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Madison officials aim to reduce racial disparities in criminal justice system

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Officials in Madison are looking at ways to reduce racial disparities in Dane County's criminal justice system. 

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says one idea is to have "community courts." 

17-to-25-year-olds from high-minority neighborhoods who commit minor offenses could be placed into a restorative justice program. They could pay their debts to society without having criminal records which can hurt them in finding jobs and housing. 

The second proposal would add more slots for minorities in Dane County's drug court, which lets offenders be in monitored rehab programs instead of jail. 

The Wisconsin State Journal says both programs have been considered for several months. They're coming to fruition at the same time that a consultant blames an overcrowded justice system for the county's record of racial disparity. 

The Center for Effective Public Policy suggests more objective tools for assessing criminal suspects, and to improve data systems to show why more minorities than whites are prosecuted. 

African-Americans make up 6 percent of Dane County's population, but they make up 40 percent of the county jail population.