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.

More News on Crisis Restoration Centers and Jail Diversion: Join NAMI Meeting on 2/22

A two-part series by Wisconsin State Journal  reporter David Wahlberg delves into the need for jail diversion programs and treatment options in Dane County.  He also reports on assessments of the services provided by Strategic Behavioral Health in nearby Green Bay.   SHB announced that it will open a hospital with crisis restoration beds in Madison.

Click for “County Explores Crisis Restoration Center”

Click for Green Bay article.  Click for letter to the editor that describes a bill that would provide grants for crisis restoration centers throughout the state.

NAMI-Dane is offering a meeting with a SBH representative who will answer questions about plans for Madison.  Here is the information.

“Let’s Talk About It” Program Series
Please join us for our February Program Meeting to learn more about Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) and the new psychiatric hospital planned in Dane County. This meeting has a Q&A format, where panelist Bret Morschauser – clinical liaison with Willowcreek Behavioral Health in Green Bay (a subsidiary of SBH) – will answer questions and comments from the audience.

February 22, 2018
5:30-6:30pm
United Way Building, Evjue A & B
2059 Atwood Ave.

Free event but registration is appreciated.
Call 608-249-7188 to let us know you’ll be there!

 

 

 

Federal Grants to Help Divert those with Mental Illness from Jail: Deadline March 5

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will award more than $13 million in grants to establish or expand programs that divert adults with a serious mental illness  or a co-occurring (mental and substance use) disorder from the criminal justice system to community-based services prior to arrest and booking. Special consideration will be given to applicants serving veterans.

County governments and other governmental entities are eligible for the grants.  Click here for grant announcement.

 

More Bipartisan Support for Regional Mental Health Crisis Centers

An editorial in the Racine Journal  supports legislation that would provide a grant program for mental health crisis restoration centers.  The bills would also allow law officers to take people with acute psychiatric needs to the closest mental health institute in the state.

The authors point out that although access to psychiatric care would be more quickly available in some parts of the state with passage of the bills, residents in the Racine area still would have to travel at least two hours for help.  Therefore, they support the funding of regional crisis centers that would be situated at hospitals.  Click here to read the editorial.  Here is an excerpt.

“So the aspect that has us enthusiastic is the proposed grants for developing regional mental health crisis centers. Given all of the facilities operated by Ascension, Aurora and United Hospital System in the Racine-Kenosha area, we see no reason why one of the area facilities couldn’t obtain a grant and establish itself as a regional center.

We want our law officers on duty within Racine County, not taking 4-plus hours out of a shift to transport someone in need of mental health care to a state-mandated facility. Especially when a facility within 40 miles of the station could be established as a regional destination for such patients.”

The bills (SB 681/AB 815) were introduced by Republican and Democratic legislators and by members from Dane County and the center of the state.  Among its supporters are: the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association; the League of Wisconsin Municipalities; the Dane County government; the Dane County Cities and Villages Association, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

See “Bipartisan Support for Better Access to Mental Health Institutes” on this blog for background on the legislation.

UPDATE:  Local criminal justice and other officials in St. Croix also reported problems because of the lack of crisis restoration centers.  Here is what they told Attorney General Schimel.

“Yehlik and others made clear to Schimel that it does agencies in western Wisconsin no good to open more beds on the other side of the state.

North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert said funding issues make local hospitals hesitant to establish such facilities in western Wisconsin. That, Schimel said, is because of reimbursement issues.

But, he noted, law enforcement also isn’t getting reimbursed for the cost of transports to the state’s Winnebago Mental Health Institute, which he said can exceed $1,000. St. Croix County Sheriff Scott Knudson said his office performed 47 such transports to Winnebago last year.”

Schimel later called the issue “a gigantic drain on county and local budgets.”

The above comments come from the River Falls Journal.  Click here to read the full article.

Bipartisan Support for Better Access to Mental Health Institutes

A bipartisan group of legislators is proposing a solution to problems posed by the state’s decision in 2014 to limit access to Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison to criminal cases.  As a result of that decision, two police officers must transport a person in a psychotic or seriously disturbed state to the Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh.

The trip from Madison takes two hours each way.  It is a frightening and damaging trip for the person locked in a police car and a costly one for city and county governments.

From 2014 to 2016, transports to Winnebago from Dane County cost more than $330,000, including nearly $151,000 for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and nearly $61,000 for the Madison Police Department, according to the Dane County Chiefs of Police Association.

The bill would allow law enforcement to take individuals to be detained for “emergency detention or involuntary commitment” to the most convenient mental health institute.  It has bipartisan support because counties and individuals throughout the state have suffered as a result of the state’s 2014 ruling.

The bill also proposes a program that would provide grants for hospitals for regional mental health crisis centers.   The grants would be funded in the 2019-21 legislative session.

Click here to read the proposed legislation.

David Wahlberg reports on the history of the problem and reaction by local officials in “Bill would restore mental health crisis detentions at Mendota.”

In “Crisis Cops,” Abigail Becker offers insights from the police about the Mendota restrictions.

Learn how Prison Reform Can Cut Crime and Save Money

Prison reform is catching on.  According to testimony before the Legislative Study Committee on Reducing Recidivism, 18 states enacted “big and comprehensive reform” and 15 states enacted “significant reform” during the last decade.  Wisconsin was the only state to move backwards.

Residents in red, blue, and purple states discovered that prison reform can cut the crime rate, as well as benefit the taxpayers.  In Minnesota, for example, the crime rate decreased by 6 percent from 2009 to 2014, while Wisconsin’s rate increased 12 percent.  In FY 2013, state and local governments in our state spent $259 per capita on corrections and Minnesota spent $163.

We can take advantage of lessons learned and avoid costly prison expansion.

Join State Representative Evan Goyke, gubernatorial  candidates, and civil rights leaders for a discussion of a key element of reform: the state’s revocation policy.  WISDOM, a faith-based state organization, is sponsoring the forum on January 17, from 12:00 to 2:00 at Grace Episcopal Church, 116 W. Washington Ave. in Madison.  

More than 4,500 people are in Wisconsin prisons for revocation without a new conviction. Each year, thousands of others are held in county jails or the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility waiting investigation of  alleged rule violations.  Other states have moved to more just and economically efficient policies.

Rep. Goyke is introducing three bills based on successful reforms in other states.  Click here for his press release and background information.

 

 

 

 

NAMI Gets Answers about the Crisis Restoration Center and Raises More Questions

Check out the blog post by Lindsay Wallace, NAMI’s executive director, for excellent reporting about the psychiatric hospital/crisis restoration center proposed by Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH).  Click here for a link.

Lindsay addressed the concern that SBH is a for–profit company.   Here is what she reported:

“There are distinct differences between not-for-profit and for-profit psychiatric facilities but SBH says their approach to care delivery is the same; they ensure all referring/community professionals, consumers, caregivers, and families are involved in the consumer’s treatment and recovery plan every step of the way.

I have reached out to other NAMI affiliates across the country who have SBH facilities in their community to see what their experiences have been in regards to care coordination and quality of care. In each instance, I received positive feedback. Our hope is SBH will deliver on this promise in Dane County as well. It is, of course, something we will monitor closely.

When it comes to service to patients who are unable to pay, SBH said they provide services regardless of ability to pay. They are able to do so because of the individual mandate through the Affordable Care Act. Those who have coverage are charged higher costs for services, making it possible for SBH to not turn away uninsured and underinsured patients – a practice we understand non-profit facilities utilize as well. Of course, there are concerns around the sustainability of such a practice with current tax reform efforts that include a repeal of the individual mandate.”  NOTE: As of 12/19, the individual mandate appears over.

Lindsay also raised these questions:

Will SBH have discretion over who they accept for inpatient treatment or must they accept referrals sent to them by the county?

Will SBH be required to serve people who are court ordered into treatment?

Will the contract with SBH establish requirements for discharge planning and linkages with community services?

Will SBH have the capacity to treat the physical health needs of people they serve, including preventive health services such as smoking cessation?

Will SBH’s performance be assessed on measures such as clinical outcomes, screening for metabolic disorders, coordination of mental and physical healthcare services, use of aversive measures such as restraints and seclusion, screening and treatment for alcohol or substance use, number of patients discharged on multiple antipsychotics and justification, and how quickly patients are seen in the community after discharge?

Click here for a link to NAMI-Dane County.  Lindsay is planning a forum with SBH in the spring.

UPDATE:  JUDGE EVERETT MITCHELL WILL BE THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT NAMI’S ANNUAL AWARD BANQUET.  He will speak about decriminalizing people with mental illness.  Date is April 5, 2018.  Check the website for NAMI-Dane County for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Crisis Restoration Center for Madison: Who will Pay?

Yesterday, Strategic Behavioral Health (SBH) announced plans for a psychiatric hospital in the Madison area to open by late summer 2019.  It would provide 72 beds, cost $15 to 20 million, and offer inpatient and outpatient services.

According to county officials, the hospital would meet the long-established need for an alternative to a trip to Winnebago State Hospital for persons suffering from a psychotic episode and the police who accompany them.  It would also provide many of the services offered by a crisis restoration center.  Click here to read David Wahlberg’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal.

SBH has an entrepreneurial and ambitious approach to mental health services.  Its website offers this invitation:

“We are currently seeking opportunities to bring services to areas where there is an identified need. We are looking for places where Strategic Behavioral Health can be a good provider and also a good community citizen. Please email our home office to discuss opportunities.”

Since 2006, Strategic Behavioral Health has opened centers in 11 cities, primarily in the south and west.  Willow Creek Behavioral Health Center in Green Bay, which opened in January 2017, was the first site in the mid-west.  According to SBH’s website, the company offers a full range of mental health and substance abuse services to just about any kind of client in need.

Funding mechanisms–the perpetual issue for mental health service providers–are less clear.  SBH offers this guidance on its website.

“With payments often times being the last item patients and their families want to address, we make it a point to keep all involved parties informed while keeping the focus on treatment and recovery. Strategic Behavioral Health works with most major insurance companies and is able to work with each individual to determine the best approach for covering the cost of treatment.”

Private insurance will not cover costs for many of the people who might need a crisis restoration center or other mental health services.  It is likely SBH will be competing with existing service providers for state and county funds.   Let’s hope it is a “good provider and good community citizen” and that competition turns out to be a good thing.