Milwaukee County judges handed down longer sentences - a median of 65 days - for nonviolent misdemeanors than did other judges around the state, new data show.
The statewide median sentence was 30 days.
None of the offenders considered had a previous conviction for violence.
Milwaukee County also ranked near the top in the share of nonviolent misdemeanants it sent to jail. Pepin County was tops, at 43.3%; Milwaukee County clocked in at 37%; and statewide, the median was 27.7%.
There also was a racial disparity the length of sentences for those nonviolent misdemeanors in Milwaukee County, The median sentence for nonwhite defendants was 70 days, 17 percent longer than the 60-day median for whites.
The median is the midpoint, meaning half the sentences were longer than the median and half were shorter.
Statewide, there was no racial disparity in sentencing, though individual counties did show disparities -- in six counties, nonwhite defendants were sentenced to longer terms, and in 20 counties whites received longer median sentences than nonwhites.
The data, part of the new Measures for Justice portal that made its debut Tuesday, cover the years 2012-2013.
Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White said the county is in the midst of implementing a a $2 million grant Safety and Justice Challenge Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to reduce the inmate population at the jail and the House of Correction.
Reducing the "misuse and overuse of jails is the mantra they gave us," she said Wednesday.
The partners in the grant, including the courts, the district attorney's office, the public defender's office and others, are working to keep low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system, she said.
If methods other than criminal prosecution can be effective in dealing with those low-level crimes, she said, "we would have a substantially reduced caseload."
The county, according to the Safety and Justice Challenge website, is focusing on three initiatives.
The portal's data on nonviolent misdemeanors is only one of the data points that can be compared across county lines for the first time. The portal is still under development and contains data for just six states, including Wisconsin.
“The data are a treasure trove for communities that will now have access to reliable, informative, and comprehensive data about their criminal justice systems,” Amy Bach, president and executive director of Measures for Justice said in a prepared statement. “Our portal is intended to be a starting point for conversations about how to address the multiple issues facing the criminal justice system.”
There are data points a user will not find on the portal -- at least not yet. There are no statistics about specific crimes, for example. But the data that are available will provide new context to criminal justice discussions in the state.
More Wisconsin tidbits from Measures for Justice for the 2009-13 time span -- we'll be looking deeper into these in the coming weeks and months:
Adding 280 police officers to the city's payroll, as called for in a public safety plan, would cost $31.7 million per year by the fifth year of the surge, according to city budget figures.
That amount dwarfs $23.6 million budget for the entire Milwaukee Public Library system.
The additional cops would cost $29 million in the first year, then increase as officers receive annual step increases, city Budget and Management Director Mark Nicolini said in an email.
The costs include initial equipment costs of $7,285 per officer and a new $57,000 squad car for every five additional officers.
And while Common Council's Public Safety Action Plan says adding the 280 officers would restore police staffing to 2008 levels, figures from the city's budget office indicates that the increase would boost staffing levels well past those seen in 2008. That year, there was an average of 1,994 sworn officers. This year, there is an average of 1,888 sworn officers, or 106 fewer than in 2008, Nicolini said.
Adding 106 officers to the Police Department would cost $11 million the first year, increasing to $13 million in year five, according to the budget office figures.
Flip through their decisions, and it soon becomes apparent that judges in the four Wisconsin Court of Appeals districts stick together in their decisions -- there simply are not very many dissents or concurrences. Cases big and small are decided unanimously almost all the time. It's somewhat amazing, in this day of political polarization, that so many people can agree on so many cases involving so many different facts.
And state appeals judges apparently are not eager to attach their names to opinions. The opinions decided "per curiam" -- unanimously, anonymously and likely drafted by a staff attorney -- far outnumber those authored and signed by an individual judge.
We thought it would be interesting to see how the numbers actually stack up. And so we've come up with a tracker to show exactly what is happening in each district. The first day's tally is below.
Incarceration rates more than 2,000% in two Wisconsin counties and more than 1,000% in 18 counties since 1970, according to a new study from the highly-respected Vera Institute of Justice.
The biggest increase in the jail incarceration rate -- 2,598% -- was recorded in Green Lake County, in the east central part of the state. The second biggest increase was in northern Wisconsin's Vilas County, where the rate rose 2,306% from 1970 to 2014, according to data released with the the report, In Our Own Backyard: Confronting Growth and Disparities in American Jails.
Counties with increases of 1,000% or more, besides Green Lake and Vilas, include Door, Polk, Marquette, Dodge, Bayfield, Green, Taylor, Langlade, Barron, Fond du Lac, Ashland, Wood, Columbia, Waushara, Manitowoc, and Kewaunee.
The jail incarceration rate for Milwaukee County, the state's largest county, rose 191%, the 10th smallest increase among the 70 counties for which data was available.
The disparity between Milwaukee and some many smaller counties is not unusual, according to Vera.
Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice.
Nationwide, the institute said, large-county jails "have neither grown the most nor are they necessarily found in the jurisdictions with the highest incarceration rates. Rather, mid-sized and small counties—which account for the vast majority of jails have largely driven growth, with local jail populations increasing since 1970 by 4.1 times in mid-sized counties and 6.9 times in small counties. In contrast, jail populations in large counties grew by 2.8 times."
Wisconsin's female incarceration rate of 112 per 100,000 women ranks it above El Salvador where, as a new report puts it, "abortion is illegal and women are routinely jailed for having miscarriages."
Only Thailand has a higher female incarceration rate (130) than the United States (127).
"In the U.S., we are not only incarcerating women far more than nearly all other nations, but we are also incarcerating women far more than we have done in the recent past," according to the report, States of Women's Incarceration: The Global Context. "The sudden growth of incarceration in our country has been staggering; our incarceration rate nearly tripled between 1980 and 1990."
Sentencing reform? What sentencing reform? Wisconsin was a leader last year in sending more people to prison than it let out.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics Prisoners in 2014.
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