute to society, which she said helps her understand and sympathize with efforts involved in coming to the United States.

“I would be particularly sensitive that the people who come before me understand and are aware of their rights in the justice system,” Townsend said.

Crawford highlighted her work as a lawyer and said she has spent the last seven years defending citizens from government actions which oppressed their rights.

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Gloria Reyes and Anna Moffit, candidates for Madison School Board, discussed the impact of the Florida school shooting and the high incarceration rates of young, minority students in the Madison school districts.

“We have to think long-term, but we have kids right now that need help,” Reyes said.

The highest rates of incarceration is among African American men from ages 17 to 35 and is a big concern for students in low-income neighborhoods where policing is higher than other parts of town, Reyes said.

Moffit emphasized the benefits of public education on lower income youth and on the community in general.

“Such significant differences in what the community of color can access compared to their white middle class counterparts, is concerning,” Moffit said.

Voting for both races is set for April 3.