Written by Theresa Wetzsteon
Marathon County residents assist our office in the pursuit of justice every day. That support comes in many forms, including:
- Victims and witnesses reporting crimes
- Residents participating in our jury system
- Volunteers working with justice system programs
One of the programs supported by resident volunteers is the Marathon County District Attorney’s Office Community Conferencing Program (CCP). This program combines restorative justice concepts with offender accountability.
Since 2008, the Community Conferencing Program in Marathon County has been offering an alternative venue for non-violent offenders, victims, and community member volunteers to actively engage and work together to mend the harm caused by a non-violent crime, while holding such offenders fully accountable for their actions. A volunteer-based panel of community members and a facilitator go through an application and orientation process in order to assist in these conferences.
Offenders are only given the opportunity to participate in this restorative justice program after consultation with the victims. During a Community Conference, trained volunteers help those directly affected by a crime to be actively involved in the process of addressing and repairing the harm done to them. The facilitator also discusses how the community as a whole has been affected by the crime and then helps to determine ways the harm caused can be repaired by the offender.
The participation of these volunteers is vital to offenders (a) learning about the social and other impacts of their crimes on the local community — beyond their crimes’ effects on the direct victims — and (b) developing a plan of action that is mutually acceptable to community members, victims, and offenders in addressing the harm caused.
In some cases, victims feel it is not in their best interest to participate in such a conference. In those cases, community members participate in their stead so that the offender has the chance to take part in the Community Conferencing Program. Offenders who partake in this alternative justice program voluntarily accept responsibility for their actions and have an opportunity to make amends for the harm they have caused. Offenders who accept responsibility — and meaningfully participate — can receive a recommendation for a reduced sentence.
Over 259 cases have gone through the Community Conferencing Program in Marathon County, resulting in a reduction of time spent in jail by over 11,160 days.
The Community Conferencing Program aims to:
- Promote an active participation in the justice system
- Give victims the opportunity to meet with offenders in a safe environment on a voluntary basis
- Have offenders learn about the impacts of their crimes and accept responsibility for their actions
- Reduce costly reliance on the traditional criminal justice system
As Marathon County District Attorney, I am incredibly grateful for the community time and support offered by citizens reporting crimes, serving on juries, and volunteering to work with justice system programs such as the Community Conferencing Program. It is YOUR VOICE — the voice of the Marathon County community — that helps to make this restorative justice program so successful.
If you’d like to volunteer with our local Community Conferencing Program, please contact me at 715-261-1111 or Theresa.Wetzsteon@da.wi.gov.
There is so much good work that comes out of this office… Let’s do it TOGETHER.
District Attorney | Marathon County
Theresa Wetzsteon is the Marathon County District Attorney. Theresa began her work as an Assistant District Attorney for Marathon County in 2002, was promoted to Deputy District Attorney in 2006, and in 2013 received recognition as the Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association Deputy District Attorney of the Year. Theresa was elected District Attorney in November 2016. Over the last 15 years, Theresa has specialized in the prosecution of juvenile, sexual assault, and homicide cases. In her role as District Attorney, she is committed to seeking justice, ensuring public safety, and respecting the rights of victims. She assisted in the development of the Marathon County District Attorney’s Diversion and Community Conferencing Programs. When she is not working, Theresa enjoys the outdoors, sports, and spending time with her husband and 4 beautiful children.
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