Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, located in the west central region of the state, is 648 square miles in size. The county has a population of approximately 102,105 (2015 U.S. Census Bureau) and serves as home to more than 20,000 students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley Technical College. The median household income is $48,209, and 14.4% of the population live below the poverty line. More than 93% of county residents over the age of 25 are high school graduates, and just over 31% have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The county’s population is 92.5% white, 1.1% black or African American, 4.0% Asian, and 2.3% Hispanic or Latino (2015 U.S. Census Bureau). Healthcare, retail, and manufacturing are among the primary employers (Statistical Atlas 2016). The reported violent crime rate for Eau Claire County in 2012 was 180 per 100,000 population, in contrast with the statewide rate of 280 per 100,000 population (Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center). Similarly, the reported rate of property crime was 2,266 per 100,000 population, while the state’s rate for similar crimes was 2,435 per 100,000 population (Wisconsin Statistical Analysis Center).
The county is governed by the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors, a 29-member body with a chair and co-chair. The Eau Claire County Circuit Court is composed of five judges and is one of 72 circuit courts in the state of Wisconsin. The Eau Claire County Criminal Justice Collaborating Council (CJCC) was established in 2006 to enhance public safety through system and community collaboration, to maintain and establish effective rehabilitation programs, and to foster innovative correctional programs.
|Profile of Eau Claire County’s Justice System||
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Eau Claire County’s EBDM VISION, Mission, and Team
The Eau Claire County EBDM Policy Team’s vision is “a research-based justice system that results in less crime and fewer victims.” Its mission is to “use coordinated leadership, community collaboration, and innovative criminal justice programs to enhance public safety.”
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY’S CAPACITY TO SUCCEED IN THIS ENDEAVOR LARGELY ARISES FROM THE COLLABORATIVE PROCESS THAT EXISTS IN THE COUNTY. THE COUNTY VIEWS THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AS THE COORDINATED PRODUCT OF SEVERAL KEY STAKEHOLDERS, AS OPPOSED TO THE INDIVIDUAL PRODUCT OF EACH OF THOSE STAKEHOLDER AGENCIES. IN MANY RESPECTS, THIS EBDM INITIATIVE FLOWS NATURALLY FROM THAT EXISTING COLLABORATIVE PROCESS.
The EBDM policy team was formed as a subcommittee of the CJCC and is chaired by a treatment court judge. The full-time county criminal justice coordinator serves as its local EBDM site coordinator. The EBDM policy team is comprised of a variety of stakeholders, including:
- the county administrator;
- three circuit court judges;
- a district attorney;
- a Wisconsin Department of Corrections representative;
- a state public defender;
- the county board chairperson;
- the county sheriff;
- the chief of police;
- the district court administrator;
- a Department of Health and Human Services representative;
- the CJCC coordinator;
- the director of the Community Transition Center; and
- community members.
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY’S CHANGE TARGETS
Eau Claire County’s EBDM policy team, with assistance from their EBDM TA provider, started along the Phase II planning roadmap to understand the basis upon which decisions were being made at key points across the justice system and to agree on a set of harm reduction goals.
As part of this planning, the policy team underwent a mapping process of their county’s criminal justice system and evaluated their policies and practices against contemporary research. By the end of Phase II, the policy team had agreed to a set of change targets that spanned all of the key criminal justice decision points, and it developed logic models and a detailed plan for change across five areas: utilization of assessment tools, charging practices, felony custodial arrest and pretrial release, sentencing, and probation supervision. This case study offers a review of Eau Claire County’s Phase II/III efforts as they relate to:
- the implementation of a risk screening tool by law enforcement; and
- efforts to divert low level, low risk offenders from the criminal justice system.
For more information on the full range of change targets developed by Eau Claire County, see their Phase III implementation plan.
Eau Claire County’s EBDM experience led to an increased appreciation for, and commitment to, the use of data to inform decision making; the EBDM policy team successfully petitioned the county board to fund a data analyst position. The analyst, who has access to the various agencies’ data systems, has been critical to the county’s ability to monitor progress towards the achievement of their harm reduction goals. In addition to conducting individual studies, such as a study on the recidivism of diversion program participants, the analyst provides the CJCC with regular criminal justice data reports and has been integral to the county’s development of an interactive dashboard.
In addition to participating in EBDM, Eau Claire County was accepted into the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative-Local (JRI) in 2012. The county’s participation in JRI provided significant resources for their analytic efforts, resulting in much needed information on the county’s law enforcement activity (i.e., risk profiles of those having law enforcement contact), jail and probation populations, and those diverted.
In addition, rather than releasing defendants on a judge’s signature, or holding them in custody, Eau Claire County sought to design and implement a formal pretrial program under JRI to include a more robust pretrial release assessment, as well as supervision and services that allow the county to monitor pretrial defendants safely in the community. The target population for this effort includes the population of pretrial defendants historically detained in the jail for longer than 24 hours. Other areas of exploration for the team under JRI included establishing a program for individuals facing misdemeanor OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charges, which provides them with early assessment and access to treatment/programming as an alternative to incarceration, and providing assessment and treatment to methamphetamine abusers through a deferred prosecution program.
Eau Claire County has served as one of the pioneers of EBDM for the state of Wisconsin. Since 2012, county representatives have presented on EBDM to 45 of the 72 counties within the state and shared their work products and processes with colleague counties. As the state of Wisconsin participates in Phases V and VI of the EBDM initiative, Eau Claire County representatives continue to support statewide efforts to implement EBDM by serving as EBDM capacity builders and by participating regularly on the state CJCC, the state EBDM policy team, and state EBDM policy team work groups. The county’s CJCC maintains a website that highlights its EBDM work, data dashboard and reports, and ongoing justice reform efforts.