Citing falling crime rates and the ineffectiveness of mandatory minimum sentencing, five current and former Wisconsin law enforcement officials joined with colleagues from around the nation to support sentencing reform efforts pending in Congress.
"Our experience has shown us that the country can reduce crime while also reducing unnecessary arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration," said the letter to four congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Wisconsin signers include Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, former Dane County Sheriff Richard Raemisch, former Menomonee Falls Police Chief David Steingraber, and Appleton Police Chief Todd L. Thomas.
While the average prison stay has increased 36% since 1990, the letter said, "Research studies now show that increasing incarceration has diminishing returns on crime, and played only a modest role in the crime decline the country experienced since 1990. Policing and economic factors played a greater role."
Excessive sentences can actually increase crime, as those sentenced for less serious crimes learn new criminal tricks while in prison, the letter said.
"We believe that reforming mandatory minimums will help reduce crime and reduce our prison population and costs," the law enforcement professionals wrote. "We know from our experience as leaders in law enforcement that we can reduce crime and punish offenders appropriately without relying on these excessive and arbitrary laws."
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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