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Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Early Intervention Strategy: A Case Study in Evidence-Based Diversionary Practices

NCJ Number
Madeline M. Carter
Date Published
June 2016
21 pages

This case study focuses on Milwaukee County's (Wisconsin) development of a new approach to diversion and deferred prosecution as a part of its involvement in the federal Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which involves criminal justice data analysis and the use of evidence-based policies and practices to increase the cost-effectiveness of selected local criminal justice systems.


In one of Milwaukee County's JRI activities, it developed an early intervention strategy that offers the opportunity for some defendants, under appropriate circumstances, to participate in one of several early interventions that offer support and encourage prosocial attitudes and behaviors. These efforts are intended to reform criminal behaviors while minimizing the potential negative consequences of involvement in the criminal justice system, such as social stigma, exposure to higher risk offenders, and loss of prosocial supports (such as family, employment, educational activities, and mental health services). In March 2007, the District Attorney's Office worked in collaboration with the Public Defender's Office to identify suitable defendants for diversion and deferred prosecution. Approximately 117 defendants annually were provided the opportunity to avoid traditional case processing, criminal charges, and prosecution. Under a diversion program, the district attorney withholds filing charges, and the individual agrees to complete certain terms of a diversion agreement. If the diversion program is satisfactorily completed, the district attorney does not file charges. If the agreement is not satisfactorily completed, formal prosecution proceeds. Under deferred prosecution, charges are brought, but if the defendant completes a rehabilitation program, the charges are either dismissed or reduced. Over a 26-month period, approximately 1,100 individuals have participated in these programs, with the vast majority completing them. 2 tables and appended program policies and procedures