By Joe Morey
JusticePoint CEO and Co-founder, Nick Sayner, who was recently contracted to serve the County and Tribe as Criminal Justice Coordinator, came before the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) on Monday, Feb. 15, to introduce members of the team.
The Sawyer County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC) oversees the position that Sayner will hold, and the TGB in the past has committed $25,000 annually to operations of the committee, but with the hiring of JusticePoint, the budget is expected to increase significantly to $233,835. Due to the increase, the TGB increased their annual contribution to $50,000 over the next three years while the county portion will be $183,835.
As part of the Agreement, JusticePoint will work with 50 pre-trial defendants in diversion programs. He noted they are currently serving 29 clients after only one month.
Sayner told the TGB he would start coming before them once-a-month to provide data and show them what they are seeing.
Sayner recently explained his agreement between the County/Tribe and JusticePoint as designed to make Sawyer County and the Tribe a safer and healthier community. He commended the Tribe and the County for joining forces.
“My biggest concerns are the substance use, abuse and mental health conditions identified in our data set paired with the clear over representation of tribal members involved in the criminal justice system. I wish I could say that our programs will turn all of these issues around overnight but it is going to be a long process.”
In 2018, JusticePoint was hired to do a Sawyer County Jail Assessment. The assessment data was presented back then to the county showing those being held and what the risk factors are of those being held and concerning to the TGB at the time was that the report showed a disproportionate number of Natives are incarcerated in the Sawyer County Jail at 67%.
JusticePoint screened 186 pre-trial inmates and 68 post-conviction over a 90-day period in 2018. 64% were male and 36% were female, which Sayner noted was an unusually high number for females.
Sayner went on to say he believes the issues discovered through the jail assessment should be viewed as a public health issue and should be kept from the traditional criminal justice system as much as possible.
Sayner believes individuals involved should be referred to community or tribe-based programs and services that focus on these issues.
One particular diversion program that recently got attention was the electronic monitoring program, which the Sheriff's Department stated wouldn't be eligible for tribal members in the tribal shelters or upcoming transition house. The sheriff stated it was because they don't have the authority to immediately enter those facilities like the do an individual's home.
TGB Member Tweed Shuman told Sayner the Tribe and the County need to address that policy. He said persons need to be offered those facilities as a jail alternative and they need to have access to the electronic monitoring program.
Sayner told the TGB in June what they found in the assessment was increased felonies, overcrowded jail, the high percentage of drug charges, lack of public defenders and a lot of money being spent shipping inmates to other counties.
The members of the team introduced at the TGB meeting on Monday include Becky Barry, Case Manager, Melissa Fisher, Program Coordinator, Niki Leicht, Director of Justice Programs for the Western Region.
Barry was born and raised in Ashland and is a Bad River Tribal Member. She has extensive experience working with human services, the criminal justice system and workforce development. She was a stay-at-home mom for nine years at which time she volunteered with several organizations including the Domestic Violence Program, Ashland Schools and Drug Court. This prompted her to return to college and obtain a bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology with a minor in social justice.
Fisher grew up in Hayward and her family has a long history in the area. She worked as a jailer in Sawyer County and said through that experience she saw the devastation that drugs were having on the community and the people she grew up with. This prompted her to go back to school and complete her bachelor’s degree just this past August. She is grateful to be a part of the Criminal Justice program.
Leicht has over 20 years of experience in pretrial and court administration. She is the program administrator for Minnesota and western Wisconsin at JusticePoint. She has worked in pretrial supervision, diversion programs, and treatment courts in Hennepin and Ramsey County as case manager and in management positions. Leicht has extensive experience criminal justice programs. She has a Master’s Degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration and a bachelor in family social science.
As part of the Agreement between JusticePoint and the County, they will complete a pretrial investigation on all arrestees booked into the Sawyer County Jail. All data will be collected on all investigations completed and reported quarterly. All defendant specific information will be provided to all relevant parties prior to the defendant’s initial appearance.
JusticePoint will then provide a program of pretrial supervision and monitoring for 50 pretrial defendants as ordered by a judicial officer. They will then require a weekly or monthly defendant contact based solely on pretrial risk level of the defendant. Those scoring low risk will be required to have monthly contact, medium risk is every other week contact and high risk once a week.
JusticePoint will coordinate and implement, when necessary, a randomized drug testing schedule in accordance to evidence-based practice. Testing will only be approved for those defendants that score a three or more on the UNCOPE Substance Abuse Assessment Tool for screening after arrests.
JusticePoint will provide electronic monitoring supervision for those defendants who are ordered to a form of electronic monitoring and score “high risk” on the pretrial risk assessment instrument.
JusticePoint will provide reports on the defendants’ status and compliance with court ordered conditions of release at every scheduled court hearing and they will notify the supervising court of any non-compliance with court ordered conditions.
Regarding diversion services (District Attorney referrals), JusticePoint will coordinate, verify and report compliance on all referrals from the District Attorney’s Office. They will work with community based nonprofit organizations to establish a community service network.
JusticePoint will develop a program to respond to any District Attorney referrals for diversion. Programming will utilize evidence based criminogenic risk reduction tools as applicable and program requirements will be based on the results of criminogenic risk assessments. Programming for low risk individuals will focus on accountability measures while programming for higher risk individuals will focus on behavior change strategies.
Regarding the Sheriff’s Department, JusticePoint will provide all aspects of the Sheriff’s Department Electronic Monitoring Program including enrolling, installing, retrieving, and monitoring of offenders who are released on electronic monitoring. They will work with the Sheriff’s Department to establish an appropriate reporting protocol. Once developed and approved by both parties, JusticePoint will provide reporting based on the agreed upon protocol.
JusticePoint will seek, oversee and/or develop inmate programs within the Sawyer County Jail. They will work with the Sheriff’s Department to identify the needs and gaps with the current service array and prioritize program recruitment and development as needed.
Members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee include Sawyer County Judge John Yackel, Sheriff Doug Mrotek, District Attorney Bruce Poquette, County Administrator Tom Hoff, TGB members Tweed Shuman and Lorraine Gouge as well as county board members James Schlender Jr and Mark Helwig. Kathy McCoy serves as the citizen member.
JusticePoint CEO, Nick Sayner, on left with (from L-R) Becky Barry (Case Manager), Melissa Fisher (Program Coordinator), and Niki Leicht (Director of Justice Programs, Western Region).