Developing a Safe Surrender Policy in Milwaukee

Building capacity for collaborative policy development between faith, criminal justice and organizing sectors in Milwaukee

Full Project Name:Creating a Safe Surrender Policy to Reduce the Number of Fugitives in MilwaukeePrimary Community Organization:Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH)Primary Academic Partner:Sheri Johnson, PhD, PediatricsAward Amount:$395,749
Award Date
July2015
Project Duration:15 months

Project Description Narrative:


It is estimated that 20,000 people in Milwaukee have outstanding arrest warrants. Research demonstrates that the mass incarceration crisis disproportionately impacts African-American working age men. In Milwaukee County, half of African-American men under the age of 40 have been incarcerated, of whom only 1/3 were imprisoned for violent offenses. As part of the long-term effort to dismantle the system of mass incarceration, project partners sought to build capacity for collaborative policy development between faith, criminal justice and organizing sectors so that residents with outstanding arrest warrants can get legal issues resolved in order to reduce stress and impact long-term community health outcomes associated with chronic stress.

Community partners:
WISDOM, Inc., 53206 Task Force, MICAH, Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee County Circuit Court First Judicial District-Office of the Chief Judge, Milwaukee County Clerk of Circuit Court, Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office, US Marshals Service-Eastern District, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Justice Point, Planned Parenthood, Project Return, Voces de la Frontera, Wisconsin Jobs Now, Wisconsin Voices, 9 to 5 Wisconsin

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


The project was discontinued due to challenges related to achieving a shared vision for how Safe Surrender could be implemented in Milwaukee within the time frame, infrastructure, human and financial resources available. The time and expense were underestimated, and additional barriers to success identified. In seeking progress, partners successfully focused on smaller, sustainable changes within organizations.

• Achieved interim deliverables such as negotiation of eligible cases and improved data regarding the extent and nature of outstanding arrest warrants

• Built new awareness and knowledge regarding the structure, policies and procedures of key criminal justice sector entities

• Obtained verbal agreements for continued collaboration between MICAH, City of Milwaukee Municipal Court, the Milwaukee County District Attorney and State Public Defender related to Safe Surrender type programs

• Identified key barriers to overcome in future partnerships, including execution of memorandums of understanding and leadership turnover at several organizations

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