Milwaukee court initiative to be highlighted at national conference
Madison, Wisconsin - October 9, 2009
Milwaukee's Judicial Oversight Initiative, begun in 1999 to improve services to victims and treatment for offenders in domestic violence cases, will be showcased at a national conference in Michigan on November 5. Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers and Judge Carl Ashley, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, will speak at the conference sponsored by the Batterer Intervention Services Coalition of Michigan.
Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers
Judge Carl Ashley
In addition to the judges, the Wisconsin team includes a prosecutor and defense attorney, law enforcement and representatives from the advocacy community. An audience of up to 400 people from across the nation is expected.
"We are honored to have been chosen to present our program to a national audience," Ashley said. "The Judicial Oversight Initiative has enabled us to address the complex issues involved in domestic violence cases through a coordinated community response, and that gives us a chance to build a safer community, one home at a time."
Milwaukee began to focus on improved response to domestic violence in 1994. In 1999, it was selected as a national demonstration site (along with Boston and Ann Arbor), receiving a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement initiatives targeted at improving victim safety and increasing offender accountability. The grant ended in 2004, but allowed for a number of changes, most of which have been maintained in spite of shrinking budgets:
- Three specialty courts to handle domestic violence cases, facilitating greater judicial oversight in each case (current judges are David L. Borowski, Mary M. Kuhnmuench and Jeffrey A. Wagner)
- The addition of emergency personal advocates for victims
- Four new prosecutors and a court commissioner for domestic violence cases
- A special courthouse waiting room for victims
- Expanded services through community organizations for victims
- Improved programs for offenders to meet the needs of specific groups such as diverse racial and ethnic groups, the elderly, and people with disabilities
Independent evaluations of the Judicial Oversight Initiative have demonstrated that the program is working. Probationers whose cases were handled through the Initiative were 47 percent less likely to be arrested for a domestic-violence-related crime – and they had fewer arrests overall – in the year following disposition of their case than offenders who were placed on probation before the program.
Amanda K. Todd
Court Information Officer