August 30, 2010
Special Criminal Justice Funding Committee Begins Work
Taylor convenes first meeting, hears from Chief Justice, Attorney General
(MADISON) The first meeting of the special committee charged with making recommendations on the funding and strategies for efficient administration of the Wisconsin criminal justice system took place today in the Capitol. Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee), was appointed chair of the committee by the Joint Legislative Council, and convened today’s meeting.
“A fair, efficient, and sustainable justice system is a bedrock function of our state,” Taylor commented. “Wisconsin cannot continue to underfund crucial portions of our system and allow for zero accountability of other programs. This committee is a collection of some of the best justice system professionals and will produce recommendations to the Legislature to balance and sustain our system.”
The committee received testimony and presentations from Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Attorney General JB VanHollen, Office of Justice Assistance Director Dave Steingraber, State Public Defender Nick Chiarkas, and Prosecutors Winn Collins and David Feiss. A rudimentary review of the justice system shows that 13 different agencies in whole or part comprise the justice system in Wisconsin. Estimates indicate that the justice system, including the cost of incarceration, costs the state taxpayers at least 1.6 billion annually, which does not include local property tax dollars that fund county and municipal costs. The total cost is anticipated to be at least triple that amount.
“As this committee moves forward, we will hear from national experts on criminal justice and begin to analyze the full cost of the justice system to the taxpayers,” Taylor noted. “To date, there is no cumulative amount and overall accountability structure for the entire system. Providing a comprehensive system wide reform measure is a primary goal for this committee.”
The committee is expected to meet monthly throughout the remainder of the year to make recommendations to the full Legislature, including budget recommendations. Interested persons can view materials from the meeting and video archives of the meetings at www.senatortaylor.com .