Our reporting found prisoners experience despair, suicide attempts, mental harm and lack of services in solitary confinement that can stretch on for years. An unoccupied cell in the segregation unit at Waupun Correctional Institution. The cells are small, with a narrow window and concrete and steel furnishings.
A Wisconsin Watch survey found jails across the state differ greatly in the fees they charge inmates; many do not list the information on their websites. Supervision time in Wisconsin is third-longest in the U. Prisoners recount suicide attempts, mental harm and lack of services in solitary confinement; former Waupun psychologist describes harsh treatment of inmates.
When he returned from a medical leave in early , psychologist Bradley Boivin discovered a troubling pattern among Waupun Correctional Institution inmates who had been held in solitary confinement. LaRon McKinley, who spent 28 years in administrative confinement, says the state needs to return to rehabilitation and end long-term solitary confinement.
Among the dozen requirements for special action release are that individuals are not serving a life sentence, are within 18 months of mandatory release and do not have a conviction for an assaultive crime or have a known history of assaultive behavior in or outside of prison.
While it is unclear exactly how many parole-eligible inmates would meet the criteria for the program, as of Dec.
Wisconsin DOC confirms where Chris Watts is being held
Another 1, or so inmates could be paroled only after completing sentences for non-parole eligible offenses, she said. Only about 5 percent of so-called old-law inmates have been granted parole in recent years, said David Liners, executive director of Wisdom. He said releasing half to two-thirds of the people who are parole-eligible could potentially reduce the prison population by 1, to 2, inmates.
In late April, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the reasons for refusing parole for eligible inmates who committed crimes as juveniles are unconstitutional. The current parole system, according to the ACLU of Wisconsin, "gives parole commissioners unchecked discretion to deny release. The governor appoints the commission's chairperson for a two-year term with the consent of the state Senate.
Under Scott Walker, paroles decreased significantly. In , the former governor proposed eliminating the Parole Commission and turning the responsibilities over to a gubernatorial appointee. When asked if he would favor Tate granting more paroles, Evers said he does not want to direct Tate one way or the other and trusts his judgment. Tate has told Wisconsin Public Radio that he would like to increase the number of paroles.
Said Evers: "I'm sure [Tate] will be not only fair, but he'll also believe, as I do, that we have to believe in redemption, and we have to believe in making sure people get a second chance. University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus of law Walter Dickey believes truth-in-sentencing legislation has been a major driver of the rising prison population.
Dickey was the DOC secretary from to Under the law — implemented Dec. They now receive a bifurcated sentence , which includes the time they will spend in prison and time on extended supervision following their release. Without changes to Wisconsin's current sentencing system, Dickey believes cutting the prison population in half would be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible.
Sentences, for the most part, cannot be shortened. Judges can adjust sentences, but this is not a realistic method for reducing the prison population because it would take willing judges and a return to court for each case, Dickey said. In a May report, the Badger Institute found that sentence adjustment petitions are rarely approved. Out of the 2, petitions filed in , were granted, according to the institute, which advocates for free markets and limited government.
Assembly Corrections Committee chairperson Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, does not see truth-in-sentencing going away any time soon, but he does believe changes can be made when dealing with certain offenses, such as first-time drug offenses or nonviolent crimes. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, a member of the Assembly Corrections Committee, sees truth-in-sentencing potentially being addressed in the long term. But his focus is on more immediate fixes — revocation, release and supervision — to ease overcrowding.
An area that is more likely to receive bipartisan support from the state Legislature is expanding treatment alternatives and diversion programs, such as drug courts. Instead of "warehousing someone away," treatment and diversion programs treat the problem and reduce recidivism, Rep. Michael Schraa said. We ought to be using prison as a means to achieve public safety, and if we have people who don't 'need' prison because they're not a public safety threat, then we shouldn't be using prison for them.
We should be using some other kind of correctional resource. Wisdom's David Liners said such programs are "fiscally really responsible, and the recidivism rate is much lower for people who get into TAD programs than it is for the equivalent people who go to jail.
Whichever thing we're trying to do — save money or reduce crime — they both have the same answer. On the national level, there are conversations about how states can reduce their prison populations. Both Schraa and Rep.
The Bumpy Path For Efforts To Cut Wisconsin's Prison Numbers | WisContext
Evan Goyke believe Wisconsin could cut the state prison population by thousands of inmates. Liners believes the prison population could be reduced by at least 8, in two years by ending crimeless revocations, boosting paroles and expanding diversion programs. That would bring the prison population to around 15, — the same level it was in ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice said Tony Evers could reach his goal in six years by ending crimeless revocations, expanding mental health and substance abuse treatment and broadening a judge's discretion to impose community supervision instead of prison.
The report noted, however, that racial disparities likely will persist unless explicit racial justice strategies are implemented.
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Evers said bipartisan efforts to cut prison populations are underway across the country, and Wisconsin should follow their lead. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by Wisconsin Watch do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates. View the discussion thread. Skip to main content. Izabela Zaluska. Wisconsin Watch. July 1, Noon. Image via Wisconsin Department of Corrections. An inmate is extracted from his solitary confinement cell at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel on April 28, The Boscobel prison is among the two of Wisconsin's adult prisons that are not currently over capacity.
Former Waupun Correctional Institution psychologist Bradley Boivin says double-celling inmates can create or exacerbate mental health problems.