By Alexandria Staubach
During a meeting last week of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, some Republican members failed to grasp the scope and implications of a bill that would increase returns to prison.
SB 309 would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revocation of extended supervision, parole, or probation if an individual is charged with a crime while in the community. Crimes as defined in the bill include rule infractions of supervision terms.
The bill removes discretion from parole officers to evaluate the severity of a new offense and the circumstances surrounding it. Persons who otherwise may have appropriately continued supervision would automatically be referred to an administrative law judge for hearing.
Some Republican committee members insisted the bill focused on violent re-offenders.
The bill’s authors, Rep. Nik Rettinger (R-Mukwonago) and Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin), presented the bill for hearing at the meeting. Bradley reiterated several times that the bill was aimed at detaining violent criminals.
Democrats and community members contended that the bill, in its current form, contemplates much more and will further disenfranchise those on supervision in our communities. Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) questioned the bill’s authors by phone, often correcting misstatements about what the bill, as written, would in fact do.
Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) pointed out that SB 309 was not written to target violent criminals. “You say violent criminal but the bill itself, actually is, you could be charged with any crime and immediately” revoked, Roys said. She also highlighted the bill’s price tag and a failure by the authors to allocate funds for its implementation.
The Department of Corrections fiscal estimate predicted that the bill would result in an increase of 1,599 persons in the daily population of the department’s Division of Adult Institutions during the first year. Once the population is annualized, the overall population could increase by 4,673 persons after 19 months. The department projects that handling the increase would require the building of two new facilities, with a permanent increase in operation costs of approximately $209 million if the bill is enacted.
Jerome Dillard, executive director of EXPO (EX-incarcerated People Organizing) Wisconsin testified in person, highlighting the many stopgaps and penalties already in place to prevent re-offense. “Under current law, DOC uses department policies, evidence-based practices, and recommendations of violating someone for their extended supervision, parole or probation,” said Dillard. “If someone is charged with a crime, they’re not just walking the street…. That’s a narrative that’s being painted that is so untrue,” Dillard went on.
In light of the testimony given, it was clear from committee chair Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) that the bill is not in final form. Its authors committed to revisions that considered the testimony given.
The bill's sponsors are listed in the table below.
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