As Madison combats increased crime, violent offenders get an intervention

Published: Jun. 21, 2017 at 10:49 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Ten men were chosen for front row seats tonight for a warning -- and an opportunity.

Familiar faces to local law enforcement, these ten people were chosen at random based only on their criminal histories. All have been involved in recent gun violations as Madison watches violent crime rise. Now, the city has targeted them as some of the city's repeat offenders - and tonight, they sat them down for a talk.

But it wasn't just about enforcement tonight. It was also about support.

"If you want to stay in your comfort zone, let’s see how far we go," said Dynae Saba, a re-entry specialist at WorkSmart who helps people with criminal records return to the workforce. "But if you’re willing to be uncomfortable and struggle for a little while, success will come eventually."

Taking the hard road to that eventual success was a theme tonight among the employment, education, and substance abuse treatment representatives who stood beside police tonight to show the possibilities available after a life of crime.

"I don't want you to leave the room tonight thinking the cards are stacked against you," said Police Chief Mike Koval, addressing the row of participants. "Frankly, we've got a lot of resources here, fully stocked, ready to go from people who are eager to help in a different way than you might have seen historically."

After watching deterrent videos and hearing a firm message from local and federal law enforcement about the grim realities of life in prison, participants who were brought to notification were offered connections to resources for improving their lives without taking criminal risks. They also heard stories from people who are leading successful lives after they were chosen for notification, like Terrence Jones.

"We got something for you. That's what the program's based on," says Jones, who says teenage decisions sent him to jail before the deterrence program showed him better opportunities. "But the overall picture is help. Help. We're trying to help you guys. We're not trying to be this bogeyman. We're trying to help you."

After the discussion and refreshments, participants had a chance to talk with officers and social services groups before being assigned a Special Investigations Unit contact who reminds them that as a repeat offender, they're under closer monitoring -- and who also makes themselves available to help the participant find resources they need to stay out of trouble.

Copyright: WMTV 2017