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Opening the Courts to the Community: Volunteers in Wisconsin's Courts

NCJ Number
W. Clinton Terry III
Date Published
April 2000
20 pages

In Wisconsin, the success of the partnership between the court system and the community is evident in the number of court-related volunteer programs operating throughout the State.


Volunteer programs open the courts to the community. Through volunteer programs, communities and courts can come together in partnership to improve the response of courts to the needs and interests of the people they serve. By supplementing available services, volunteers increase the resources available to the courts. In monetary terms, volunteers save courts millions of dollars by providing free services. Further, increasing volunteer involvement in court processes is likely to positively affect public attitudes toward courts. Wisconsin has 291 courts (217 municipal courts, 69 circuit court branches, 4 appellate court districts, and the State supreme court), and at least 65 of these courts are assisted by volunteers. Volunteer programs are found primarily in circuit or trial courts. About 164 programs are staffed with 5,050 volunteers in 12 types of volunteer programs: alternative dispute resolution, court information and assistance, court ombudsman, domestic violence and sexual assault, family services, guardian services, jail and detention, juvenile services, legal services, mentoring programs, probation/parole and community service, and victim services. The success of court volunteer programs in Wisconsin is due at least in part to actions taken by court officials to create an environment conducive to volunteer program development. 16 notes and 1 table