Giving Chances

I still live on the same block I grew up on. That’s in zip code 53206. If you’re not from 53206, you’ve probably heard the statistics:

In a nation that incarcerates more per capita than any country in the world, we’re the most incarcerated zip code. 62% of our adult men have spent time behind bars. When they get out, they’ll have a 50% chance of winding up back in prison within three years, and almost half of those will be re-incarcerated because of crimeless revocations.

These numbers don’t lie. Wisconsin’s policies are failing. The Department of Corrections is supposed to correct; it says so in the name.

We spend more money on DOC than we do the UW System. If public safety is our goal, and financial responsibility our duty, then we need to address the number one funder of Wisconsin corrections: revocations.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be installing a series of columns based on the legislative packages that I’ll be putting forth this session. I have a very robust agenda this session that I want to share with you, and this week, I’m starting with revocation.

Revocation by Poverty

Being poor shouldn’t be grounds for imprisonment.

When you leave prison, you’re required to pay supervision fees and sometimes restitution fees. This means finding a job. Now, when you’ve been behind bars for years and technology around you has changed faster than you can keep up, and employers aren’t so forgiving of the fact that you have a criminal record, this can be an impossible task. Under current law, if you fail to pay these fees, you can have your probation, parole, or extended supervision revoked, and you may even be sent back to prison.

Re-entering citizens already have enough hurdles to jump over. They face job discrimination, housing discrimination, poverty, and the day-to-day struggle of re-adjusting to normal life. They don’t need the fear of re-incarceration hanging over their head.

My bill would remove this worry. Under my bill, you couldn’t have your parole, probation, or extended supervision revoked because you fail to pay a supervision or restitution fee. 

Smart Revocation

We need to be smarter when it comes to revocation. Right now, without a clear sentencing formula, the revocation process is slow and costly on our courts and correction system.  

This legislation would create a clear standard for re-sentencing guidelines.  Resentencing time for revocation would be fixed at six months, and additional extensions for prison offenses at 90 days. I’m confident that this legislation will make the revocation process smoother, more cost-effective, and help us reroute dollars to better alternatives.

Right now, the re-entry process is a vicious cycle. It needs to be a navigable road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tough love kind of woman. But, I also believe in forgiving others and helping those out who are on their last leg. Forgiveness and kindness are some of our best qualities, and our reentering citizens could use some forgiveness and kindness.

I know ex-convicts probably aren’t the first people to receive your sympathies. Everyone is capable of making mistakes, and I also believe that everyone is capable of forgiveness. This is just a sample of the legislation I’ll be proposing this session. Stay tuned as I continue to share my legislative agenda.

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