Lasee's Notes
 June 1, 2017

Lasee's Notes is a way for me to communicate directly with you on key issues of our day
and to champion limited government, lower taxes, and individual liberty.
How we respond to these issues today, will affect the direction of our state and nation tomorrow.

I look forward to hearing from you about the issues of concern to you. Please feel free to contact me, Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov or (608) 266-3512. If you are planning to be in Madison, please visit, I look forward to seeing you at the Capitol.

How Old Is Too Old?



The unofficial start of summer has come and gone and everyone is looking forward to making some summer memories this year. While it’s still a little too cool for a dip in the lake, and family vacations can’t start until the kids are done with school, this is a time to reflect on old summer memories. Remember that summer when Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill? Hey, isn’t that the same summer that the United States annexed Hawaii? The big news in Northeastern Wisconsin that same summer was the opening of
Green Bay Correctional Institute (GBCI). Who could forget that summer of 1898?
 


GBCI is 119 years old and in constant need of repair and updating. A 2009 report commissioned by the state found that GBCI needed $142.4 million in updates and upgrades just to get the facility up to code. Since then, the state has spent $7.6 million in repairs and updates with another $22 million allocated in the governor’s proposed 2017-2019 state budget. It’s estimated that over the next 10 years GBCI will need almost $200 million of taxpayer money just to be up to code. Waupun Correctional Institute is older than GBCI having opened its doors during 1854; however, the 2009 report found Waupun Correctional institute doesn’t need the same kind of investment from the state as GBCI.  
 

Over-crowding has also become a significant problem and safety concern at GBCI. GBCI has a set capacity is 749 prisoners, yet is home to 1,091 prisoners – 145 percent capacity. The overpopulation has led to inmates being housed “dorm style” in GBCI’s gymnasiums. This situation would be a security concern at any institution, let alone GBCI’s MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON – the prison population isn’t there for unpaid parking tickets! Thirteen percent of GBCI’s population suffers from serious mental illness and 90 percent are imprisoned for violent offenses.
 

GBCI isn’t alone in the Wisconsin correctional system with overcrowding. The capacity for Wisconsin’s Department of Correction’s (DOC’s) 20 correctional institutions and 16 minimum security correctional centers is 17,267 inmates. As of December 2016 these institutions actual population was 21,389-a 125.2 percent capacity. A recent report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliances estimates DOC will have 23,233 inmates by June 2019 – 134.5 percent capacity. 
 


Gymnasium to Prison Dormitory, Next on HGTV’s Flip or Flop?
 

The conditions and safety concerns at GBCI have led to low worker morale, high employee turnover, and understaffing, causing the remaining workers to be overworked and taxpayers footing the bill for high overtime costs. Can you imagine being one of the 235 guards at GBCI and having to face 1,091 inmates in a 119 year old building?
 

I’m proud to be the author, along with Representative David Steffen, of Senate Bill 228 and companion bill Assembly Bill 292. Our bill offers a thoughtful solution to the mounting problems that staff and taxpayers face at GBCI by allowing for its sale along with the construction of a new maximum security facility in Brown County or an adjacent county. 
 

Did I mention that GBCI is 119 years old?

By entering into a public/private partnership for a new maximum security prison, the state will save millions of taxpayer dollars. The old facility will no longer constantly need costly updates and upgrades, the operating cost savings from a modern efficient facility will be significant, and the state will not need to bond because of the private/public partnership. A new facility will employ best prison building practices that we’ve learned over the past 119 years and will increase safety and morale.
 

The sale of the 50 acres currently occupied by GBCI will allow for significant economic development opportunities for the Village of Allouez. Currently, the state pays no property tax to the village for GBCI; however, if the land is sold for what is estimated to be $7 to $10 million, it will go onto the tax rolls. It’s estimated that after the sale and repurposing of the GBCI site (located right along the Fox River), the Village of Allouez could have an additional $70 to $80 million added to its property tax rolls.
 


Developing the site of a former prison isn’t a new idea. The Alexander Company redeveloped the site of historic Lorton Prison in Fairfax, Virginia into community residences, workplaces, shopping, and green space now known as Liberty at Laurel Hill


SB 228/AB 292 requires the Department of Administration to solicit bids for the private construction and ownership of a new maximum security prison to be located in Brown County or a county adjacent to Brown County. A private prison would pay property taxes making the new facility very attractive to a number of communities in Brown County and adjacent counties. While the new prison would be privately owned, it would be staffed by Wisconsin Department of Corrections guards and support staff and be leased, with the option to buy, by the state. 

 

On May 16, 2017, the Assembly Committee on Corrections held a public hearing on AB 292. I encourage you to watch the public hearing by clicking this link. Fast forward to the 287 minute mark for the portion of the hearing about AB 292.

SB 228/AB 292 is a win for everyone. Taxpayers in Allouez, Green Bay, and Brown County will benefit because a previously public, non-taxed facility will go back on the tax rolls. Taxpayers in the county of the new prison will also benefit by collecting taxes on a privately owned facility – perhaps Kewaunee County. Taxes aside, prison staff will work normal hours, have less stress, and be safer. Even the prisoners will benefit by being in a safer, more secure, and up-to-date environment.

I’ll continue to work on common sense solutions to make government smaller, more efficient, and user friendly. Please share any ideas you may have by calling, emailing, or visiting me.



 
 

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Lasee's Notes, please feel free to contact me.

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State Capitol Room 316S- PO Box 7882, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-3512
Email: Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov