Three States Reduced Prison Populations by about 25 Percent…and Cut Crime by More than the National Average

In an op ed in “Urban Milwaukee,” Casey Hoff, a criminal defense attorney in Sheboygan, added new information about the economic and social costs of more prisons.   Here is an excerpt.

“Well more than half of the states in this country have passed legislation to cut back on mandatory minimum sentences.

States that have implemented these policies for the longest periods of time, such as New York, New Jersey and California, have many years of evidence to show reducing prison populations and closing prisons has not caused spikes in crime nor has doing so had a negative effect on public safety.

Starting in the late 1990s or mid-2000s, these three states reduced their prison populations by approximately 25 percent. During that time, violent crime rates were going down nationally. However, violent crime rates decreased at greater rates in New York, New Jersey and California than the nationwide average.

Between 1999 and 2012, when New York and New Jersey reduced their prison populations by 26 percent, the national prison population increased by 10 percent.

…Look to our neighbors in Minnesota. The populations of Minnesota and Wisconsin are roughly equal. Both states have similar crime rates. However, Wisconsin has more than double the prison population of Minnesota.”

Click here to read the op ed.

Stop More Spending on Prisons: Join the Protest against SB 54 on March 13

Here is the call to action from WISDOM.

Two weeks ago, the Wisconsin State Assembly recklessly approved a massive new expenditure of tax dollars to build a prison we don’t need. They amended Senate Bill 54 (SB54) so that it includes authorization to borrow $350 million to build a new prison, as well as another $50 million per year in additional spending.
The State Senate can stop this irresponsible plan when they meet later this month.
Next Tuesday we need as many people as possible to come to the Capitol to let Senators know that SB54 is a terrible idea. They need to stop it, and focus on policies that will actually make us safer.
Join us in Madison.  Whether or not you will be with us in Madison, we are also asking that you call your State Senator today.  You only need to contact your Senator’s office, not your Assembly Rep. It’s fine to talk with staff members.

Some things you can say to them include:
• $350 million is a huge amount of money that the Assembly added at the last minute. That is reckless. Before spending our money on a new prison, the state needs to look at the ways it can safely reduce the prison population: by expanding Treatment Alternatives and Diversions (TAD); by ending Crimeless Revocations; by re-starting the Parole process. We could cut down the prison population by thousands by just doing those things.
• Other states, both Democrat and Republican-led, are reducing their prison populations. Texas and Michigan are 2 examples of states that are closing prisons. And, the states that are reducing their prison populations are the ones seeing the greatest DECREASE IN CRIME.

As citizens, we want our leaders to take a careful look at how we can have less people in prison, rather than make a rash decision to borrow $350 million for our children and grandchildren to pay back.

Join us in Madison!
Call your State Senator!


Wisconsin Justice Initiative Reports that Costs of Latest Prison Bill Could Exceed $300 Million

Here are the opening paragraphs of a blog post from the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.

“The Republican proposal to toughen revocation rules for people under Department of Corrections supervision and to build a new prison to house the additional inmates snared by the new rules could be far more expensive than has been publicly discussed, according to records.

“The measure was approved by the Assembly and is awaiting action by the State Senate. No Democrat voted for the proposal, although State Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) did not cast a vote. Republican Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) voted against it, and David Murphy (R-Greenville) and Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) did not vote.

“The focus has been on one scenario presented by the DOC, which comes with an estimated price tag of $57 million per year in additional costs after tougher revocation rules would be fully implemented. But the department worked up other estimates that put possible costs far higher—up to $201 million more per year.

“And while the Assembly version of the bill would authorize $350 million in borrowing, interest payments likely would add at least $100 million to that price tag and possibly much more, depending on the length of the financing and the interest rate.”

The post goes on to describe additional costs to counties that would result from the need to house inmates who are revoked and awaiting transfer to prison.

Click here to read the blog post.