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From Funnels to Large-Scale Irrigation: Changing the Criminal Justice System Paradigm to Improve Public Health and Safety

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2019
46 pages

This paper, which is one in a series being published from the proceedings of the Executive Session on Community Corrections (2013-2017), describes the process by which Milwaukee is achieving paradigm change within its criminal justice system, outlines some of the intellectual steps taken to construct this new paradigm, and challenges criminal justice professionals working in prosecution and public defense roles in other major cities to shift to a new paradigm. 


One of Milwaukee's important examples of reform is within the district attorney's office and the public defender's office. Reform ideas arose from courtroom practitioners addressing and resolving the systemic implications of criminal proceedings. This paper describes the "cultural preconditions for change" in Milwaukee. This refers to a climate in which communications occurs between prosecutors and public defenders when addressing broader, systemic issues that pertain to justice as the desired outcome of adversarial proceedings. In Milwaukee, communications between the district attorney's and public defender's offices are conducted respectfully and collaboratively. Within this cooperative culture, Milwaukee moved beyond the adversarial paradigm to a collaborative response to shared challenges. Within this collaborative culture, this paper discusses building the intellectual framework within which evidence-based decision-making occurs. This paper outlines the seven core statements that emerged in Milwaukee's new intellectual and institutional paradigm. The paper explains how these statements are both the culmination of the process of paradigm change and a road map for continued learning and growth.

Date Published: December 1, 2019