Presumably 2008 has flashed before your eyes countless times in the last week or so, as every medium has taken the year-end opportunity to remind you of what just happened. Isthmus has done the same thing, mainly in last week's issue. But it is time to move on and begin making new memories for the year 2009. We're ready to go there but for one thing.
The one thing that follows us into this first issue of the new year is a notice from the State Bar of Wisconsin that a story from Isthmus has been awarded the association's Golden Gavel Award. This award "recognizes the important contribution this article has made to a better public understanding of our system of law and justice."
The article cited for this honor is "Juvenile Injustice?" written by freelancer Jacqueline Sutton and published in our March 3, 2008 issue. Regrettably, Sutton moved to Houston at the end of last summer, following her husband's change of employment. It is regrettable not only because she is not here to receive the award, but also because we have lost the services of a fine reporter and writer. She continues to write in her position of staff contributor to the WebMD website.
"Juvenile Injustice?" considered the effects of a 1996 law that made people attaining the age of 17 subject to adult penalties. In that story, former youthful offender Fernale McAtee, at the time making progress toward a productive life, observed, "It was life that helped me to change. It wasn't jail."
McAtee's assessment would be seconded by the subject of this week's cover story, Rev. Jerry Hancock. "Holy Redeemer," by contributor Esty Dinur, tells us about Hancock's work in the Prison Ministry Project of the First Congregational Church in Madison. You might expect that a cleric who ministers to prisoners would be sympathetic to their plight and critical of the legal system that put them in prison. Hancock is that; but he is also a lawyer who spent three decades working in the system, most of it on the prosecuting and incarcerating side.
Justice-system issues might seem a strange way to make the bridge from 2008 to 2009, but these issues span many years and will be with us for many more to come. If you'd like to read "Juvenile Injustice?" and other Golden Gavel winners, they are available at