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Backlog continues at Marathon County Courthouse

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 8:50 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The Marathon County Courthouse is still seeing a backlog of cases. Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven and District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon say there are many factors contributing to the backlog.

This was an issue before the pandemic but has only gotten worse since. “One thing that Covid did was reduce that jail population,” Bliven said.

This led to fewer people being put in jail for lower-level crimes, in exchange for a citation that requires them to go to court. ”It’s a frustration for law enforcement, that people know they are just going to get a criminal to summon when they commit a low-lying offense, because of the issue that we have with jail overcrowding and within the judicial system that there’s no movement in clearing these cases out of the system,” Bliven said.

Wetzsteon said this leads those people who have already committed low-level crimes to commit more. In 2020 alone, there were 850 charges of bail jumping or failure to show up in court. 786 of them were new offenses.

“People were committing out on bond, so it wasn’t just a violation of a condition, it was actually new crimes,” Wetzsteon said.

She noted that this problem affects the whole community. “If we lower our population in the jail, that might save money in incarceration, but there’s a cost to having individuals out in the community on bond who continue to commit crimes, if they continue to have victims, that’s a cost.”

“When people have 5, 10, 15, 20 plus cases, it shouldn’t be a question of whether or not they are going to jail, they should be going to jail,” Bliven said.

They both said, all sides need to step up. “Accountability has to happen to get us out of this hole that we’re in,” Wetzsteon said.

“We need to figure out how we as a criminal justice system from the point of entering the criminal justice system, which is law enforcement all the way through the judicial process,” Bliven said. “How can we be efficient in that and hold offenders accountable as much as we can and hold each other accountable within the criminal justice system.”

Wetzsteon is meeting with the Policing Task Force Wednesday night to discuss the topic. She said she is hopeful officials can come together to reduce the backlog.

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