WJI is taking a look at justice-related bills adopted during the 2019-20 session.
2019 Act 111 makes possession of any unauthorized item - even if it is otherwise legal - by a person incarcerated in a jail or prison a felony punishable by up to 3 ½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The law was introduced as Senate Bill 70. Its companion bill was Assembly Bill 63.
The lead authors of SB 70 were State Senators Andre Jacque (R-DePere) and Howard L. Marklein (R-Spring Green). The lead sponsors of AB 63 were State Representatives Ron Tusler (R-Harrison) and James Edming (R-Glen Flora).
Gov. Tony Evers signed it into law on Feb. 28,2020.
No fiscal estimates were filed.
Jacque – Inmates sometimes attempt to conceal contraband in an attempt to sneak it into the facility while being booked into jail. Depending on the contraband it may or may not be a crime. Illegal drugs or an item snuck in and given to another person currently constitutes a crime, and the person can be charged. However, if the person tries to sneak something in that is not illegal to possess and keeps it for themselves at the time they are caught with it, it cannot be prosecuted beyond a rules violation, whether that item might be a phone that could facilitate other crimes, something that can be fashioned into a weapon or contain flammable liquid, or even a handcuff key, which is not illegal to possess and not a crime. These items are serious problems in a correctional setting. The idea for Senate Bill 70 came from corrections and law enforcement officers in Northeast Wisconsin, including those here to testify today.
Tusler – Unfortunately, §302.095 leaves the proverbial jailhouse door open to smuggle in items that are not already illegal to possess, for example a handcuff key, pen, or paperclip, for personal use; this loophole is being exploited and must be closed to ensure the safety of our law enforcement and corrections personnel and other inmates. While these legally-possessable items are usually found and confiscated during booking as contrary to jail or prison policy, there is no consequence for attempting to outsmart facility personnel.
Registering for the bill: AFSCME International Union, Badger State Sheriff’s Association, Washington County, Wisconsin Counties Association, Wisconsin County Police Association, Wisconsin Sheriff’s and Deputy Sheriffs Association
Registering against the bill: No one
Registering as “other”: No one
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