Updated: Jan 26, 2022
By Joe Morey
JusticePoint team members came before the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) to provide an end-of-year report on the contract between JusticePoint and the Tribe/County to provide oversight of criminal justice diversion programs.
JusticePoint, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of evidence-informed criminal justice programs, practices, and policies, explained the agreement designed to make Sawyer County and the Tribe a safer and healthier community saw 61 clients under their supervision at the end of the year. This was a gradual increase from 20 clients after the first month back in February 2021.
The Tribe contributes $50,000 annually to the contract while the county contributes $183,835.
JusticePoint explained that all the funds are put towards pretrial supervision.
“We’ve had to turn some people away because we were over capacity but with the TAD grant we were recently awarded, we’ve been able to expand and hire more pretrial case managers,” JusticePoint team members told the TGB. The original contract called for a maximum case load of 50 pretrial clients.
The TAD (Treatment Alternatives and Diversion) programs grant is aimed at providing District Attorneys or judges with options to offer offenders the opportunity to enter into voluntary substance abuse treatment, case management, and other risk reduction services as a safe alternative to jail or prison confinement.
“We were only awarded half the grant so we are going to apply for the other half to do a drug court, which will include OWI offenses, which was never done in the past,” JusticePoint explained.
They also told the TGB that over the past year, they’ve lowered the incarceration rates of Natives in the pretrial phase.
The TGB heard a report from JusticePoint’s Nick Sayner at their weekly meeting on June 29, 2020, regarding a Sawyer County Jail Assessment done in 2018. 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 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.
“33% of the pre-trial screened inmates were for drug offenses. A significant number of cases were lower risk which is unusual for us to see,” Sayner said.
At JusticePoint, they have a risk factor scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being those who continually miss court and 1 being those who have missed one court or none, and 58% off all their screenings fit into that category with 12% as high risk.
“This tells me that we have low-risk people being held,” Sayner stated. “Our studies show that even two to three days of incarceration for low-risk people can have long-term impacts on whether a person becomes a factor in the criminal justice system.”
Sayner added, in his opinion, there needs to be a shift from more punitive to restorative justice.
JusticePoint team members told the TGB at their recent report that it was a slow start to clients being recommended for the program until they met with County Administrator Tom Hoff and Judge John Yackel, and not long after, Yackel met with the District Attorney and the referrals started coming. Since then they have had many meetings with the DA.
“It takes the pressure of the District Attorney and puts it on us to make sure the clients don’t slip up and not return for court,” explained JusticePoint.
JusticePoint explained when persons are arrested and booked into the Sawyer County jail who are awaiting a bail hearing, they do a screening for pretrial risk, substance use disorder, and/or mental health needs. The results are prepared for the Sawyer County Judge to review when making bond decisions and informing conditions of release.
The risk assessment shows whether a person will show up for their next hearings. It’s also helpful for the DA or judge to look back on what we did and/or how it went, and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee can see if what we do is working or what we can do better.
JusticePoint’s website explains their pretrial community supervision case management program for defendants ordered to supervision as a condition of their bail. Case Managers monitor all court-ordered conditions of release as well as provide referral services to programming aimed at addressing risk and need areas that are identified as possibly contributing to future justice system involvement if not properly addressed. Staff provide regular reporting to the court on compliance with court-ordered conditions and apply incentives or sanctions to pro- or anti-social actions according to a behavior-response matrix.
According to an article introducing JusticePoint in the LCO News last year, the following is the procedures used as described by Nick Sayner;
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 team members pictured above with Sawyer County Probation/Parole supervisor Katie Belinger on the left, meeting with TGB