By Ben Rueter
Over the last 10 years, Dunn County has been shifting how it approaches criminal justice by leaning less on confinement and looking more toward treatment.
This month marks a decade since people like Kristin Korpela, Dunn County Department of Human Services director, and Sara Benedict, criminal justice coordinator, started to look at how Dunn County treats inmates with mental illnesses and how to successfully bring them back into the community with what they call “smart justice.”
“Smart justice is justice because they all come back,” Korpela said.
It is the Dunn County Criminal Justice Collaborating Council’s 10th anniversary, National Drug/Treatment Court Month and Stepping Up Day of Action on May 16. Stepping Up is an initiative of the National Association of Counties aimed at reducing mental health and substance abuse incarcerations.
According to Benedict, it’s been a slow shift, but in recent years the county and community organizations have been jumping on board.
“It is really about all of the community partners that are stepping up and getting involved,” she said.
The Menomonie Police Department and Dunn County sheriff’s office have committed to training their officers to complete a course on crisis intervention, Korpela said. The focus of the training allows for officers to better identify a criminal situation or a mental health concern.
In February, the county received an $80,000 grant to be used for community re-entry. The grant is meant to improve support for people exiting the jail by offering resources for stable housing and employment.
“We know there are people in Dunn County that will commit offenses to get back in jail,” Korpela said.