By Gretchen Schuldt
A County Board committee has recommended, 3-1, rejecting a proposal to support minimum bail for some people charged with crimes.
Instead, the Intergovernmental Relations Committee unanimously recommended the state adopt a program similar to New Jersey's, which allows preventive detention of people who have been found by a validated risk-assessment tool to pose a significant danger to the community, and allows release of defendants charged with less serious and non-violent offenses.
County Supervisor Patti Logsdon sought support for bills in the legislature that would require a minimum $5,000 bail for anyone accused of a crime who had previously been convicted of bail jumping and a $10,000 bail for anyone accused of a violent misdemeanor or any felony.
"These people – they're not following the law," Logsdon told the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
"If you have a felony conviction in the past, you should have a bail set...They need to be put in our jail or House of Correction until we find the facts of it," Logsdon said.
She said existence of the minimum bails could also be "a good consideration for them to think before they do the crime."
If Darrell Brooks Jr. had not been released from the Milwaukee County Jail on $1,000 bail, she said, the six people he allegedly killed in the Waukesha parade tragedy "would still be with us."
Committee members agreed, as has District Attorney John Chisholm, that Brooks should not have been released.
Supervisor Anthony Staskunas said he believed the resolution supporting the New Jersey program would be a better way to deal with pre-trial defendants and any threat they may pose. That resolution was introduced by Supervisors Shawn Rolland, Ryan Clancy, and Willie Johnson Jr.
"These people aren't convicted of anything yet," Staskunas said. "They're presumed innocent."
The minimum-bail proposals, he said, are "unfunded mandates to stuff our House of Correction and stuff our jail when we don't have any room and not give us any money to do anything."
Clancy, who is not a committee member, spoke against Logsdon's proposal at the meeting, noting the need to look at data and "what actually works, rather than what feels like justice."
"I understand the desire for justice in this case (the Waukesha parade tragedy) in particular as well as in others, but this resolution does not get us closer to justice, but to vengeance," he said. The "people of Milwaukee County deserve safety, not punitive retribution."
"Higher bails do not keep us safe," Mia Noel, founder and director of the Milwaukee Freedom Fund, told the committee. "They keep poor people in jail for months," she said. "Additionally, it costs Wisconsin taxpayers millions of dollars a year to keep poor people in jail."
Johnson was the only committee member to support Logsdon's resolution. Supervisors Joseph Czarnezki, who is committee chair and a WJI Board member, Staskunas, and Sequanna Taylor opposed it.
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