Criminal Justice Reform

As of December 2018, 23,374 people were incarcerated in Wisconsin state prisons including 21,848 men and 1,526 women. Annually, taxpayers pay approximately $32,450 for each male and $36,570 for every female prisoner at a total cost of $1.4 billion per year.

Although recent discussion has focused on criminal justice reform at the federal level, the majority of those jailed in the United States are incarcerated at the state level. State incarceration rates of sentenced criminals in 2016 showed Wisconsin had the second highest rate in the Midwest at 383 per 100,000 of population. (Minnesota – 191, Iowa – 286, Illinois – 341, Michigan – 414).

I’ve worked with my fellow Assembly Republicans on common sense reform initiatives to ensure those who commit crimes are held accountable, but at the same time improve various aspects of the state’s criminal justice system.

This includes funding to provide an additional 61 Assistant District Attorney (ADA) positions across the state along with increase pay for ADA’s and State Public Defenders. Ensuring adequate representation by public defenders as well as sufficiently staffing prosecutors will provide access to a speedy and fair trial as guaranteed by the 6th Amendment.

Every state is obligated to provide and fund legal representation for indigent criminal defendants guaranteed through the U.S. Supreme Court 1963 decision in Gideon v Wainwright. Private bar attorneys are assigned approximately 58,000 indigent criminal overflow cases annually, equaling about 40% of Wisconsin’s public defender cases.

Currently, at $40 per hour, Wisconsin pays the lowest reimbursement rate in the nation for private attorneys appointed public defender cases. Our proposal will increase the hourly rate to $70. Furthermore, counties will receive increased funding for their court appointments, 75% of which are guardian ad litem cases providing representation for children.

Another aspect of the proposal addresses drug and alcohol addiction by expanding Treatment Alternative and Diversion (TAD) programs. Instead of prison, TAD directs non-violent offending drug or alcohol abusers into treatment programs they are required to complete, thereby addressing the addiction that generally caused their criminal activities.     

Lastly, our initiatives concentrate on transitioning inmates who’ve completed their sentence into society. Without productive skills, ex-offenders are more likely to re-offend.  This initiative will expand worker training, re-entry programs, and pre-release health initiatives.

These proposals are common sense reforms that stop the revolving door into our prison system while ensuring Wisconsin remains a safe place to work, raise a family, and retire.