PROJECTCatalyst Grant Program



Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development

Lifting the Curtain on Criminal Court Proceedings   

Dane County, WI   

Dane County, Wisconsin, has one of the highest Black-white disparity rates in the country in criminal justice outcomes: for every white person arrested, 11 Black people are arrested. Despite a comparatively low overall incarceration rate, Dane County’s Black-white racial disparity in its jail population is more than twice the national rate. While focusing public attention on prosecution and the court system to drive change can help reduce these disparities, the general public usually has a limited understanding of how the court system works. The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development’s Court Observer Program helps explain court processes to provide voters a better understanding of the parts of the system that maintain racial disparities. The goal is to enable voters to make informed voting decisions and give them the tools they need to advocate for reform.    

With Catalyst Grant funding, the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development aims to center community voices, fill in gaps in the data, and share data accessibly to address racial disparities in the court system. The center will use Microsoft technology to dive into its Court Observer Program data and create visualizations to share internally and externally with program staff, volunteers, community members, and elected officials. Along with analyzing this court data, it will conduct one-on-one interviews and small focus groups with people who participate in its reentry services and their families to better understand the court system's impact on the community. The center will also assess participants’ understanding of court procedures and collect their suggestions for system improvements.    


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Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development
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