Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Prison reforms could save state billions

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin could save more than $2 billion and slow the growth of its prison population over the next decade with a series of sweeping policy changes, a report released Wednesday said.

A special bipartisan committee of state lawmakers, judges, sheriffs and others received the report and recommendations from the nonpartisan Council of State Governments Justice Center on Wednesday.

The committee, which started discussing public safety and prison overcrowding in January, planned to vote next week on which recommendations should be proposed as bills in the Legislature.


Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget proposal includes multiple measures to ease state prison overcrowding, including making some felons eligible for release sooner and eliminating probation for some nonviolent offenders. Doyle also would end extended supervision earlier for inmates who have been released.

Republicans, including Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, have said Doyle’s proposals put public safety at risk.

The report received Wednesday did not address Doyle’s ideas or note areas where its recommendations overlap.

That analysis can be done later, said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, chair of the committee.

Doyle spokesperson Lee Sensenbrenner had no immediate comment on the report.

Some of the same Republicans who criticized Doyle’s proposals objected to how quickly the committee was moving.

“This is a very, very rushed process,” Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford said. Suder said he needed more than a week to get reaction from district attorneys, judges and others in his area before deciding which recommendations to support.

“This is going to be a major revamp of public policy,” he said.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said he was concerned about what he said was a focus on putting more criminals on the streets without considering the impact on victims.

Wisconsin officials have been struggling for years about how to handle the state’s burgeoning inmate population.

The prisons are roughly 20 percent over capacity this year and are projected to grow 21 percent in a decade. That will add $2.5 billion over that time in operating and construction costs, the report said.

Implementing the recommendations would basically hold the inmate population steady and save $2.3 billion.

Among the report’s recommendations:

— Limit the amount of time an offender can be out of prison on extended supervision, similar to parole, to no more than 75 percent of the time they were behind bars.

— Expand community-based mental health and job placement services to help high-risk offenders on extended supervision.

— Establish a statewide goal of reducing recidivism rates for people released from prison by 25 percent by 2011.

— Allow courts to give offenders a lesser sentence if they successfully complete programs designed to decrease their risk to public safety.

— Better track community-based programs to determine whether they are effective at reducing recidivism.

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