Thu August 16, 2012
Efforts to Reduce Prison Population Spread Across State
Efforts to reduce Wisconsin's prisoner population and crime are making their way from Milwaukee to other parts of the state.
According to the Vera Institute of Justice, Wisconsin spent about $38,000 per prison inmate in 2010. With tighter budgets and crowded prisons and jails, Milwaukee County officials and organizations are working with La Crosse and Winnebago County to revamp the criminal justice system. They are pushing for statewide reform to reduce the number of prisoners.
Debra Kraft is the Deputy Director of Community Advocates Public Policy Institute and works on the Community Justice Reinvestment Project. She says, for example, counties can offer mental health or substance use disorder treatment programs for offenders who do not necessarily belong in the system. “That’s an effective way of diverting a certain group of offenders out of the criminal justice system and helping to ensure, if you will, that they do not return to the system.”
La Crosse County Justice Sanctions Director Jane Klekamp has been working with Kraft and others to promote state legislation. Klekamp would like to see counties be reimbursed for reducing recidivism and prisoner populations. She says the money saved could go towards crime intervention programs, “If for example a prison could close because there were less prisoners that could in turn feed the project. So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Can you close a prison and fund the program or do you have to fund the program to close the prison?”
The group hopes to involve more Wisconsin counties in crafting a plan.