Monthly Archives: August 2016

Fairness, Procedural Justice, and Domestic Violence: A Conversation with Judge Jeffrey Kremers

In this New Thinking podcast, Judge Jeffrey Kremers of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court
brings procedural justice to bear on domestic violence. Sharing his insights from the bench, Judge Kremers talks
about the importance of procedural justice for both defendants and survivors as well as their families, and discusses
strategies for addressing the unique challenges posed by domestic violence cases.

This podcast was supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K023 awarded
by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, or recommendations expressed
in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice,
Office on Violence Against Women.

listening to the New Thinking podcast. I’m Avni Majithia-Sejpal from the Center for Court Innovation. Today,
I’m joined by Judge Jeffrey Kremers. He is a judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Wisconsin, and we
will be talking about the intersections of procedural justice and domestic violence. Judge Kremers, welcome.

JUDGE JEFFREY KREMERS: Thank you. I’m glad to take part in this podcast this afternoon.

Let’s start with procedural justice, which refers to the experiences of defendants, litigants, victims, and
others within the justice system, and suggests that these experiences have a direct impact on justice. Procedural
justice emphasizes the importance of good communication, clarity, respect, and objectivity or freedom from bias.
Research has shown that when people believe that they were treated fairly, they’re more likely to comply with
court orders regardless of the outcome of their cases.

So, Judge Kremers, why is procedural justice
important to you, and in your experience as a judge, have you witnessed its impact on the people in cases who come
through your court?

KREMERS: Our mantra in the criminal courts in Milwaukee is that every interaction
is an opportunity to reduce harm. If that’s our goal, to not only do justice, but also more importantly in terms
of your question, be perceived as doing justice, then I want to make sure that people have a voice, meaning they
can be heard, that we understand each other, that is they understand what I am telling them, and I understand what
they are telling me or asking me. That the court system is neutral in all respects, that’s gender neutral, race
neutral, wealth-based neutrality, and that everyone from defendants, victims, witnesses, staff, lawyers, the public,
are all treated respectfully. Then, of course, I need to use the tenants of procedural justice.

Over the years, you have worked extensively with the issue of domestic violence and have presided over a specialized
domestic violence court. What are the typical cases that you see?

KREMERS: I preside in a criminal
court, which means I handle any criminal case from a disorderly conduct up through attempt murder, where the parties
involved have been in a domestic relationship, meaning they’ve either lived together or they have a child together,
and the criminal act is between those two parties. They might be married, in which case there may be a parallel family
court case going on, which seek to resolve the issues of custody or visitation or physical placement of the children.
There might be a civil order of protection or an injunction in place, which will also be impacted by the criminal
case. There very often are children involved, so children’s court may be involved, the Bureau of Child Welfare
may be involved.

All of those other parts of the system may impact what we’re doing, but
in my court, the focus is on whether or not the State can prove the criminal allegations they’ve brought against
the defendant. That also brings into play issues of no contact and the fact that, in many cases, the defendant is
the bread winner in the family, so there are issues of financial support for the victim. There’s emotional support.
All of those things can come into play in the handling of a criminal case.

would you say procedural justice can apply to cases like this, especially when there are families and children involved,
and safety is a primary concern?

KREMERS: Safety is always the number one concern in any domestic
violence case, but at the same time, we’re dealing with a very complicated situation because in every other
kind of criminal case, or almost every other kind of criminal case, the victim and the defendant are strangers or
at least don’t have the same dynamics as a domestic violence kind of case. But here, there are very mixed feelings
that the victim comes in with, and sometimes they just want the violence to stop. They really don’t want the
defendant to go to prison or jail. They still love the person. They still want the person to be around for the children.
So there are these kinds of mixed emotions on the part of victims.

In addition, our system of
justice gives out mixed messages. In family court, or even in children’s court, the idea is how do we unify
these two parties or this family? How do we get them back together? Whereas in a criminal case, the push is more
towards how do we separate them safely? How do we get this victim to move on, or the defendant to move on, where
the victim doesn’t want to be in contact with the person anymore? So the messages are kind of mixed between
what they might hear in family court, family unification, and what they hear in the criminal court, no contact. That
is a difficult conversation to have and a difficult path to weave as you handle the case.

all the more critical that we employ the really strong principles of procedural justice because it’s how you
say it and how you explain it that become so critical to both parties, the defendant and the victim, and anybody
else who’s connected to the case.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: When you’re concerned about the safety
of victims in your courtroom, how do you balance the victims against the defendants, particularly with the view of
asserting your neutral position?

KREMERS: The way I would respond to that is to say that I don’t
believe there’s anything incompatible with the principles of procedural justice in addressing both victims’
safety and defender accountability. I think we can do both if we focus on how we address the issues that are before
the court, and keep in mind those principles that I stated before of voice, and neutrality, and understanding, and
respect, and therefore, focus on how we do what we do in court and not so much on the what or the why. Those are
important, obviously. Determining what somebody did, whether it amounts to a criminal violation or not, and why they
did it, in terms of focusing on an appropriate sentence, are all obviously critical to the outcome of the case.

But equally critical is how we go about doing that. The relationships that bring people to our court are
almost never single incident cases, and you cannot address the event that’s in front of you without an understanding
of the relationship that brought the people to you. If you can’t talk to people and get them to tell you what’s
going on in a way that they feel safe telling, they feel like they’re being heard, then you really don’t
understand the context, and therefore, can’t really address the situation no matter what the outcome of the
case is.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: Procedural justice is usually framed from the perspective of defendants,
but with domestic violence cases, victims are extremely important to the case. What are some of the challenges that
you think they face within the court system?

KREMERS: One of the biggest challenges that victims
face, for example, is the notion that “Why did she stay with him? Why did she dismiss a protection order? Why
didn’t she cooperate last time he was charged with beating her up? And why should we believe her now? Or why
should the system help her now when she didn’t give us an opportunity to help her before?” It’s almost
paternalistic, and it comes back to them in the form of prejudice or bias.

If I’ve learned
anything about procedural fairness, it is that it really applies to everyone who comes in contact with the court
system, from victims, defendants, lawyers, witnesses, the public, the staff, everyone. We have to develop strategies
that focus on the needs and the import of each of those individuals or groups of individuals, so that signage and
how we treat people when they come in the building to primarily how our staff in the courts treats people.

With respect to victims and their children, we have had problems. Certainly every court that I’ve been
in has had problems with how victims get treated in the courts, and that’s at the clerk’s officer when
they’re filling out paperwork, and the district attorney’s office, and the courts themselves when they
check in. Whether it’s the bailiff or the clerk of court or the court reporter, they all have to understand
that their body language, their facial expressions, the way they answer questions, are all critical events in the
life of that victim. The challenge for us in the system is to treat every single case as though it’s the first
one we’ve ever heard, but with the experience of all the cases we’ve ever heard behind us.

What about challenges to do with paperwork, technical language?

KREMERS: Within our system, most
of those issues are addressed because the district attorney’s office has a very strong victim advocate program
where every victim in a domestic violence case is assigned an advocate who helps them navigate the court system.
So if there are papers that need to be filled out for victim compensation, for example, or if they want to get a
restraining order or an injunction, there’s another set of advocates. When they come to court, the victim advocate
is there, and they have a separate waiting room where they can wait and not sit in the courtroom in the presence
of the defendant or his family or friends or whatever the case may be. That kind of a support system for victims,
I think is critical.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: Do you come across victims who are also dealing with questions
of immigration? How does that complicate domestic violence cases, and particularly the question of procedural justice?

KREMERS: We deal with a number of victims and defendants who have immigration issues. It is a significant
complicating issue in those cases. Victims are very reticent to participate or cooperate because they’re afraid
that they’re going to be deported or held. And that’s just the ones who we know about. There are lots of
other instances of domestic violence where there are immigration issues, and the victim doesn’t even report
it to the police because they’re afraid. And, of course, the victim plays on that, and I’ve seen it in
court. I had a case last week where the victim indicated that the defendant was holding her papers and would not
give them back unless she dropped the charges. So I had to address that by telling him that we were going to have
a bail hearing, and if the victim doesn’t have all of her papers back they then, I would consider that as an
aggravating factor in determining his bail. So it’s a complicating factor.

I think more than
and bigger than immigration issue is cultural competence. It’s one thing to understand the immigration implications
of what’s going on, but it’s even a bigger question for us to understand what the cultural issues are:
Why do they act the way they do in court? Why do they come into the court the way they do? Why do they not come into
court? What is their expectation? It’s particularly heightened in those communities that are very close-knit
and relatively compact. I think it’s incumbent on judges and staff to be culturally competent and to see how
those issues play out not only in the way they act in court, but also what our culture is and how we, therefore,
interpret what they do, or how we see what they do, or how we hear what they say. Because if we’re letting our
culture get in the way of understanding their culture, then procedural justice just goes out the window.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: As faculty at the National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence, you’ve been involved
in efforts to train other judges. Can you talk about what you pass on to judges regarding domestic violence and procedural

KREMERS: I’d go back to my first answer about making sure they understand what the
principles of procedural justice are in terms of neutrality, and voice, and respect, and understanding, and that
judges understand the context of what’s happening in front of them. That they learn how to listen and not assume.
I think it’s critical to understand that how you talk to a defendant or a victim has a lot of say, I believe,
about whether they’re going to come back in your court. We know that domestic violence is a learned behavior,
so if they can learn it, they can unlearn it, and that starts with how they are treated in court. If I just call
them a name and talk down to them, or be disrespectful to them, you can see it in their eyes. They just shut down.

I watched a judge do a guilty plea one time, and if I gave you the transcript of the guilty plea, you’d
say “That was perfect. He asked every question he should have asked, and he got a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’
answer every place he should.” But I was sitting in that courtroom, and I watched the judge do it. He never
once looked at the defendant. Never once. He was just on autopilot. When that defendant got up and walked past me,
he didn’t know I was a judge, he’s just talking out of the courtroom with some family member, and he said,
“That,” using a profanity, “never looked at me, didn’t pay any attention to me.” That’s
a perfect example of an opportunity lost to try and make a connection with a defendant.

So I always
ask defendants, “Why do you think this happened? What do you think you need to do to change?” I then will
talk to them about what they said to me, and why they did what they did, and what caused it. Now they’re in
a position where they’re willing to listen and to talk about it. That’s the kind of message that I try
and give to the judges at the institute.

The last one, I guess, that I say again and again is
every interaction you have with the defendant and the victim is an opportunity to reduce harm in your community.
Don’t waste that opportunity.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: On that concluding note, Judge Kremers, thank
you for sharing your experiences and insights on this very complex subject.

KREMERS: Thank you.
It’s my pleasure.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: This is Avni Majithia-Sejpal, and you’ve been listening
to the New Thinking podcast. To hear more of our podcasts, you can visit Thanks for joining


Foundations Can Support Justice Reform, If You Know How to Ask: A Conversation with James Lewis

Private foundations are an overlooked resource for innovative justice programs.  James H. Lewis, senior
program officer and director of research and evaluation at the Chicago
Community Trust
, offers insight into how foundations make funding decisions and shares tips for attracting
foundation investments in justice programs. The interview was conducted by the Center for Court Innovation’s
Director of Communications Robert V. Wolf at Community Justice 2016, where Lewis participated in a panel on “Funding

JAMES H. LEWIS: Individual foundations generally can be more flexible and
creative in what they’re doing than government can because you don’t have, the accountability is to a much
smaller group of people in a foundation who can make their own decisions, because it is private money and not taxpayer

ROB WOLF: Hi. I’m Rob Wolf, Director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation
and I am at Community Justice 2016 in Chicago, Illinois where over 400 people have gathered to talk about justice
reform and are sharing strategies for how they can improve the justice system.

Right now I’m
sitting down with someone who participated in a break-out session that focused particularly on funding. James H.
Lewis is the Senior Program Officer and Director of Research and Evaluation at the Chicago Community Trust. And,
James, I thought maybe you could just briefly explain to listeners what the Chicago Community Trust is.

LEWIS: The Chicago Community Trust is the Chicago region’s community foundation and community foundations
are an aggregation of different gifts from families and individuals that are made for the benefit of a specific place.
And we take those together, we manage those funds, and then make grants from them just as any foundation would.

It’s distinctive because the corpus of our money does come from a lot of different families rather
than from a single family, like the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation where it’s
a single family that gave. We are about 800 of those combined.

But we make grants like anyone
else. They do need to be for projects that are predominantly to the benefit of residents of Cook County here in Illinois.

WOLF: You do in fact have a geographic focus, Cook County which is where Chicago is located and surrounding

LEWIS: Yeah, yeah. Most community foundations are chartered that way, but a lot of family
ones are too. Chicago has a lot of just what you would think of as conventional foundations that have in their mission
that they serve residents of Chicago or residents of a particular suburb or wherever that family had value.

WOLF: We’re here at Community Justice 2016 so the word community, I don’t think is a superficial
nexus here, community justice programs often have a geographic focus as well. So I wonder, as programs that are activated
by notions of community justice and they are focusing on particular neighborhoods, does it make sense for them to
look and see if there is a community trust or a community foundation that might be servicing the same neighborhood?
Is there a natural synchronicity there and might that be a potentially successful route for them to find funding?

LEWIS: I think they should certainly look to see that. Community foundations in different communities really
vary by how much discretionary giving they have. We’re fortunate to have an awful lot of unrestricted money
that we can use for projects of our own choosing. Many community foundations are much more donor driven, and so the
donors have left instructions with the foundation on how to spend it and in those cases there is less room for creativity
in what you’re going to do. So while I think it’s great for anybody with a project to look to their local
community foundation, I certainly wouldn’t limit myself to that. I would also investigate other foundations
of any sort that had in their mission to serve that neighborhood, community, city, region as a priority.

WOLF: Basically, you’re a foundation like any foundation then. That’s kind of what you were saying.

LEWIS: Yeah, from the grantee’s point of view, from the applicant’s point of view we look like
any other. We have guidelines, we have applications, we make grant decisions periodically through the year. So from
the outside we look like any other foundation.

WOLF: And so do you have any advice or suggestions
for community justice initiatives, many of them are government or court or maybe police or prosecutor lead programs.
They might not necessarily be eligible to obtain grant money, but they may have partners, non-profit partners that
are, and they may be less familiar with reaching out to a private foundation than they are perhaps reaching out to
the government or the Department of Justice to apply for grants. So do you have any advice for them about approaching
a foundation versus perhaps a government agency to obtain or apply for money?

LEWIS: Yeah. I think
the main difference is that individual foundations generally can be more flexible and creative with what they’re
doing than government can because you don’t have, the accountability is to a much smaller group of people in
a foundation who can make their own decisions because it is private money and not taxpayer money. And so those individual
foundations aren’t bound by the same kinds of laws and rules and appropriations and budgets that governments
are. The decisions within the foundation on which projects to make grants on aren’t bound by generally a blind
reading of the applications or a jury decision, those kinds of things that are typical of the way government RFPs
are usually done.

It’s much more about whether in the view of a program officer or an executive
director of that foundation whether something that’s proposed makes sense to them, is something that they think
is going to be impactful, something they think that their board of directors of their foundation will be proud to
have their money on. So I think it’s a place to take, my advice is to take your creative ideas, take the things
that you don’t think the government will fund, take the things that might be a little risky, those kinds of
things are the things the foundations do best.

WOLF: And it sounds like there’s more of a
human touch there you’re saying, rather than there being a blind review process. You’re more directly engaged.
Would you perhaps visit a place before you give them a grant rather than just taking a paper application and making
a decision based on a blind or anonymous information?

LEWIS: Yeah. I think that’s a really
important factor for anyone trying to understand foundations, in fact, is that very much so. And in most instances
for somebody you’re funding you will in fact meet with them, and in most instances with most foundations there’s
an opportunity to negotiate what you want to do with that program officer. And it’s not like the typical government
RFP where you send in the thing and it’s adjudicated and you get one bite at that apple.

the foundation, if you send in a proposal and the foundation program officer finds it interesting, maybe it’s
not exactly what they were looking for but it’s interesting, they’ll call you up, you can have a phone
conversation. You might have a meeting. You might go back and forth. You might actually negotiate what’s done.
They’ll say we like this part but we don’t like that. Maybe you could find another funder for component
of this that we don’t really do or aren’t interested in.

I’ve done this many times.
This is really interesting concept. I know there’s two other people who are interested in this too. If you would
just bring all three of them to the table I think we could do something. If you could include this neighborhood,
if you could include that school, so there’s a lot more room to negotiate something with a foundation. That’s
why again it’s good forum for raising money in a creative way, because you really can evolve it and work toward
what you’re trying to do.

WOLF: And it sounds like because there’s a community focus
in it, and in a community foundation in particular and also in a community justice program there’s also perhaps
shared knowledge about, because they’re both knowledgeable about the community, it sounds like that could be
a very productive process where there’s a meeting of the minds where the foundation is bringing their knowledge
and concerns about the community priorities and needs and the community justice program which is looking at it through
a justice lens, also is bringing knowledge and it sounds like there could be a catalyst there.

Yeah, I think that’s very true. The working in a foundation is not a profession where you typically, where you
go to school in it, you get a first job in it and then … most people who are program officers and particularly
the senior program officers are people who have long histories of their career working in that community in the fields
in which they are funding.

I myself was a professor at a local university. It was a commuter type
university. It was very integrated into the community before coming. Before that, I was with the Urban League here
for ten years, so I came from a position of being very grounded in the types of issues that the trust is interested
in. And I think that’s true of most of my colleagues across different foundations. That they had professional
careers in that field before they became funders in it. And so they’re very grounded in what the issues are
and who the players are and what the specific neighborhood and community needs are.

is criminal justice commonly an area of focus?  I know your trust, you described here, is interested in
certain criminal justice related goals like reducing recidivism and disparities, racial disparities in the justice
system. Are you seeing a trend there? There’s a lot in the news about the criminal justice system.

LEWIS: I would say so. The problem of urban violence, I guess it’s been with us for a long time, but
I think really caught the attention of a lot of people more in the 1990s, and then the cost of incarceration across
the country has become a driving force, right? I think a lot more bipartisan, I don’t want to overstate it,
but there is more bipartisan interest now in getting people out of jail and prisons than there would have been 10,
20 and especially, you know 30 years ago. So I think there is a lot more interest on the part of foundations, and
they do it in different ways.

In the Midwest, the Joyce Foundation has a specific gun violence
initiative that they do. MacArthur has been interested in various areas of restorative justice. The Woods Fund here
in Chicago, restorative justice. We’ve been engaged in it, in violence reduction and equity issues. So different
foundations have their own twist on it, but I would say in general there has been increased interest. I think it’s
a fairly fertile field right now.

WOLF: So if you were to give justice practitioners interested
in finding out about trusts that are community focused or just any kind of foundation and applying and succeeding
with their application, are there some bullet points you could share about what they should keep in mind?

LEWIS: Yeah. Well, I think it does. Because there is so much variation across foundations, there isn’t
any single way to know what one wants or how they’re taking applications. There really isn’t any substitute
for getting in the internet and checking out what they’re individual initiatives and programs are, and what
the application process is. And people can send things in that way.

I would also really, really
strongly support though taking the additional step of trying to seek out people like me in forums like this conference
or in various kinds of neighborhood settings. A lot of us are going to those kinds of meetings, and we’re on
different commissions and task forces and committees of local government or community development, all of those kinds
of things. Find those program officers and talk to them about what you’re doing and equally important to find
out what they are interested in. Because it’s partly about what you want as someone creating a program but it’s
also about that program officer needs to take back to their board. And so you want to just enter into that conversation
with them the best way you can.

WOLF: So I suppose it also helps to have an elevator pitch, a
short, concise description of what they’re doing, but one that sounds like you’re saying is customized
to the particular foundation or program officer that they’re speaking to.

LEWIS: Yeah. It’s
certainly helpful to be clear in that way. On the other hand, I will give the other hand. That if you’re at
some conference, you find yourself sitting there at lunch, you find yourself sitting next to a program officer from
a foundation that you think might be able to help you, that program officer does not like to be pitched there at
that table with seven people sitting around where it’s just not a good place.

the place to just get to know the person, like you would to be able to start the relationship building. Don’t
pitch your idea unless it comes up in the conversation naturally. But just treat it as a relationship building opportunity,
not as a sales opportunity because partly it’s hard for the foundation person to negotiate something like that
in front of others, and partly because they may not be able to tell you exactly what they’re thinking about
it when there are others around and when honesty is important in that negotiation. And, they want to eat lunch.

WOLF: You mean they’re human beings.

LEWIS: Yes. So it’s a good setting to
make friends, but not necessarily the moment to make the actual pitch.

WOLF: All right. Excellent
advice. Thank you so much. I have been speaking with James Lewis, Senior Program Officer and the Director of Research
and Evaluation at the Chicago Community Trust. He has been a panelist here at Community Justice 2016.

can find out more about what has gone on here at the conference and listen to other interviews of other participants
and attendees on our website, I am Rob Wolf, Director of Communications at the Center for
Court Innovation. Thanks very much for listening.


Strengthening Ties Between Police and the Community: A Conversation about Restorative Justice in Madison, Wisconsin

Joe Balles, who recently retired as a captain after a 30-year career with the Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department,
discusses restorative justice and police legitimacy with Robert V. Wolf, director of communications at the Center
for Court Innovation. A mentee of Herman Goldstein, considered the father of problem-oriented policing, Balles was
instrumental in the creation of the Dane
County Community Restorative Court
, a diversion program based on the Native American principles of peacemaking.
The interview took place during Community Justice 2016.

A panel on Restorative Justice at Community Justice 2016 features, from left, moderator Erika Sasson of
        the Center for Court Innovation, Jose Egurbide of the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, Captain Joe Balles
        (retired) of the Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department, and Judge Herman Sloan of the Atlanta (Georgia) Community
        Court.A panel on Restorative Justice at Community
Justice 2016 features, from left, moderator Erika Sasson of the Center for Court Innovation, Jose Egurbide of the
Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, Captain Joe Balles (retired) of the Madison (Wisconsin) Police Department,
and Judge Herman Sloan of the Atlanta (Georgia) Community Court.

JOE BALLES: One of the reasons I got trained as a peacemaker is because I’m trying to add even more legitimacy
to this work, so that it actually becomes formalized and more ingrained and peer accepted.

WOLF: Hi I’m Rob Wolf, Director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. I am at Community Justice
2016, in Chicago, where hundreds of justice practitioners from various jurisdictions around the country and around
the world, are gathering to talk about justice reform. With me right now is Captain Joe Balles, retired from the
Madison Wisconsin Police Department. We’ve sat down to talk for a little bit about restorative justice. He participated
in a panel here at Community Justice 2016, on restorative justice and he was very involved with that concept in his
work in the Madison Police Department.

You were involved in starting something called The Dane
County Community Restorative Court. So why don’t you explain what that is, and why you wanted to start something
called a restorative court that has this word ‘restorative’ in it?

BALLES: Sure Rob
it would be a pleasure. In 2013 the NEKC foundation funded a study in Dane County, it was conducted by the Wisconsin
Council on Children and Families. And that report, published in October 2013 really statistically laid out what was
the state and the human condition of the African American population in Dane County. And their report in its breadth
covered so many different measures across the spectrum that were just all jumped out and many in Dane County community,
and Madison’s the capital, Wisconsin, 500,000 is the county population, almost 250 is the city of Madison, and
when you look at that it was really pretty telling, and everybody just accepted it as the base-line. There was really
little argument about the data or anything, it was so overwhelming. One number in particular with regards to racial
injustice was that Dane County African Americans represent about 4.8 % of the population, but when you look at the
number of people that we send to prison every year, African American’s in Dane County represent 44% of the people
we send to prison.

Based on that report a Dane County Board African American supervisor, Sheila
Stubbs, who ironically I have known for many years, she brought forward a proposal in November 2013 to the County
Board, and got it stuck in the 2014 budget to create a pilot Community Restorative Court in South Madison that would
look a 17 and 25-year-olds and try to divert them. Those who have been arrested for misdemeanors, divert them from
the formal traditional criminal justice system, to a Community Restorative Court predicated on the ideas of peacemaking
in justice circles. And …

WOLF: And maybe we will just pause for a second. When we talk about
restorative, we’re talking about … I know it’s about restoring both the community, but also …

BALLES: Repairing harm to the victim, and the community.

WOLF: And the offender to an

BALLES: And really doing an assessment of the offender because, you know Rob, when law
enforcement issues citations, or we arrest young people, 17 to 25 year-olds. For a lot of times it’s these kind
of nuisance level types of crimes, if they be theft, criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct, obstructing
an officer, there are other things that are going on there with that person at that point in time, that they happen
to come on an officer’s radar screen. Because oftentimes when we make an arrest we are not out driving around looking
for them, we get called by the 911 system because we are responding to something that we ultimately end up investigating,
whether it be a fight in progress in a public place, or inside a private residence, we have to deal with what it
is that we walk into. And this was a way to take. And instead of sticking that 17 -25 year-old in the formal system,
where in Wisconsin, something that unlike a lot of states in the country, we have an online court system called CCAP,
and once you get arrested and you then appear and make an initial appearance in Wisconsin Circuit Court, a record
of you starts online on the internet in Wisconsin’s Circuit Court database. It’s totally publicly accessible,
there’s all sorts of warnings about how it’s not supposed to be used for discriminatory purposes, or employment
purposes etc. but everybody in Wisconsin knows about it and once you get something onto CCAP it’s impossible
to get it off, damn near impossible, I won’t say it’s impossible but it’s damn near.

find these 17 to 25 year-olds, it hurts them for employment, it hurts them for schooling, hurts them for housing,
many different things.

WOLF: So the Community Restorative Court, they would be … that’s
a total diversion, they wouldn’t have a record in the system?

BALLES: It’s a total diversion.
Right. And the way we have created the diversion is, in the spring of 2015 we worked, together with our Dane County
District Attorney, Ishmael Ozanne, the head of our Dane County Department of Human Services, Lynn Green, Madison
Police Chief, Mike Koval and our city Attorney Mike May, and myself I was involved in this. We created an MOU, and
in the Memorandum of Understanding I outlined the parameters of what we were going to try to do in the pilot, and
it was a 12 month MOU, it actually expires next month in May. Wel certainly expand it, continue on, but we definitely
need to tweak, kind of what we are doing right now, to build some more caseload.

But the important
thing is that over the past year and a half now we have created another option for dealing with this behavior out
in the neighborhoods, that both is victim rights focused, but at the same time focused on the needs of the offender,
where we hired a Community Restorative Court coordinator. That’s a funded position, not through a grant or something
that we could possibly loose, but we actually created a new position within the human services budget for Dane County
where this position lives. And that’s really huge, because now we’ve got that position we don’t have
to fight for it every single year. And what we’re trying to do is, our District Attorney’s office has been
very creative already, they’ve got 700 cases currently in different states of deferred prosecution. And what
we are really hoping to do long term is to take a piece of that deferred prosecution case load that they have right
now, and those cases that go to deferred prosecution are ready and ideal, many of them primed, for a peacemaking

WOLF: And so peacemaking, as I understand, we have a program in Brooklyn, The Center
for Court Innovation runs through the Red Hook Community Justice Center is based on traditional Native American practice,
bringing people together in a circle, and people solving the problem and the issue collectively. So is that the model
that you are using?

BALLES: Yeah it is the model. And what happened was, is that after we were
looking around in the spring, or in 2014, once we had that money funded to create the coordinator court, CRC coordinator
position, we got a hold of the Center for Court Innovation.

And they, and with the help of some
BGA Technical Assistance money, they brought our team, seven of us, out to New York where we were up in Harlem at
the Community Court up there, we went down met with Judge Calabrese in Red Hook and got to see the phenomenal work
he’s done. He is nothing short of an American Hero in terms of what he’s done out there. And then lastly
we went over Brownsville, where at the time we were there it hadn’t started yet, but we talked with the folks
and we looked at the building. I think it was an old catholic church if I’m not mistaken, or something to that
effect, or maybe an old school that they were looking at setting up, but we were out there in Brownsville and talking
to them too. So we left New York with a lot of great ideas that we brought back to Madison to figure out how we wanted
to set this up.

 And we went to work, doing community meetings where we brought the community
in and told them we were looking for volunteers. We worked with Johnathan Scharrer, a person I haven’t mentioned
enough. Johnathan Scharrer is a professor at DW Madison Law School that teaches the restorative justice training
at the law school. And Johnathan was solicited by us to help us teach and train our peacemaker program, which is
now a 16-hour class. We’ve got over 40 trained, and myself, just a few weeks ago I went through the two-day
training myself.

WOLF: And has it started, the restorative—

BALLES: Yes. Last
July we started actually making referrals from the south police district. Again we are just focused on my old district
where a new captain is at right now, because I left in January. But we are going through every arrest that we make,
and we make probably 60 some arrests every month, and we are looking for those cases that we can divert. But right
now our MOU is focused on, really kind of looking at first offenders 17 to 25 of age, but what we are realizing and
our challenge is, we need to get into more complex cases, because some of the things that we heard at this conference
for instance, is that you don’t want to be doing interventions on low risk populations, okay. And generally
in our model that we have right now, those are our first offenders, they don’t have a lot you know; the 21 year-old
that gets drunk and stole a coffee cup at the convenience store at 2 o’clock in the morning, who is on his way
to a graduate degree in engineering at Wisconsin, probably isn’t the guy that really needs to go through the
Restorative Court.

And so we are now trying to look at really the more complicated cases and get
some of those individuals offenders, respondents, as we call them, diverted to peacemaking.

So get me a little bit into your head as a police officer. Although there are police officers who’ve been involved
in all kinds of innovative strategies, community policing and engaging the community. I think it’s probably
less common, this notion of restorative justice engaging the police. So what attracted you to this? Why were you
drawn to this idea of restorative justice?

BALLES: Great question Rob. For me it just was a logical
extension of my journey and my career and 30 years in policing. I did my graduate work at Wisconsin in the early
80s, where I was able to have met great mentors like Professor Herman Goldstein, who is the godfather of problem
oriented policing. And in the late 80s early 90s I happened to be part of some of the early efforts at defining what
community policing is in this country. I was a neighborhood officer myself in the city of Madison, where we identified
13 kind of high crime little pockets in the city of Madison. And I was one of 13 neighborhood officers in the late
80s that went out into those neighborhoods and built relationships with people, and really tried to find alternatives
to arrests, and other ways of dealing with crime and the crack dealing, and the gang behavior and things like that,
that we had out in those neighborhoods.

That to me was a very unbelievable moment in my career
as a law enforcement officer, because it really defined me, and really set in place my core values in terms of the
need for police in the community. It really had this very, very close partnership and understanding with the community
that you were trying to police. Because policing isn’t something that police do, but policing is something that
we do collaboratively with the community, and the community shares a big part of that.

So for
me, when I look at restorative justice, quite honestly it’s like a graduate school version of community policing
as we knew it, but it brings more formality to it. And the peacemaking process, and just the respect and dignity
of how everybody participates equally in the process, it’s so different, it’s so radically different than
the traditional adversarial justice system as we know it today. It’s really, what we are talking about here,
is changing the culture of the justice system, and I think that restorative justice really hit. I am excited about
it. I think we are just literally just scratching the surface and we get many, many, kind of, laboratories going
on. Much like we experimented 20 plus years ago with community policing in Madison, now I see a lot of communities
around the country experimenting with different models of community justice.

One of the reasons
that I got trained as a peacemaker, because I’m trying to add even more legitimacy to this word, so it actually
becomes formalized and more ingrained and peer accepted. I don’t want it just to be the tree-hugging people
who are out there being trained as peacemakers that ….

WOLF: The hippies.

The hippies, you know …. But here’s a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, recently retired captain, very involved
in this community through rotary, The United Way, coaching basketball, whatever it might be, but I also see that
people like me also need to become peacemakers because we’re part of the community, and we need to be part of
that restorative justice process.

WOLF: Well let me ask you just one final question. Which is,
with all the concerns that everyone is aware of, their assisted police, a report about Chicago police released this
week, there is a lot of concern that there’s a culture among some police officers where there is antagonism
between the community they serve. There is institutional racism, I mean there’s all kinds of things, and you
just spoke about a very personal journey that you took and, you know, 30 years down this road, although it didn’t
take you 30 years, but you evolved to a position where your eyes have been open and you’ve embraced new ways
of doing things, and you’re talking about restorative justice. And I also know, you had mentioned before we started,
that you have been advising someone who is working with the task force, the President’s task force, on 21st century
policing. You are very involved nationally, now that you’ve retired, in helping police jurisdictions think differently.
What advice or insight do you have into how maybe restorative justice or other tools can be used and how can you
get police officers interested in them, who haven’t walked in your shoes specifically?

Right, great question Rob. I mean I think we are at a …with regards to policing I think we are at a kind of crossroads
in this country very similar to where we were when UCR part one crime was at its highest in the early 1990s. I mean
a lot of the initiatives that led to President Clinton’s 100,000 officer initiative when he was first elected
and the 1994 crime bill. I think today we are similarly situated. But interestingly we don’t have the same amount
of crime that we had back then, but how our police interact with our communities. And I think we’re really struggling
with this whole nature of the increasing diversity of our country, particularly in our larger urban areas. Any community
50,000 and over, okay you are really starting to see some very changing demographics.

One of the
areas that I am working in right now is out in King County, Seattle, and I happened over the past year meet Sue Rahr,
who was a former King County Sheriff, that is now the executive director for the Criminal Justice Training Commission
for the state of Washington, and she was on President Obama’s 21st century policing task force. And Sue penned
the piece that Harvard published a few years ago, questioning are we training our police officers to be guardians
or warriors. And when you look at the President’s task force report and what Sue and the colleagues that were
on the task force, they identified six pillars that put forth a road map for police chiefs and communities all over
the country, to really internally look at themselves to see and measure themselves to see how they are doing and
where they could improve. And that first pillar is all about trust in legitimacy, and in that part of the report,
and it’s not a very long report, it’s only 30 pages long, there’s a lot of reference to procedural
justice both internally and externally. Because one of the things we know, and we’ve found many years ago in
Madison, is that you can’t put police officers into an organization where good work is not recognized, where
they have abusive supervisors, where there’s no systems of accountability. When you have internal cultures like
that you’re going to get bad policing on the backside of it. There’s just no way. You might get some good
policing by accident, but if you’ve got inside those police organizations that are so dysfunctional, you can’t
expect any better result.

Many years ago a guy name of David Couper, the police Chief of Madison
at the time. He led Madison on a 20-year kind of culture revolution that transformed our department where he hired
the first women. Today over 30% of officers in the Madison Police Department are women. 90% of us have, at least,
a four-year degree, 20% of the department are people of color, for a 455 officer department in a community of 250,000
we are doing pretty dam good in terms of trying to at least recruit, retain individuals that we can take and put
out there on the streets every day as police officers, and with the proper training and guidance. There is a lot
of police departments in this country that, quite frankly, are really struggling to do that.

end Rob with something in terms of the need for police departments in communities to think futuristic about how they
build police departments. Chief Cooper once said many years ago, “If you want to see what your community is
going to look like 15 years from now, walk into a kindergarten classroom.”

WOLF: Makes sense.

BALLES: Absolutely. And if you’re not trying to build and recruit and prepare your police department in
terms of this diversity, to what that kindergarten classroom looks like today, your losing ground already. So I think
we’re at a unique opportunity here, I think restorative justice is quite frankly really the next evolution here
of the conversation. We’ve got some tough problems that we are dealing with in this country, but I really feel
optimistic. I think about the tools that we have, the evidence based practices, and a lot of great organizations
like the Center for Court Innovation, that are helping agencies and police departments all around the country and
justice systems, help is good there.

WOLF: Well that’s a very nice and positive note to end
on. So thank you. I’ve been speaking to Captain Joe Balles who retired just this past January from the Madison
Police Department, and is now very involved in a number of things both in Madison and nationally regarding innovations
in policing. And we’ve been speaking this afternoon at Community Justice 2016, the international conference
that’s being held here in Chicago. I’m Rob Wolf, Director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation.
To find out more about restorative justice and about the conference and about the work the center does, visit our
website at,, and thank you for listening.