Inequity within the justice system is a major issue facing states and communities across the U.S. As leaders work to find ways to bring more integrity and fairness to the system, utilizing data can shed light on much needed areas of focus and help inform on demographics, trends and support predicative analysis for system improvements now and in the future. 

Two people interacting at office
40 000
Youth justice referrals received after implementing enhancements
Counties using localized data to monitor youth treatment
The evidence we learn from our growing data systems can drive meaningful, lasting changes in practice at both the state and county level. This data gives us the compass to chart our path toward a truly 21st century Youth Justice system in Wisconsin.

Carlton Frost PhD, MPA Youth Justice Policy Coordinator, Bureau of Youth Services Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

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The problem

The state of Wisconsin has recognized immense inequality among its youth, specifically within the youth justice system. From one county to another, a young person may be penalized differently within the system for the same offense. Reasons for this inequity will vary based on geographical regions, youth demographics, cultural considerations and urban versus rural population centers. 

In the past year alone, the state of Wisconsin has documented 16,000 youth justice referrals, with four out of five of those youth having had some contact with the Wisconsin Child Protective Services prior to their first referral. The state saw its lack of a centralized data system and the inability of case workers to track youth offense information within the juvenile justice court system as a major roadblock to understanding and correcting disparities within the system.