One lawmaker upset with the cuts to education contained in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget has begun circulating two bills that would free up money by changing prison inmate benefits.
Rep. Mark Radcliffe’s, D-Black River Falls, first bill would reduce the number of meals a Wisconsin corrections inmate receives daily from three to two.
Radcliffe said only serving two meals would save the state $4 million and is part of a slew of alternatives that could help solve the projected $3.6 billion biennial budget deficit.
“Everyone should remember right now that we’re going through tough economic times,” Radcliffe said. “It’s a pretty easy choice to me to save money through corrections so we don’t have to make drastic cuts to schools.”
He added he felt reducing meals was necessary after speaking with a constituent who works as a correctional officer at Jackson Correctional County. The officer told Radcliffe a lot of food served to inmates gets thrown away and is wasted.
Radcliffe said as long as an inmate gets the required daily amount of calories a day with two meals, why serve three?
Also, although the Department of Corrections currently can choose whether to charge an inmate deductibles or co-payments on medical or dental services rendered, the second bill would require the DOC to charge the inmate.
Inmates would be able to pay deductibles or co-payments on medical services, as would be required by Radcliffe’s second bill, using money in their canteen funds – like a prison bank account.
Inmates would not be refused medication if they could not pay for it, Radcliffe said.
The requirement would hopefully decrease the size of contraband black markets Radcliffe said he was told is partly caused by easy access to medications. But University of Wisconsin criminal justice professor Karl Shoemaker said increasing the price of medication may have some effects but would not solve the problem.
“Raising the price on medicine is probably going to reduce demand, but not take away the market for those drugs,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker added he would expect a prisoner to file a lawsuit if the bill passes calling into question whether the changes are administrative or punitive.