UP County Recognized for Court System Innovation | News, Sports, Jobs


The National Rural Justice Collaborative on Monday presented court and health care officials with the Rural Justice Advisory Council’s Community Innovation Award for its employment tribunal and its efforts to keep people with mental illness out of to be imprisoned. The award recognizes county courts and health care providers for implementing creative ways to improve access to behavioral health, reduce victimization, facilitate education and employment opportunities, remove barriers to access to justice, reduce incarceration and recidivism and facilitate reintegration. Pictured from left are Regional Court Administrator Jerome Kole, Jessica Olson, Public Defender Patrick Crowley and Judge Michelle Rick.

By journal staff

MARQUETTE– The Marquette County court system has received national recognition for improving the criminal justice system.

On Monday, the National Rural Justice Collective presented court and health care leaders with the Rural Justice Advisory Council Community Innovation Award.

The award recognizes county courts and health care providers for implementing creative ways to improve access to behavioral health, reduce victimization, facilitate education and employment opportunities, remove barriers to access to justice, reduce incarceration and recidivism and facilitate reintegration.

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Rick said the award was “a testament to the hard work our community puts in to have a meaningful impact on citizens.”

The RJC views Marquette County as an example of how other rural communities can improve their criminal justice systems and access to mental health treatment.

Tara Kunkel, who is the founder of Rulo Strategies and a founding partner of the RJC, said Marquette County’s court system is a great example of the community coming together to deliver services.

“It also demonstrates Marquette’s strong professional network, deep connections to the communities served, and inspiring resilience and ingenuity,” said Kunkel. “This program is a hallmark of what rural justice systems can accomplish.

The new Marquette County Employment Court allows eligible defendants charged with low-level nonviolent crimes to obtain jobs with benefits and training. Participants may also benefit from transportation to work, mental health care and access to a social worker. Participants who successfully complete the program may have the opportunity to have their charges dismissed.

Another program will help reduce the number of people with mental illness who are in prison. Marquette County has opened a new facility, staffed with a crisis intervention team, to potentially divert people with mental illness from general incarceration. As part of the program, sheriff’s deputies were trained as crisis response team officers.

The RJC also recognized the Marquette County Public Defender’s Office for developing a new approach to make it easier for defendants to access behavioral health services, reduce incarceration and prevent recidivism. The office has hired a mental health professional and two social work interns to help litigants navigate the system.



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