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Winona County establishes criminal justice committee

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

WINONA — The Winona County justice system could be running more smoothly now that a criminal justice committee has been formed with people from all the sides in the system.

The Winona County Board unanimously approved the committee Tuesday and also gave it $90,450 for a coordinator.

The goal is to get attorneys, judges, the county sheriff, police chiefs, county leaders, people from the court system and the public to work together to speed the system and save money, County Attorney Chuck MacLean told the board.

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"The criminal justice system is complex," he said, and has many players, each with a different role. Yet what each does can affect the other. If one slows down or changes something, others may have to slow down or adjust to the changes. The committee will try to find ways to make the changes smoother and reduce costs.

It will work by consensus. "We are not going to drag anyone kicking and screaming," he said.

Proposals might include special courts for families with problems or people with drug or alcohol addiction. Each kind of court has different needs and should operate a bit differently, he said.

Also, no one is verifying if people in pre-trial release are doing what they are supposed to do, MacLean said. The coordinator could take on that job.

"There are issues all around us," he said. "The time is now."

Winona Police Chief Frank Pomeroy said the idea was tried several years ago, but failed because it didn’t have money for a coordinator. That person is needed both to help with meetings and to "get us the data to make decisions," he said.

County Commissioner Dwayne Voegeli was surprised at the price tag but went along. "It’s a lot of money but if we can get some concrete end product, I think it’s worth the effort," he said.

"This (criminal justice) is one of our core functions," added Commissioner Marcia Ward.

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  • Any person who wants to represent the public on the new Winona County criminal justice committee or on a subcommittee is asked to contact County Coordinator Robert Reinert at (507) 457-6355.
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