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Court Observer Program Gives Volunteers a Front-Row Seat to the Criminal Justice System

05/18/2021 08:34:30 PM


The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development runs an ongoing court observer program to keep watch on how the court system affects individuals from communities of color. Several TBE members currently participate in this program and find it rewarding. Volunteers begin with a three-session training (now provided online) to become familiar with the basics of the cases they will be observing. The training covers how to use the Dane County Circuit Court calendar to identify cases to observe, how to follow along with the cases to complete the observation form, and how to submit the form.

Following training, volunteers observe the courts’ handling of criminal cases and housing eviction cases. Currently this observation can be done from home, since court procedures are being livestreamed during the pandemic. Volunteers can observe as many cases as desired, with a modest minimum time commitment per month. To date, volunteers across Dane County have observed over 1,000 cases, and data is continuously being entered and analyzed. Volunteers have found the experience to be highly enlightening, and it has led to recommendations for changes in procedures.

To read more about the program, see here. Or watch this 20-minute interview of TBE court observer volunteer Lynn Silverman.


June 20, 2021 10 Tammuz 5781