YWCA La Crosse

Justice Circles

The Alarming Facts

In 2008, La Crosse County’s Department of Human Services called upon the Carey Group to examine the continuum of services being offered to juveniles and their families within the department and across the county. The resulting report concluded that “Wisconsin juvenile arrest rates are significantly higher compared to national rates and La Crosse County juvenile arrest rates are much higher than both the state and the three like-size counties.” In September 2014, after a task force completed additional research, a final report was compiled outlining the findings and recommendations of the task force for further improvements within the Juvenile Justice System. This report revealed shocking trends including the fact that within La Crosse County, “minority juveniles are roughly nine times more likely to be arrested than white juveniles.”

Justice Circles was Born

Justice Circles provides an alternative discipline strategy which allows students to take responsibility for their actions, while also working with them to keep them in school and engaged in their school community. The Circle process, a process that only begins after relevant training of school staff and student facilitators is completed, fosters safety and equity among participants and relies on active student engagement (leaders and participants). The goal is to understand the cause of problems and work together to create a solution that all can agree will repair harm done and ensure accountability.YWCA La Crosse, with the support of two area schools and funding from local partners, purchased the Justice Circles program from YWCA Madison and began implementation in a pilot year. Lincoln and Logan Middle Schools were selected for the pilot program within the 2015/2016 school year because they had some of the highest arrest rates in the School District of La Crosse. In fall, two dozen school administrators and teachers were trained by YWCA La Crosse and YWCA Madison staff, and 33 students completed a 10-week training to serve as Circle Keepers or student facilitators.


Impact of the Program:

Justice Circles aim to keep middle school students out of the criminal justice system, Oct. 2017-La Crosse Tribune

 Middle School Students Latch on to Restorative Justice Program, Sept. 2017-News8000

Area students get second chance with the YWCA Justice Circles, April 2016-News19

High number of juvenile arrests in La Crosse County prompts new school initiate