MILWAUKEE — On Tuesday, Governor Tony Evers was in Milwaukee to announce a more than $50 million investment of ARPA funds for public safety across the state.
Twenty-million has been earmarked for Milwaukee County to expand courthouse operations, support the mental health treatment court, address reckless driving, and tackle the backlog of court cases from the pandemic.
Milwaukee County Chief Judge Mary Triggiano said the funds will allow them to clear the backlog in less than two years.
"I think we can reduce the backlog in 18 months. If we only have what we have right now, it would probably take us a good three plus years," Triggiano said.
Officials say $14.5 million of the $20 million coming to Milwaukee County is specifically for addressing the backlog of cases. Triggiano said it will be used to establish and support five additional criminal courts.
"I have 14 felony judges and I have seven misdemeanor judges. If they all had help, they could shift some of their cases, potentially hand a third over to the new courtrooms to resolve those cases faster. Those new courts would not get more cases, so they could focus on simply reducing those numbers," Triggiano said.
Officials say the extra help should help dispose of an additional 100 cases per week.
The current backlog means victims and defendants are waiting months longer than usual for justice or a resolution.
"We've been dealing with this for two years, right? We've been working diligently and efficiently and as effectively as possible to try to make sure those time frames are lessened," Triggiano said. "Defendants and families and victims and the community, they deserve that from us."
According to the District Court Administrator there are currently 1,784 felony cases, 2,513 misdemeanor cases and 894 criminal traffic cases.
Additionally, Governor Evers said $3.5 million of the $20 million coming to Milwaukee County is earmarked to address reckless driving and improve infrastructure and roads.
Other specific investments in Milwaukee County include:
- Integrate licensed mental health clinicians into the city of Milwaukee's 911 dispatch center.
- Expand pre-trail GPS supervision staffing to ensure 24/7/365 monitoring on existing GPS units.
- Establish a pilot program that would expand the operation of two court rooms into the evening hours one to two days a week.
- Formalize Milwaukee County's Mental Health Treatment Court.
- Provide employment and vocational preparedness at the Milwaukee County House of Correction.