JONAH and CVJAT join forces to work toward criminal justice reform

Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 6:47 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Two Chippewa Valley organizations that work toward criminal justice reform are joining forces.

Joining Our Neighbors Advancing Hope is an Eau Claire-based non-profit.

“JONAH is a non-profit organization that does grassroots organizing trying to bring people together to address the root cause of social justice issues,” JONAH organizer Lynn Buske said.

Tom Wirth is the chairman of the Chippewa Valley Justice Action team.

“Our missions are tied towards improving our legal system so that becomes more just,” Wirth said.

The two groups announced the CVJAT is now a part of JONAH’s criminal justice task force.

“Treatment alternatives, and welcoming people back into the community and listening to people with lived experiences are probably our three, three core things we’d want to address in that area,” Buske said.

Wirth says even here in the Chippewa Valley, there could be benefits from improving the criminal justice system.

“We also know that individuals who ended up in our justice system have a lot of ace’s or adverse childhood events,” Wirth said. “Although the national data played that out or certainly laid that out for us…we were able to also prove that within our jails here in Eau Claire County, Chippewa County, and Dunn County.”

Buske says two organizations that strive for the same thing can be stronger together.

“They’ve done a lot of work with the intersectionality of criminal justice and mental health and poverty,” Buske said. “They’ve done a lot of great work and a lot of JONAH members are a part of the Chippewa Valley Justice Action Team already.”

Wirth agrees.

“It gives us more people power and it also gives an infrastructure within JONAH,” Wirth said.

Wirth adds it feels natural bringing like-minded people with a common goal together.

“Our primary goal is to continue to challenge the county to push services upstream further so that we can hopefully change the trajectory of some of those individuals,” Wirth said.

Wirth and Buske say UW-Eau Claire students have been heavily involved in helping gather research over the years on the criminal justice system and how it relates to mental health, poverty, and substance abuse.

They both say this merger is a great opportunity to do the most good in the Chippewa Valley.

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