Madison - State Senator Jon Erpenbach questioned Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall today during the Joint Finance Committee agency briefings. The briefings are the best opportunity for members of the Joint Finance Committee to ask questions to the Secretaries who are appointed by the Governor regarding Governor Walkers budget prior to public hearings on the proposal.
“I hear every day from front line corrections officers that when they walk in the door at the beginning of their shift they are told they will be working forced overtime that day, or even worse they find out three hours before they are scheduled to leave shift. How do you have a family if you never know when you will come home from work? This is a problem that has existed in our corrections institutions for at least four years. Elimination of additional positions seems contrary to not only community, officer and prisoner safety but also to our goals of accountability to taxpayers. Why have we failed to come up with better solutions?,” questioned Senator Erpenbach.
The state budget includes elimination of 66 security positions from third tower watch at corrections facilities. The wisdom of elimination of these “last line of defense” positions was questioned at the meeting. Additionally, in the Governor’s proposed budget Wisconsin will spend more on Corrections than on UW System. That logic was questioned.
“We will spend more in this budget on Corrections that we will on the UW System. What does that say about our priorities as a state? We need to figure out ways to keep people out of prison and make their re-entry into society more successful. We have studied the issue and we know what changes we can make to lower the costs of corrections and improve outcomes but we are not doing any of those things in this Corrections budget. We are just cutting staffing and forcing more overtime for prison guards. There is no vision here,” Erpenbach said.
The Joint Finance Committee was given the opportunity to ask questions of not only Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall but also Department of Administration outgoing Secretary Mike Huebsch, Attorney General Brad Shimel and Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Agency briefings continue Tuesday and Wednesday.