Marathon County Crime & Punishment Deliberation Project

The Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, in partnership with the Community Planning Council and Marathon County, and in collaboration with the Marathon County Public Library, the Wausau Daily Herald, the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, and the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County (UWMC) conducted a series of sixteen National Issues Forum style public meetings throughout Marathon County during the fall of 2008 on the issue of crime, punishment, sentencing, and related issues in Marathon County in advance of a pending jail expansion initiative. Prior to this series of public deliberations, a “naming and framing” exercise was conducted to develop appropriate parameters or “approaches” for the public to use as the basis for the dialogues. Working through a Steering Committee of the Marathon County Community Planning Council, a research team was charged with creating a localized version of a NIF-style booklet. The team identified stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds (from law enforcement personnel to incarcerated criminals), created a survey for stakeholders, and conducted follow-up interviews as part of the data collection process. After the issue “framing” was completed, citizens were invited to gather at various locations around the county, including the public library branch locations, town halls, UW-Marathon County, and North Central Technical College to participate in moderated deliberations. At these forums, participants examined tradeoffs on issues regarding crime and punishment while learning about their shared and divergent values. A concluding public reflection “wrap-up” event was held on November 18, 2008 at the Jefferson Street Inn in Wausau to allow participants to examine outcomes, assess common ground, and discuss potential action plans for community and local leaders. A report was issued to the County Board of Supervisors and other interested parties, and can be found at: LINK TO REPORT HERE