Maiden Speech on the WI State Assembly Floor

January 25, 2022

Thank you Mr. Speaker. You know, some of my colleagues started to wonder if I’d ever speak. But, it is truly an honor to serve in this body representing constituents of the 11th Assembly District in Milwaukee and Glendale. To our indigenous communities, and to the people across this great state, I rise today to speak why AB 174 as currently amended misses the mark when it comes to public safety.

Public safety is something we can all agree is important but as it stands, AB 174 fails to invest in areas that would actually improve public safety. It would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revocation to individuals who are released on extended supervision, parole, or probation if they are charged with committing a crime. But the outcome of this bill would incarcerate individuals who are NOT convicted of a crime and increase our prison population. The estimated cost of this bill is $230 Million dollars and the reason why this number is so high is because we would have to build a new prison to accommodate the influx of individuals who would be revocated. Public safety is not locking people away for a crime they were charged with, rather it is making sure our local municipalities have the resources to provide public safety services.

The amendment my colleagues offered would put dollars towards increasing the WI Shared Revenue Program for our local municipalities, ensure those released on bail/bond are prohibited from obtaining a firearm within one business day, and invest in crime preventive programs and victim services. The estimated cost of our amendment is roughly $90 Million. So as I see it, there was an opportunity to be fiscally responsible and save our state $140 Million.

But for those that wonder if crime preventive programs work or not, I can tell you that they do. Not only does data prove it, but I’ve worked in crime reduction services. Working as a pretrial case worker we used risk assessments to determine the conditions of bail to ensure the safety of the public. We worked with the courts, we held folks accountable if they violated their conditions, but we also supported them when they wanted to do better and asked for help. Many of my clients needed AODA referrals and shared they wanted to address their addiction, many were struggling with mental health concerns and did not know who to turn to. A single mother with several children was homeless and lost all her belongings, but we made sure she had housing and requested vouchers on her behalf. One the young men I first worked with admitted to making some poor decisions that landed him with a pending charge. But by the time his case was finished, he finished his GED, completed Job Corps, was working at Walmart, and found a mentor in the community to keep him accountable.

That is crime reduction, that is reducing recidivism and programs like these help keep our public safe, not locking people away and with that the vote is no.