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040611KGBSPEAKSJAILOUTREACH.jpg

SPEAKS WITH SHERIFFS — Marinette Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, left, talks before the symposium with Sheriff Mike Jansen of Oconto County, Sheriff Jerry Sauve of Marinette County, and sheriff Scott Selello of Dickinson County.

Jail Outreach Forum Shows Impact On Area

The regional symposium and public forum held Friday evening, April 1, in Marinette, addressed public safety and efforts to reduce the cycle of recidivism, repeat criminal arrests, as it impacts the communities. The audience represented local residents as well as others from the U.P. and central Wisconsin. The discussions covered a broad range of views, representing the problems and the solutions from various perspectives.

The Marinette-Menominee Jail Outreach sponsored and hosted the event. Paul Hueter, from the Jail Outreach board of directors, was master of ceremonies and welcomed the audience. He began by acknowledging the presence of judges, Judge Donald Zuidmulder, Judge Tim Duket and Judge William Hupy, who were in attendance. Also a number of law-enforcement officers, state parole officers, jail administrators and corrections officers, and elected county board members. He expressed appreciation for these community leaders.

The Jail Outreach executive director James Langteau and secretary, Warren Waddell, briefly introduced the Jail Outreach and shared its mission. Jail Outreach was established in 2004, dedicated to seeing lives of inmates and former offenders permanently changed so that the cycle of repeat arrests is interrupted and new victims are not created. The 35 members of the Jail Outreach represent a broad cross-section of society, including educators, medical and mental health professions, business managers and owners, retired police officers, and others.

Waddell also reviewed the alarming statistics for both Wisconsin and Michigan concerning both the increased numbers of those incarcerated and being released back into the communities. He pointed to the significant percentage increases over time, explaining that each re-arrest represents new victims and the associated financial and emotional costs to individuals and society.

A former offender, Rob McCue, introduced himself as a man who benefited from Jail Outreach. He shared that Jail Outreach members reached out to him while he was in the Menominee Jail for assaulting a police officer. McCue stated that the Jail Outreach members did not have their own personal agendas but genuinely cared about him and helped him both while he was in jail for six months and after his release. He has been out of jail for five years and has been doing well ever since, and he said he doesn’t think he’d have made it if it wasn’t for the help of the Outreach.

Menominee County Sheriff Kenny Marks was unable to be present because of an out-of-state obligation, but he addressed the symposium via a DVD that his wife, Kyna Marks, introduced. Sheriff Marks explained that as the elected sheriff, he had the constitutional and statutory responsibility to provide for law-enforcement and corrections in the county jurisdiction. He expressed his respect for the men and women of law-enforcement that he works with, and the sacrifices they make for the community.

He shared examples of the need to work with offenders and released offenders in ways that would help them recognize their needs, and the changes that could take place. He recognized the important and effective work of the men and women of the Marinette-Menominee Jail Outreach, and gave examples of lives of offenders and their families that had been changed as a result. Finally, Sheriff Marks said that he regretted he could not be at the symposium in person, but that he was grateful for the opportunity to share with them.

Judge Don Zuidmulder, Circuit Court Judge from Branch 1 of Brown County, addressed the topic from the judicial point of view by stating the need to do more than just repeatedly send people away to jail or prison only to see them get out even worse then before. At one point he said that he was a disciple of Jesus Christ, cleverly disguised as a Circuit Court Judge. He explained how that has influenced his own work in establishing the Drug Court, at no extra expense because he maintained his regular workload while taking on the extra responsibility.

Zuidmulder gave examples of how, from the bench, he was able to encourage and motivate offenders, direct them toward avenues that would positively impact them and society, while protecting the community from criminal behavior. He reminded the audience that they were making a difference in their communities, and encouraged them to be proactive and not get discouraged while working with offenders and released offenders.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, also known as KGB, enthusiastically spoke to the public. He is a former Packer defensive end and currently the all-time sack leader, surpassing the late, great Reggie White. KGB shared how he came to recognize the need to reach out to inmates in the jails and prisons in the Green Bay area. He explained how, when he converted from Islam to faith in Christ, it changed his heart and his life. He began to recognize others as eternally valuable, and was driven to share hope and encouragement with those in prison so that their lives could be changed, too. Kabeer was passionate, emphasizing the need to return to the biblical and family values that effect character. He stressed the need for families to live out their relationships with each other in nurturing ways, first at home and then in the community. Kabeer spoke for about an hour, and took questions from the audience. He also remained after the symposium to speak with the audience members and take photos with the public.

Hueter then introduced the distinguished panel of experts, who took their place at a long table at the front of the hall. The panel included Sheriff Mike Jansen of Oconto County, Sheriff Scott Celello of Dickinson County, Sheriff Jerry Sauve of Marinette County, Police Chief Jeff Skorik of Marinette, Michigan State Parole Officer Matt Vanni, Wisconsin State Parole Officer Marissa Garro, Marinette County Jail Administrator Bob Majewski, Menominee County Assistant Jail Administrator Joel Doubek, representing Jail Administrator Roxann Drust, Chairman James Furlong of the Menominee County Board of Commissioners, Supervisor Paul Gustafson of the Marinette County Board of Supervisors and Chairman of the law-enforcement committee.

Each of the panel guests introduced themselves and shared about the topic from their perspectives. Then the audience engaged them with questions and dialogue for an hour. The panel was interactive, and the audience learned the various ways the sheriffs, police chief, corrections and parole officers, and the elected county board leaders were committed to and confronting the issues. The panel shared general methods and specific examples of how they were working together with each other and the public to solve the problems and provide various levels of counseling, education and treatment for inmates and former offenders, all while enforcing the laws and protecting the public.

Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve mentioned how his department worked in cooperation with Paul Gustafson and the other county board supervisors to improve staffing concerns, and that together with the city police they are dedicating manpower to intelligence gathering regarding drugs, as well as to law enforcement. Substance abuse was seen as a major common denominator, either directly or indirectly, in the majority of arrests and repeat offenses. The interaction and cooperation between various levels of local, county, state and federal law-enforcement, corrections, parole, and the county boards was explained, and answered many questions from the public.

Several suggestions arose from the panel discussion. It was suggested that the six-week Cognitive Thinking course that the Jail Outreach teaches to classes of inmates in the jails could be taught in local public schools as a means of pro-actively addressing young people before they become criminal offenders. The Cognitive Thinking course was developed by Greystone Educational Materials and is based on universally accepted concepts that are broadly used nation-wide. Commissioner Chairman James Furlong commented that while those on the panel were familiar with the Jail Outreach, it may be helpful if local patrol officers became more aware of the Jail Outreach so they could coordinate the work of members with troubled people in the community before arrests were necessary.

The symposium and public forum brought the community and those in authority together. It increased public respect for those in official positions, drew attention to the challenges and needs that face us as people within the area communities, and offered concrete solutions. A number of different groups were represented in the audience, including Prison Aftercare Network (PAN) of Northeast WI, Changed Hearts Ministries of Green Bay, Life Skills of Green Bay, and Prison Fellowship.

Commenting afterward, Menominee County resident Gail Worden said, “It was superb and informative. It is just what this community needs.” Her husband Warren, added, “It was an excellent program. It was encouraging to have so many men and women from law-enforcement there, and I think it was encouragement to them, too.

Dave and Carol Ekstrom of Peshtigo attended, and he assessed the evening by saying, “It was excellent.”

Larry Parise of Oconto reflected afterwards, “Our communities owe these elected officials and these public safety leaders a huge debt of gratitude.”

Kabeer mingled with the audience afterwards and summed it up, “This was a great evening. The panel deserves our deepest respect, and these men and women of the Jail Outreach are the heart of the community. I am glad I came.”

The Jail Outreach works with individual inmates and with classroom groups of inmates each week in the jails, conducting over 1,000 meetings with inmates each year. And they work with former offenders outside of jail each week individually and in a Support Group, too. They help offenders recognize their problems, realize their need to change, and then assist them in the process.

The Jail Outreach provides mentoring, counseling, job placement, assistance with college tuition, first months rent for those who would be homeless, a food pantry, resume writing workshops, and a Support Group for released inmates. The goal is to instill accountability and a sense of belonging so that former offenders can transition back into the community as productive members of society rather than return to a life of crime and imprisonment.

The Jail Outreach participates and supports the efforts of the monthly meetings of the Marinette County Criminal Justice Coordination Committee, and holds an associate membership in the American Correctional Association. The Jail Outreach is a tax-exempt non-profit organization that accepts no taxpayer money. Questions or interest can be directed to Marinette-Menominee Jail Outreach, Inc, P.O. Box 892, Menominee, MI 49858.


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