Justice In Balance

Annual John Klismet Justiceworks Award

The John Klismet Justiceworks Award honors the efforts of a justice system volunteer who closely emulates the character of the late John Klismet’s service to the Portage County justice system and community. As a retired Sentry insurance executive, John Klismet dedicated his volunteer efforts to ensuring a better way of life for others through justice programs. He mentored troubled juveniles and served on many Justiceworks committees with the goal of improving the justice system by promoting alternative forms of justice and a more responsive justice system. Because of his many contributions to justice and the courts, the annual “John Klismet Justiceworks Award.”  Honors service which reflects his character, integrity and public commitment, his model of Mohandas Gandhi’s quote: YOU MUST BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.”

2005- JOHN KLISMET- posthumous award

Described as a public servant, a guardian, and a visionary, John Klismet had a long history of community involvement. Through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, he worked in the Juvenile Detention Center, Ben Franklin Junior High’s at-risk program and the Charles Fernandez Alternative Center’s project area. He then became involved with jail problems and the courts. He served on numerous committees and task forces to improve those institutions, including the Justice Coalition and Justiceworks. Convinced that any young person could turn their life around with enough direction, encouragement and knowledge, John confronted self-destructive attitudes and behaviors and complimented positive efforts. He continually sought better ways to convince young people they could live law-abiding, productive and satisfying lives. For 7 years he visited the detention center regularly to meet with groups or to sit down with a youth who had requested a meeting. At the Alternative Center, John and his students built relationships as well as projects. Students often returned to continue their work with him after graduation.









Ordained minister Arlene Mucha has offered hope, faith and support throughout thirty years of service to jail inmates. As a justice system volunteer, Arlene Mucha ministered to inmates in a variety of jail settings, including Cook County Jail in Chicago, Joliet Prison, the Kane County Jail, the Dwight and Dixon Correctional Institutions, and for the past decade, the Portage County Jail. Arlene provides spiritual guidance and inspiration to inmates through conversation and worship, weekly prayer meetings and holiday services.





Christine Jacobs is the director of the MADD Marathon/Portage/Wood Counties Chapter.

Since her infant son’s death over thirty years ago because of a drunk driver, Christine has worked tirelessly to make others aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. With Christine’s support and participation, victim-impact panels are presented on a quarterly basis each year in Portage County to give victims the opportunity to inform OWI offenders of the tragic ramifications of their actions due to personal injuries, fatalities, emotional and financial damage from drunk driving traffic incidences.

2009- J.R. WYNNE

J.R. Wynne overcame alcohol addiction to become a justice system leader in Portage County. He has helped community members identify and carry out successful responses to the problems of drug and alcohol addiction. He was instrumental in organizing an alternative housing initiative in Portage County called the Riverside House. The Riverside House operates under the Oxford House model and provides a democratically run, self-sustaining residence for men in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Since the Riverside House opened its doors in 2005, JR has continued to serve as mentor and advisor to the Riverside House residents on a weekly basis.  Wynne has also served on the Portage County Health and Human Services Board, the Portage County Family Support Program Advisory Board, the Portage County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Coalition and works as a Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Portage County. Recently, J.R. Wynne assisted Wood County residents in organizing and opening an Oxford- recovery house in Wisconsin Rapids.


Charles Fernandez grew up in the United States as a Mexican immigrant, hampered by frequent childhood moves and inability to speak and read the English language. His understanding of youth with diverse cultural and social backgrounds led him to become an effective advocate for children and minorities in the justice system.  His volunteer work reflects his personal philosophy to “leave no child behind”. He championed the need for community volunteer mentors for juveniles; now a mainstay programming component of the Portage County Juvenile Center. In addition, Mr. Fernandez has been a leading advocate for alternative educational programming which eventually led to the formation of the alternative high school in Stevens Point, the Charles F. Fernandez Center for Alternative Learning. He has mentored many troubled youth, served as interpreter for the Hispanic community in the medical and legal systems, and continues, at the age of 87, to volunteer and advocate for youth programs in Portage County.

2011 – Maurice Rice

Over the span of his career as an attorney, Maurice Rice gave free legal assistance to those in need and obtained funding to support pro bono services in Portage County through his work with the Portage County Legal Aid Society. In addition to his volunteer work as president and past board member of the Portage County Legal Aid Society, Maury has also served as an elected official and board member for the Wisconsin Disability Rights organization and is a current member of the United States Power Squadron, a non-profit boating education organization.


2012 – Patti Cahill

Photo provided courtesy of the Stevens Point Journal

Patti Cahill has been active in justice-related community initiatives since 2004 when she joined PRISM, a jail ministry non-profit organization,  and Justiceworks, Ltd., a community justice non-profit organization.  Patti was the driving force behind the opening of  a drug and alcohol-free residence, the Riverside House, in Stevens Point. The Riverside House is an Oxford House for men operating under the umbrella of the Oxford House national organization. Following  Patti’s  example, an Oxford House for men opened in Wisconsin Rapids and an Oxford House for women opened in Stevens Point.  Patti continues to actively support the Riverside House, is  involved with community mentoring programs, and serves as a board member of the St. Michael’s Foundation.