Court Watch

Vukmir Bill Will Cause Prison Bed Shortage

State prisons already overcrowded; bill would add 1,800 inmates, cost $57 million per year.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Nov 14th, 2017 12:49 pm
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Leah Vukmir. Photo from LeahVukmir.com

Leah Vukmir. Photo from LeahVukmir.com

The State Department of Corrections was unsure it could find enough contract beds in jails to house prison overflows even before State Sen. Leah Vukmir introduced a bill that could increase the prison population by an estimated 1,800 inmates per year, records show.

Vukmir (R-Brookfield), who is running for the U.S. Senate, is co-author of a bill that would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revocation of probation or extended supervision for anyone charged with a new violent misdemeanor or any felony.

The State Senate approved the bill this week. Recidivism is down sharply in Wisconsin.

DOC already was expecting that new, tougher drunk driving laws would mean that an additional 1,205 inmates would be sentenced to prison by the end of the law’s second year, DOC said in its 2017-19 budget request.

The department’s adult division already is contracting for beds in county jails to house prison inmates, the budget request said. “It is believed there are not enough contract beds available around the state to house the projected populations,” DOC said in its budget request.

The department, projected a need for 695 contract inmate beds in fiscal 2018 and 1,902 contract beds in fiscal 2019.

DOC estimates Vukmir’s revocation bill would send an additional 1,800 people to prison per year and cost the state $57 million per year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

There has not yet been any official fiscal estimates made of the overall cost of the bill, according to public documents available on the Legislature’s website. The Journal Sentinel reported that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has hired the Council of State Governments to estimate the cost, something generally done by state agencies.

In public hearing testimony, Vukmir said that “Wisconsin’s approach to criminal justice should be a two-pronged philosophy. Ensuring violent repeat offenders are no longer terrorizing our communities is as equally important as implementing alternatives to incarceration, if not more so.”

Recidivism is down sharply in Wisconsin. Source: Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Recidivism is down sharply in Wisconsin. Source: Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Her bill, however, would ensnare far more than violent offenders — it would force a revocation recommendation if a person picked up any felony – even second offense marijuana possession –  while on probation or parole.

The Senate bill also provides no relief for individuals cleared of a crime or found not guilty in court. The Assembly version of the bill allows the department to change its recommendation if either of those things occur.

Vukmir’s proposal, according to the State Public Defender’s office, “will have several impacts which are more severe than perhaps anticipated by the author.”

The Senate bill provides no relief for individuals cleared of a crime or found not guilty in court.

One issue is a “potentially unconstitutional burden shift for extended periods of incarceration,” the public defender’s office said in March testimony.

There are times that new charges are not pursued in cases involving people on supervision; their status is simply revoked and they go to prison. Revocation does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as convicting someone does; it requires only the same probable cause standard a prosecutor needs to issue charges, the agency said.

In addition, a violation during a term of supervision can result in re-incarceration for the full term, it said. A person serving 10 years of extended supervision who commits a crime in the ninth year can be incarcerated for the full 10 years, the agency said.

“This bill may result in a significant number of new prison terms, which will neither be cost effective nor have a substantially beneficial impact on future criminal behavior,” the public defenders office said.

And the League of Women Voters was short and sweet: “With the Wisconsin prison population on the rise, removal of DOC discretion here is similar to increasing mandatory sentencing, the continued expansion of a bloated Corrections budget.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

15 thoughts on “Court Watch: Vukmir Bill Will Cause Prison Bed Shortage”

  1. Terry says:

    Hey Vukmir, the 80’s called! They want their utterly failed “tough on crime” policies back! Along with that tacky pink blazer! This bill is what the big government nanny state control freak republicans call “small limited government”. Pass more laws, criminalize more behavior, send more people to the private and state prison dungeons, trample on logic and basic civil rights, go broke as a state doing so, crime rises anyways, then rinse and repeat. Vukmir is a very sad delusional woman to say the least. Forget her and the other angry bitter old timey republicans. It’s time to fire her and career politician big government moocher Scott Walker

  2. Terry says:

    Dump Walker and Vukmir. Legalize cannabis.

  3. WashCoRepub says:

    By keeping criminals out of communities, the law-abiding people who wish to live there in peace, can thrive. The answer to overcrowded prisons, of course, is to build another prison, and overbuild it in terms of size. High crime rates are devastating to communities both socially and economically, and it leads to multi-generation criminality and poverty, as the children of criminals are raised in socially maladjusted (and often violent) households.

    Break the cycle. Get them off the streets and keep them off the streets. Thank you, Leah Vukmir!

  4. Terry says:

    @WashCoRepub, how is locking up overwhelmingly peaceful, hard working, tax paying, loving, caring, responsible adult users of cannabis reducing violent crime, poverty, hopelessness? Answer. IT’S NOT! Fire Walker and Vukmir! End the failed war on cannabis!

  5. Sam says:

    This is Vukmir boosting her “tough on crime” credentials before the election next year. The legislation is not terribly well thought out, but it plays well in headlines. She is the type of Senator I don’t want representing me.

  6. Wifather2000 says:

    Incarceration is an excellent form of voter suppression and as an added bonus it also makes a released prisoner more apt, or forced, to work for whatever wages and conditions the plantation manager offers! A real plus for any right wing supporter.

  7. Mark E. Bye says:

    It’s all a part of the Republican plan. How could you *not* build that new, privatized facility in Green Bay when the prison population is bursting at the seams? Build it and they will come!

  8. Ken Pickett says:

    Mark Bye you’re using one of my lines, fact is I Borrowed it from Field of Dreams!😜

  9. Terry says:

    What else do you expect from the vile evil woman who denied babies and little kids with epilepsy and other serious medical conditions the safe, effective medicine they needed, forcing these good families to flee the state? What type of wicked person does that? Even Scott Fitzgerald said “this is why people hate politicians” in tesponse to her grandstanding on the CBD issue. He’s right. We hate her. Dump Vukmir!

  10. Terry says:

    The Prison Industrial Complex in Wisconsin is disgusting! Fact: Entire small town communities throughout the state but mostly in rural white communities are single handedly supported by the jobs in their prisons, prisons filled with Nonviolent low level drug offenders who are overwhelmingly black and from poor totally disenfranchised communities. So sick! Dump Vukmir!

  11. Jake currently of the MKE says:

    She’s an ALEC prostitute.

  12. Jake currently of the MKE says:

    Republicans are heartless and cruel in their core.

  13. Big Al says:

    @WashCoRepub – then pony up the additional taxes to build all the new prisons. No such thing as a free lunch.

  14. 22 years of civil service says:

    ‘The Prison Industrial Complex in Wisconsin is disgusting! Fact: Entire small town communities throughout the state but mostly in rural white communities are single handedly supported by the jobs in their prisons, prisons filled with Nonviolent low level drug offenders who are overwhelmingly black and from poor totally disenfranchised communities. So sick! Dump Vukmir!’

    Lie after lie.
    1- Even in the most rural areas, prisons only employ a few hundred people- far too few to support a community of 10,000.
    2-MOST prison employees do not live in the communities where prisons are built, they commute from more suburban areas.
    3-68 percent of all inmates in prison are convicted of violent offenses.
    4-less than 20 percent are convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
    5-40 percent of the Wisconsin prison population is black- that is a disgustingly disproportionate number- but FAR from an ‘OVERWHELMING’ majority.

  15. Terry says:

    Lies!
    1) I never mentioned anything about 10,000 people or community size.
    2) Never said anything about people commuting vs living in town.
    3) I’d like to see your sources and what constitutes a violent crime. Is drunk driving on there in WI? Smashing people to bits while drunk is pretty violent.
    4)See #3, got any sources and what constitutes nonviolent crime?
    5) Glad you agree!
    NEXT!!

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