Date of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Professional Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Service


College of Professional Studies


The criminal justice system has become the default mechanism for addressing problems deriving from communities that are impoverished and lacking strong informal social controls. The legitimacy of the system has been called into question by its failure to resolve many issues that are more social in nature than criminal. Community courts are a promising approach for restoring lost legitimacy to the criminal justice system. This project assesses the need for a community court in Milwaukee’s 5th Police District to address quality-of-life concerns that may not be adequately addressed in the traditional criminal justice system. Archival data about District 5 community demographics and criminal and municipal case filings were gathered and analyzed. Additionally, interviews and focus groups were conducted with key stakeholders in the criminal justice system and District 5 community. A community survey was also conducted to solicit feedback about community strengths, public safety concerns, and perceptions of the justice system. There was general consensus among stakeholders that the criminal justice system is currently dysfunctional. The interview, focus group, and survey results were all supportive of establishing a community court in District 5. The archival data also revealed a body of cases that would be appropriate for a community court.