Report: Wisconsin prison population headed for a new record

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a group dedicated to "promot[ing] citizen education through solid, nonpartisan research," released a fascinating and rather disconcerting report last week on the prison population here in the Dairy State.

Specifically, the Alliance found that while the state's prison population began to fall in 2008 following years of increases, it slowly started inching back up again in 2013. Indeed, it determined that if current trends hold, the state will set a new incarceration record by June 2019 with 23,233 inmates.

As if this wasn't discouraging enough, the report also determined that the price tag of keeping so many people behind bars will be roughly $1.1 billion per year for the next two years.

As for the reasons behind the shift, the Alliance identified some of the following factors:

  • Wisconsin saw its violent crime rate increase from 1990 to 2015: 67 percent of inmates were convicted of violent crimes in 2016, an 8 percent increase from 2006.
  • Probation violations and the commission of new crimes while on supervised release have risen: 31 percent of people were in prison for the former and 26 were in prison for the latter as of 2015.
  • Individuals being sent to prison are being given longer sentences: 36 percent of inmates had five or more years left to serve in 2016.    

The good news to all this is that state lawmakers from both parties are not only aware of the problem, but also taking steps to address it.

For example, Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), chair of the Assembly Corrections Committee, is seeking to secure $5 million for a pilot program in Winnebago County that would see repeat DUI offenders placed in 12-18 months of treatment as opposed to state prison to serve a five year sentence.

Furthermore, Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) is calling for measures to reform the prison system as a whole, making it easier for those who make the effort to change their lives behind bars via treatment, education and/or training to shorten their sentences.

Here's hoping we see start to see this happen and the prison population numbers start to decline …   

Consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you've been charged with any manner of violent crime as the stakes are simply too high

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