County Board approves Criminal Justice Coordinator position in effort to reduce jail overpopulation
The Sawyer County Board approved setting aside funds in their new budget adopted last week to hire a Criminal Justice Coordinator for the county. Sawyer County Administrator Tom Hoff said this is a much-needed position within the county.
“There’s been a Criminal Justice Coordinator Committee in place for several years now but it sort of fell by the wayside,” Hoff said. “But with the issue of the jail overcrowding and the drug epidemic hitting our community, the Sawyer County Board decided it was a priority to get this started.”
Hoff said the committee met a few months ago and plan to meet again to decide what the next steps will be. The committee consists of the judge, the district attorney, the sheriff, probation and parole as well as other key players in the criminal justice system in the county.
Hoff said the main purpose of the new position is to do whatever the county can do to prevent repeat trips to jail and to lower recidivism.
“The coordinator will help facilitate the committee in creating alternatives to jail,” Hoff said. “Some of that will include looking at the programs we already have, such as Drug Court and Sawyer County Behavioral Health and Human Services and we’ll look at what other counties are doing and we’ll figure out what works best and get those programs started.”
Hoff said the new coordinator will hired after the first of January when the new budget kicks in and the funds are available. He said the new position will work with the Criminal Justice Coordinator Committee to begin programs that have been statistically proven to reduce rates of criminal recidivism.
Hoff said the idea is to provide more opportunities and treatment options to offenders rather than putting them in jail.
“It’s early in the process but once we get the ball rolling, we expect this will make an impact on the community,” Hoff said. “In other counties that have had these programs, it’s been shown to save tax dollars by reducing jail populations. The committee will get together soon and figure out what works and what doesn’t for our county and we’ll need to decide what direction to take.”