Federal grants to decrease the number of people with serious mental illness in jail: Deadline May 29

Here is an announcement from Stepping Up about a grant program to reduce the number of people with serious mental illness in jail.  The Dane County government and Journey Mental Health appear to be eligible for funding. 
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs-Bureau of Justice Assistance seeks applications for funding for The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program (JMHCP). The JMHCP supports cross-system collaboration to improve responses and outcomes for people who have mental illnesses or co-occurring substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. This grant program provides awards ranging between $100,000 and $750,000 for a 12- to 36-month project period to states, units of local governments, federally recognized Indian tribal governments, and state-county authorized mental health authorities.

There are three grant categories:
Category 1: Collaborative County Approaches to Reducing the Prevalence of Individuals with Serious Mental Illnesses in Jails
Category 2: Strategic Planning for Law Enforcement and Mental Health Collaboration
Category 3: Implementation and Expansion

The deadline to apply is May 29.

Register for Webinar about This Funding Opportunity
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with funding support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will be hosting a webinar to provide guidance on how to respond to this solicitation on Tuesday, May 8 from 2-3:30 p.m.

Click here for the announcement, including links for more information and registration.

Older Prisoners Languish and Cost Taxpayers Millions Each Year

Here are some key take-aways from an excellent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“More than 1,200 people age 60 and older were serving time in Wisconsin prisons as of Dec. 31, 2016, the most recent count available. By one estimate, the average cost to incarcerate each of them is $70,000 a year — for an annual total of $84 million.”

“Last year, just six inmates were freed under [Wisconsin’s compassionate release program].   Among those who didn’t qualify were a blind quadriplegic and a 65-year-old breast cancer survivor who uses a breathing machine and needs a wheelchair to make it from her cell to the prison visiting room.”

“From August 2, 2011, through the end of June 2017, 25 people were released under the program, according to the corrections department. Only one was approved due to advanced age alone; the others had health conditions.

“A key reason is this: The law governing compassionate release says only people whose crimes were committed on or after Dec. 31, 1999, making them subject to truth in sentencing, are eligible.

“More than 25% of the state’s elderly prisoners serving long sentences — as well as some younger people with serious health problems — were locked up before that. That means some of the oldest and sickest prisoners can’t apply.

The article contains compelling examples of prisoners whose release would cause no threat to public safety and would save taxpayer dollars.  Click here to read “Compassionate Release Could Save Millions.”

Congress Shows Promising Increase of Bipartisan Support for Criminal Justice Reform: So Does Wisconsin

Democrats and Republicans in the Assembly’s Corrections Committee crafted an ambitious plan to close the notorious Lincoln Hills/Copper Lakes complex, negotiated successfully with county governments, ultimately got a unanimous vote for the bill in the Assembly and the governor’s signature.  It was a rare bipartisan success story.

At the federal level, representatives of both parties also are working together successfully, despite the punitive approach of the U.S. Attorney General.

Here are some examples from the Council of State Government’s Justice Center.

Congressional leaders in March took strong bipartisan action in support of three programs in FY 2019—the Second Chance Act, the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), and the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI)—aimed at increasing public safety and reducing recidivism at the local and state level.
U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Mark Walker (R-NC) gathered 74 signatures from members of the House in support of continued funding for the Second Chance Act, which will mark its 10th anniversary this year.
U.S. Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), and Norma Torres (D-CA) gathered 68 signatures from members of the House in support of continued funding for MIOTCRA.
U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Tom Marino (R-PA) gathered 68 signatures from members of the House in support of continued funding for JRI, a data-driven approach that helps states reduce corrections and related criminal justice spending and reinvest savings in strategies that improve public safety.

 

 

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.

SB 54 Stopped: Bill to Borrow $350 for a new Prison Dropped.

Here is WISDOM’s victory statement.  See below for history of bill.  Click here  for “Prison bill dies in state senate. 

WISDOM – Linking Communities across Wisconsin to Work for Justice
1. Senate Bill 54 is dead!

Many WISDOM leaders helped to lead the opposition to SB54, the bill that would have irresponsibly spent $350 million to build a new prison in Wisconsin. After so many visits and phone calls, the State Senate decided not to even vote on it: they completely dropped it from their agenda yesterday.

This is huge victory, and it sets the stage for serious conversations about how our state must responsibly reduce the prison population. WISDOM members really answered the call last week. Hundreds of you contacted Senators’ offices. About 100 of you went to the Capitol on short notice: besides more than 50 MOSES members, there were people from MICAH, RIC, CUSH, ESTHER, JOSHUA, NAOMI and JOB. We made a difference!

Here is the initial 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.

 

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.