Programs & Initiatives
The County Attorney’s Office started a successful adult misdemeanor diversion program, in collaboration with the DOC, in 2011. The County Attorney’s Juvenile Diversion Program and the CJCC’s truancy early intervention program operate in collaboration with the DOC and its Restorative Justice Program to help youth stay in their homes and remain in school.
The CARE Program was the first major initiative undertaken by the CJCC. Launched in 2009, the CARE Program provided re-entry services to individuals exiting the Winona County Jail (or returning to the Winona community from prison). The primary purpose of the CARE Program was to identify and address the barriers that the re-entering individual experienced when transitioning from incarceration to community. CARE was replaced by WRAP in 2019.
The Winona County Re-Entry Assistance Program (WRAP) began in 2019, replacing the CARE Program. Through WRAP, all individuals entering the jail undergo both a risk and mental health screen. A jail intake worker conducts bail evaluations on bail-eligible individuals and provides referrals for services. Case managers assist participants with navigating barriers to re-entry and apply for recovery support services funding (such as rental assistance, transportation expenses, etc.)
Starting in 2014, the Community Outreach & Diversity Committee of the CJCC has planned and implemented a Community Collaboration Summit. Each Summit has focused on an area or issue that impacts the criminal justice system, such as domestic violence, mental health, substance use, the Winona County Jail, vaping and housing. Although the format of each summit has varied somewhat, in general, the summits have included a featured speaker or speakers and community resources (experts or agencies) relevant to the topic.
Since 2011, the CJCC has hosted an annual Law Day event for Winona County 6th graders. The students are given a tour of the Winona County Courthouse, where they are able to hear from representatives of different stages of the criminal justice process, such as a prosecutor, public defender, court administrator, judge and corrections officer. Students also participate in a mock trial in a real courtroom.
Based upon the success of the Treatment Court of Winona County and over concern about the number of substance using parents involved in child protection cases, in 2018 the CJCC Juvenile Justice Committee began researching and development a Family Dependency Treatment Court. A FDTC provides the structure and frequent judicial interaction of a treatment court with a child protection court case.
The Stepping Up Workgroup of the CJCC completed a Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Map in 2016 as part of its Stepping Up Initiative. In 2020, Winona County applied for and was selected to receive technical assistance from the SAMHSA’s GAINS Center to update its SIM Map. This means that experts from SAMHSA will assist us in mapping how individuals with mental and substance use disorders in Winona County come into contact with and move through the criminal justice system. For more information about the Sequential Intercept Model, please CLICK HERE for a SIM BROCHURE.
In October of 2020, Winona County’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant application was selected by the Office of Justice Programs for funding. The $724,674 award will provide three years of funding for the Winona Re-Entry Assistance Program Plus (WRAP+). WRAP+ will enhance and improve the existing re-entry program by funding a social worker in the jail, a Community Hub Connector (case manager) based out of Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center, extensive cross-training for mental health and justice system partners and recovery support services expenses (such as funding for rent, identification cards, transportation, education, etc.) for program clients. For more information about WRAP+, please visit the BJA website on the JMHCP Program.
COVID-19 has created many scheduling challenges for the courts, resulting in a significant backlog of cases which could not be heard due to COVID-19 related restrictions. Earlier this year, the Minnesota Judicial Council (which is the administrative policy-making body for the Minnesota Judicial Branch) set a goal to increase each district’s overall major criminal case clearance rates by 10% between August 31 and December 1st. A clearance rate measures whether courts are disposing of as many cases as are filed in the same year. For example, if 100 cases were filed in a year and 100 cases were disposed of in a year, the clearance rate would be 100%.
Winona County far exceeded it clearance rates on the week prior to November 27, 2020 and achieved the following case clearance rates:
- Felony Cases: 1500%
- Gross Misdemeanor Cases: 167%
- Mandatory Misdemeanor Cases: 525%
- Non-Mandatory Misdemeanor Cases 164%
- Weekly Felony/Gross Misd Cases 500%
Winona County’s clearance rate for that week was much higher than any other county in the Third Judicial District, which posted a 65% clearance rate as a district as of November 27th. The District’s clearance rate bypassed the Judicial Council’s goal of 63%.
Winona County’s high clearance rates were a direct result of hard work and collaboration between justice partners. The County Attorney, City Attorney, Public Defender, Probation, Sheriff, and the District Court met and developed a specialized drug docket to handle as many controlled substance cases as possible. On the day that the drug docket was held, Judge Buytendorp heard 74 files, with 32 of them ending in a resolution. In early December, a Senior Judge presided over a docket for mandatory criminal misdemeanor settlement conferences, which again resulted in very high clearance rates and the resolution of many pro se cases by the City Attorney.
The success of the “Case Clearance Collaboration” was due to the open communication, deliberate planning and behind-the-scenes work of multiple justice partners. Due to this success, justice partners will again collaborate together for another case clearance event. The District Court will be scheduling three days of settlement conferences on February 16, 17, and 18, 2021 for Defendants who have multiple cases (which are being tracked together). The goal of the February docket is to clear as many cases as possible to alleviate the backlog of cases and preserve timely access to justice.