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Community Justice Advocacy
The Community Justice Advocacy Program organizes citizens to advocate for fundamental systemic change in the criminal justice system, with emphasis on restorative community alternatives to imprisonment.  These advocates for justice . . .
  • Research "what works" to change criminal behavior 
  • Support citizen action for rational community alternatives
  • Educate to influence enlightened justice policies
  • Serve as the watchdogs of justice
Community Justice Advocacy is a planning and decision making partnership between the formal criminal justice system, government and the community. The objective is to advance justice priorities as identified by residents, with the explicit goal of public safety and enhanced quality of life in the community.  In partnership with other organizations advocating for fundamental systemic change in the criminal justice system, the Benedict Center has been integral in accomplishing many significant changes. 

Working for Change, Working for Hope

Based on 36 years of experience, direct service, advocacy and involvement at the local, state and national level, the Benedict Center is engaging all affected sectors in bringing the concept of community justice to reality in Milwaukee through three direct actions of its Justice Advocacy Program. All of these justice initiatives focus on realizing the values of a civil society through diverse partnerships to experience community justice as a more rational, effective and affordable reality than current over-reliance on failing criminal justice policies of the last 25 years.

Other significant actions during the last 20 years include:

  • Open and maintain a model Community Justice Center on Milwaukee’s near south side during 2004. The center supports restorative justice practices and neighborhood probation, neighborhood police and community prosecutor and trains community members to connect with residents diverted from jail and returning from prison to treatment. 
  • The adoption of 24/7 nursing case in the County Jail; the addition of a psych-social worker unit to work with mentally ill inmates; and a full-time jail psychiatrist to assure essential medication for inmates.
  • Collaboration to create a program helping men and women return successfully from prison and find employment – now Project RETURN in the Milwaukee Enterprise Center.
  • Creation of a Combined Intake and Screening Unit to support pretrial diversion from incarceration.
  • Organization of Countywide support to replace an antiquated, unsafe and overcrowded jail with a new generation, limited capacity, Milwaukee County jail using state-of-the-art direct supervision management practices.
  • Development of libraries, created from scratch and operating under contract, to serve inmates in the new Milwaukee County Jail and later in the House of Correction.  Read more about the libraries that were closed by the Sheriff's Department in fall 2009.


  • Monitoring by the courts, in partnership with the League of Women Voters, which resulted in 20 recommendations to improve court process and alleviate overcrowding in the Milwaukee County Jail.
  • Creation of an Alternative Sentencing and Placement Directory, and three revisions, to facilitate court and probation decisions for alternatives to incarcerations.
  • Appointment by the County Executive of a blue ribbon task force on incarcerated persons with mental illness, resulting in a 40-point action plan.
  • Research by surveying 16 direct supervision jails to develop support for the new position of program director in the Milwaukee County Jail (finally successfully funded an inmate program manager for the Milwaukee County Jail and House of Correction).
  • Collaboration to bring a psychosocial, work centered clubhouse based on psychiatric rehabilitation to Milwaukee benefiting individuals with a mental illness – today the thriving Grand Avenue Club around the corner from the Benedict Center.
  • Development of Restitution Work Program in partnership with the Milwaukee Community Service Corps as an alternative to short 45-day incarceration at the House of Correction.
  • Institution of a revolving bail fund to assist indigent defendants post bail so they can return to their families, jobs and school while awaiting trial.
  • Development of CARS (Court Alternative to Revocation and Suspension) as a reparative alternative in Milwaukee Municipal Court for individuals with a suspended driver’s license. 

    Monitor conditions of detention in the Milwaukee County Jail, House of Correction, Community Corrections Center and Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. The Detention Committee of the Citizens Advisory Council seeks action through administrators, regulators, attorneys and elected officials. The Benedict Center does not advocate on behalf of individual inmates, but does collect written complaints to address issues affecting many inmates, emphasizing health care, humane treatment and safety. 

  • Bring citizens together to change the criminal justice system. Since 1984, the action committees have advocated for changes large and small that have all had an impact on justice in Milwaukee.
  • Maintain the Community Justice Day Reporting Center - the most recent and visible success of the program. The center is an innovative Milwaukee County/community partnership that came into existence in November 1999 after three years of research, Milwaukee Countywide education, organizing, and strenuous advocacy on the part of The Benedict Center advocates and citizens from every supervisory district in Milwaukee.