National Rural Justice Advisory Council presents Marquette with Community Innovation Award
Marquette, Michigan – Marquette County received The National Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) Rural Justice Advisory Council Community Innovation Award Monday. This award recognizes county courts and healthcare providers for the creative ways they are improving access to behavioral health, reducing victimization, facilitating education & employment opportunities, eliminating access to justice barriers, reducing incarceration & recidivism, and facilitating re-entry. Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Rick said, “This is a testament to the hard work our community puts in to make a meaningful impact on citizens.”
The RJC is holding Marquette County up as an example of how other rural American communities can improve their criminal justice systems and access to mental health treatment. “This is a prime example of the community coming together across the spectrum to provide needed services. It also demonstrates the strong professional network in Marquette, the deep ties to the communities served, as well as inspiring resiliency and ingenuity. This program is a hallmark of what rural systems of justice can accomplish,” said Tara Kunkel Founder of Rulo Strategies and a founding partner of the RJC.
Three innovative programs help
Marquette County’s new Jobs Court allows eligible defendants accused of low-level, non-violent crimes to obtain jobs with benefits and training. Participants can also receive work transportation, mental healthcare, and access to a social worker. If they successfully complete the program, participants can have the option to have their charges dismissed.
Another program will help reduce the number of people with mental illness who are in jail. Marquette County opened a new facility, staffed by a Crisis Intervention Team, to potentially divert mentally ill individuals away from general incarceration. As part of the program, sheriff’s deputies have been trained as Crisis Intervention Team Officers.
The RJC also recognized Marquette County’s Public Defender’s office for developing a novel approach to help make it easier for defendants to access behavioral health service, reduce incarceration, and prevent recidivism. The office hired a mental health professional and two social work interns to help court-involved individuals navigate the system.
About the Rural Justice Collaborative
The RJC showcases the strengths of rural communities and highlights the cross-sector collaboration that is a hallmark of rural justice systems. The work under the RJC is supported by a cross-sector advisory council composed of rural judges along with additional stakeholders in the justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and public health systems. The advisory council will guide the multi-year initiative and identify innovative programs and practices.
The RJC priority focus areas are:
- Increasing access to behavioral health treatment
- Reducing victimization
- Facilitating employment/educational opportunities for justice involved individuals
- Eliminating barriers of access to justice
- Reducing incarceration
- Facilitating reentry
- Reducing the number of children in foster care due to substance use disorders