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Regina Baldwin and Ryan Ramnarace

Sauk County Criminal Justice Programs Manager Regina Baldwin, left, and peer support specialist Ryan Ramnarace look over documents Thursday in Baldwin's office. The program's oversight committee has been restructured to speed up program changes.

From the top down, Regina Baldwin says Sauk County officials want to speed up decision-making processes and seek out additional grants to improve the local criminal justice system.

Baldwin said members of the Sauk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council have expressed support for a plan to reorganize the consortium, with a final vote set for June 20.

“I think it’s going to be more efficient in getting things moved forward,” Baldwin said. “People can see results. It’s not just a series of meetings.”

The council is overseen by Sauk County Administrative Coordinator Alene Kleczek Bolin’s office and includes a number of public officials such as police chiefs, judges, district attorneys, human services leaders and drug treatment coordinators.

Among its goals are a reduction in recidivism and a data-driven evaluation of how public resources are used for those in the criminal justice system.

Ryan Ramnarace, a peer support specialist with Sauk County Human Services, said the restructured Criminal Justice Coordinating Council will have three primary branches: adult justice, juvenile justice and a third focused on victims or survivors of crimes.

That third branch hasn’t yet been named, Ramnarace said, because the precise language will be decided by the officials directly involved. He added the terms “victim” and “survivor” carry contrasting connotations.

The reorganized committee also will task various officials to focus in on their own specialized topic areas and report back with suggestions. A focus area for Ramnarace is mentoring people convicted of drug crimes to reduce recidivism.

By consolidating various subcommittees and reducing the number of meetings each month, members will have an easier time juggling schedules, she said.

The goal will be to gather more officials at one time and bounce ideas back and forth instead of passing messages along between different groups. This could streamline the process of applying for grant funds, Baldwin said.

Another benefit could be saving time and resources by recording more open meetings information into a few main documents, instead of tasking someone to write down minutes from dozens of meetings, Baldwin said.

The Ho-Chunk Nation also has a seat at the table. Baldwin said the former representative recently retired, but she hopes a new tribal representative will be found by the upcoming June 20 meeting.

Ramnarace said he is one of two citizen members of the council and any members of the public are encouraged to attend meetings.

When citizens who have been affected by the justice system in some way speak up, that can kick-start new conversations and lead to positive changes sometimes, Ramnarace said.

“You have this whole spectrum of people who really have important input,” Ramnarace said. “It might be a perspective that the people sitting around the table hadn’t considered.”

Follow Brad on Twitter @BradMikeAllen or call him at 608-745-3510.

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Portage Daily Register public safety reporter

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