Tue May 8, 2012
New Walker-appointed criminal justice council set to begin work
A new Criminal Justice Council appointed by Gov. Scott Walker will hold its first public listening session Tuesday in Eau Claire. The council is looking for ideas on how to increase the efficiency of law enforcement, the courts, and the prison system.
The new council's goal is to improve the justice system's efficiency and effectiveness. Sister Esther Heffernan is a professor at Edgewood College in Madison and has worked for decades on trying to reform the state prison system. She says she's encouraged that the new council's co-chair is the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, "Now maybe he could be very altruistic and say well one of our aims is to shrink the Department of Corrections, as soon as you talk about efficiency it sounds like you’re trying to cut budgets."
The council's plan to hold statewide listening sessions is the same strategy used by former Gov. Jim Doyle's Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. But Heffernan says it doesn't appear Gov. Walker's new council is interested in pursuing that commission's goal of reducing the number of African Americans in prison, "The thing that disturbs me a little is that there isn't any mention of racial disparity. So in a sense he's turning his back on everything that was done under Doyle's administration."
Gov. Walker’s new council is modeled on local county criminal justice councils that already exist in 37 counties. The 20 member board includes the attorney general and four of the governor’s cabinet secretaries along with a sheriff, a police chief, a prosecutor, a public defender, one county and one tribal judge and the director of state courts. The other members include a county administrator and three public citizen members.