Improving Public Safety

House of Correction Reforms
Under the Abele administration, the House of Correction (HOC) has focused on reducing long-term recidivism by implementing additional programming and work-release opportunities for sentenced inmates.

One successful example of the HOC’s focus on rehabilitation is their “In2Work” program.  Created and taught by HOC’s food service provider, Aramark Correctional Services, In2Work is a 16-week program that provides non-violent offenders with training and certification in proper food production skills.  Upon completion of the program each graduate receives a nationally recognized ServeSafe Certificate.  Over 150 inmates have gone through the program in 2015.

County Executive Abele is also teaming up with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), and over a dozen other partners to launch the American Job Center.  This Center is a reentry training program funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The program will be operated by MAWIB at the Milwaukee County House of Correction facility in Franklin.  Nearly 1,000 inmates will receive services from the full-service Job Center, including assessment, training, and workforce preparation and support pre-and-post-release.  This community-based approach allows for individualized programming that will empower individuals to gain the skills and training they need to get a good-paying job and reduce their risk of recidivism.

The HOC is also working on a new agreement with the County’s Economic Development Division that would have inmates remove snow, perform landscaping, and remove debris from homes that were foreclosed and then vacated.  Inmates who participate in these projects can earn “good time credit” that reduces their sentences.  This benefits the participants by giving them useful skills and reunited them with their families faster.  Good Time Credit also benefits taxpayers by reducing the jail population, generating significant facility and staff savings in the process. Over 75% of all eligible HOC inmates are involved in at least one enhancement programming activity.

In 2016 officials at the HOC expect to increase the percentage of Huber/work release inmates who are employed outside the facility.  And, the HOC will promote and encourage 100 percent of eligible inmates to participate in at least one educational, job training, or personal enhancement program during their period of confinement.

Other programs that we have implemented which give inmates a chance to break the cycle of incarceration, give back to the community, and improve their lives include:

  • The Preparation for Success Program - an intensive two-week, pre-employment program that connects inmates to jobs
  • The Building Futures program - a six-month program where inmates can receive their GED or HSED as well as carpentry and leadership skills
  • The Forklift Driver Certification Program - a one-week training class that certifies inmates in forklift operation
  • The Genesis Program – a program that provides instruction in carpentry, drywall and lead abatement removal
  • The “MC Cares” program - a program that provides a “care package” of outreach materials and personal care items to veterans that are released from the House of Correction or state prison.
  • The Recycling Program – The HOC opened its recycling facility in 2015.The recycling center is operated by inmates.All types of recyclables are collected and sorted.
  • Benedict Center Partnership – This partnership with the Benedict Center provides enhanced programming options such as individualized case plans and targeted treatment strategies for up to 150 female inmates.
“When people have the skills they need to re-enter society, recidivism goes down, taxpayers costs go down, and most important, we can empower people to live better lives,” County Executive Abele said.
Juvenile Justice Reforms
In 2012 Milwaukee County launched an evidence-based, person-centered, recovery-focused, and trauma-informed model to keep juveniles from re-offending.  The basic idea behind the reforms is that government can do better as a system and as a community to serve its youth. 

One of the County's reforms was the implementation of a Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument that allows staff to target and prioritize services to those that are most at-risk to re-offend.  We also implemented a Mental Health Collaboration Program grant with Wraparound Milwaukee to provide comprehensive reentry services for youth with mental health problems who were returning from state juvenile corrections.

Our reforms have contributed to several successful outcomes, including:

  • Referrals to the Milwaukee County Delinquency and Court Services Division (DCSD) for juvenile justice delinquency intervention have been reduced by 21 percent
  • Admissions to juvenile detention have dropped by 23 percent, and the average daily population in detention has decreased by 10 percent
  • Admissions into state juvenile correctional facilities have been reduced by 17 percent
  • Grade-level testing in the Milwaukee County Accountability Program has shown an increase in reading and math skills

These reforms not only benefit juveniles; by diverting youth from state facilities, Milwaukee County spent about $2.5 million less on juvenile corrections in 2014 as compared to 2010 – savings which has been invested back into community-based programming.   DCSD is now in the process of developing a centralized database that will collect all juvenile data from the multiple programs and services provided by the agency.  In using data to drive decisions, DCSD will continue to build on the success of detention and correctional alternatives to reduce reliance on secure confinement while maintaining or improving public safety.

Improving Public Safety Through Regional Collaboration
While Milwaukee is comprised of 19 independent municipalities, the importance of cohesive public safety systems crosses all jurisdictional borders.  To boost public safety countywide, Milwaukee County is undertaking a migration from analog to digital in its public safety radio system. 

The conversion is in line with a nationwide trend to improve technology to achieve interoperability – the ability for multiple agencies to talk on a common system so they can work together to help people in emergency situations. 

Milwaukee County’s project involves implementation of the “P25 standard” which is federally recognized as the most integral means of emergency communication.  Working with Waukesha County, Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff recently selected an installation and equipment vendor that has already begun work on the OASIS system (Organization of Affiliated Secure Interoperable RF Subsystems).  Upon full implementation of OASIS, there will be ten radio tower sites within the boundaries of Milwaukee County that will provide improved radio coverage for first responders.

In the spring of 2016 the system will be fully engaged as dispatch centers begin the analog-to-digital transition.  The OEM is continually reaching out to radio users such as local police and fire departments, EMS staff, public health officials, hospitals, airport staff, and transit and public works administrators to ensure that they are prepared for the transition.

OEM is also relocating its communications center into the County’s 9-1-1 communications center to streamline operations and create more opportunities for employees.

“Protecting the public is a crucial mission of Milwaukee County government,” County Executive Abele said. “Integrating safety communications across jurisdictional lines increases the effectiveness and efficiency of our public safety responses and helps save lives.”
Milwaukee Community Justice Council
Created in 2007, the Milwaukee Community Justice Council (MCJC) is a group of criminal justice agencies and local governments that strive to ensure a fair and effective justice system which enhances public safety and improves our quality of life.  County Executive Abele has been an active member of the Council since he was first elected in 2011. 

In recent years the Milwaukee Community Justice Council worked collaboratively to create the Milwaukee County Early Intervention Programs.  These programs have enabled Milwaukee County’s justice system to hold offenders accountable, reduce the overall crime rate and recidivism, and give taxpayers a better return on the dollars they invest in the criminal justice system.

In addition, the MCJC’s Executive Committee oversaw the development of a 24-hour jail screening program within the Milwaukee County Jail. This program is designed to determine the risk and needs level of individuals entering the downtown jail. Information obtained in the screening process is used to identify those individuals suitable for diversion and/or other alternatives to incarceration.

The MCJC is currently overseeing the implementation of a $150,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant.  Milwaukee County was one of 20 jurisdictions in the country to receive this award which is part of the Foundation’s $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration in jails throughout the country.  Milwaukee County will use the grant funding to ensure that appropriate evidence-based risk assessments drive decisions about who is detained in its local jails.
Office of Emergency Management Consolidation
In 2015 Milwaukee County consolidated four divisions previously housed in three different departments into a single Office of Emergency Management (OEM). OEM provides unified regional services in four public safety areas:  radio system, 911 communications, emergency medical services, and emergency management.  OEM provides an integrated system that enables a fast deployment of resources to help people in great need.

Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is also integrating the FEMA Incident Command System into the governance of the OASIS Public Safety Radio System that supports our first responders.  In addition, the OASIS radio network is adapting system protocol to meet the needs of local hospitals and gain efficiencies within the County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system. 

OEM is also leading a $1 million project to upgrade the OASIS radio system.  This project, which is a partnership between Milwaukee County and 17 local municipalities, involves moving from analog to digital technology which will improve coordination between dispatching organizations and increase emergency responsiveness.

Providing fast, quality service requires OEM to partner with public, private, and academic partners.  For example, OEM currently has its EMS Communications Center housed in the Emergency Department of Froedtert Hospital – which borders the Emergency Department of Children’s Hospital.  This close physical relationship allows physicians to transition to the Communications Center to provide life-saving direction to responding paramedics in the field. 

As a hub of information, OEM also serves as a critical data collection point for researchers.  OEM partners with the Medical College of Wisconsin and other local academic institutions to ensure that these scholars have the data they need to conduct research aimed at improving our community.

With its partners, OEM is also exploring the concept of a Center of Forensic Intelligence (COFIN).  The idea behind the COFIN is to efficiently coordinate any incident from start to finish – from the initial 911 call to deployment of Medical Examiner staff and all resources in-between.
Court Reforms
Since being elected, County Executive Abele has consistently supported initiatives that make our communities safer.  The County Executive believes that best-practice, evidence-based investments in our public safety staff and infrastructure are vital to our community’s well-being.

Research shows that our new and innovative programming efforts can lead to better outcomes for offenders.  Offenders who complete these programs have lower recidivism rates and are in a better position to positively contribute to society. 

Universal Screening Program:  Milwaukee County Pretrial Services has a mission to reduce pretrial failure to appear rates, reduce re-arrest rates, enhance public safety, reduce overcrowding at the County Correctional Facilities, and enhance the processing and adjudication of criminal cases.  In 2012, in an effort to improve the County’s pretrial system, the County Executive funded a Universal Screening Program that collaboratively involved the Office of the Chief Judge and JusticePoint (a pretrial services provider).  Funding is now provided for the screening of over 20,000 arrestees annually at the County Correctional Facility – Central (CCFC).   Various assessment instruments are used to determine an arrestee’s risk level for pretrial misconduct, which is defined as missing court or being rearrested while on pretrial release.   This assessment data is then used for consideration in making diversion, deferred prosecution, bail recommendation, and pretrial release decisions. 

The Universal Screening Program is a critical piece to ensuring that the pretrial release/detention decision and ordering of pretrial conditions are evidence-based and employ research-supported best practices.  The program identifies individuals who may be suitable for available alternatives to incarceration – alternatives like diversion, deferred prosecution, drug treatment court and the Day Reporting Center.  The program provides the County with data that is essential to effectively monitor and manage pretrial population trends and to target available interventions in a cost-effective manner. 

PreTrial Services:  The Pretrial Supervision Program provides supervision and case management services to defendants ordered to supervision as a condition of their bail.   By moving away from a one-size-fits-all pretrial program to individualized supervision strategies, Milwaukee County has been able to triple the number of individuals it supervises pretrial without a similar increase in costs.  While the County continues to collect more data, the outcomes to date are promising – a 2013 study showed that 87 percent of felony defendants released pretrial had no new criminal activity, and 84 percent appeared for all of the court hearings. 

Early Intervention Programs:  Milwaukee was one of seven cities across the United States chosen to participate in the Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems Initiatives (EBDMI), an opportunity sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections (NIC), and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).  The Milwaukee Community Justice Council (MCJC) Executive Committee oversaw a rigorous technical process that culminated in the creation of the Milwaukee County Early Intervention Programs, a set of programs that enable the system to hold offenders accountable, reduce the overall crime rate and recidivism, and give taxpayers a better return on the dollars they invest in the criminal justice system.

Early intervention programs such as the Milwaukee County Diversion Program and the Milwaukee County Deferred Prosecution Program (DPA) aim to reduce the long-term recidivism risk of individuals involved in the justice system while also ensuring public safety and the efficient allocation of limited criminal justice dollars.  The Diversion program offers those who are determined to be at low risk for re-offense the opportunity to be diverted from the justice system.  The DPA offers those who are determined to be moderate to high risk for re-offense the opportunity to have their original charge reduced or even dismissed if specific conditions are met.


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