A series of public forums about a Wisconsin county’s criminal justice system found that people value both public safety and incarceration alternatives, but have little ability to choose between competing priorities, according to a presentation to the Marathon County Board reported by the Wausau Daily Herald. One of the major findings of the forums, held by the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, was that “people realize that crime and punishment issues are highly complex,” said institute Director Eric Giordano.
The board asked the institute to organize a series of 15 forums to allow citizens to voice opinions on whether the county should build a new jail. But forum participants were reluctant or unable to choose among various principles they think are important, said Giordano. For example, though few participants wanted to spend tax money to build a new jail, “they were not willing to grapple with the fact that alternative programs are costly, too,” Giordano told the board. “When it came to trade-offs, I don’t think the public really grasps … how to trade between important (principles),” he said. The institute will submit a final report to the board in January.