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Wisconsin Democrat: Time for Prison Reform Is Now

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Wisconsin's adult prison system is so far over capacity that cells are now being double and triple-filled. A state legislator says this is causing huge problems and is suggesting big changes. (Wikimedia Commons)
Wisconsin's adult prison system is so far over capacity that cells are now being double and triple-filled. A state legislator says this is causing huge problems and is suggesting big changes. (Wikimedia Commons)
December 18, 2017

MILWAUKEE – Wisconsin sends more people to prison than any neighboring state and twice as many as Minnesota.

The cost of keeping one person in prison in Wisconsin for one year, according to the state Department of Corrections, is close to $30,000.

Wisconsin's adult prison system is designed to house 16,560 inmates, but right now it's holding more than 23,000 people.

In the state House, Milwaukee Democrat Evan Goyke says this is causing a huge problem.

"Cells are double and triple filled,” he states. “To pay for the overcrowding, $23,000 a day is spent to county jails to house state inmates, which will total $8.6 million in 2018."

Goyke points out that this money comes from the general fund and means less investment in other needed areas such as education, job creation or health care.

The new state budget allocates $1 billion for corrections spending and calls for creation of a task force to look into solutions.

While the adult prison system in Wisconsin is well over capacity, there has been a significant decline in the number of juveniles being held in the Lincoln Hills facility.

Right now there are approximately 135 boys at Lincoln Hills, which means the facility is about 70 percent vacant.

"As Lincoln Hills gets smaller, it also gets more expensive – $390 per day per juvenile,” he states. “This cost increase will lead to even fewer juveniles being sent to Lincoln Hills and highlights the challenging economic future for the facility."

Goyke's idea is to change the Lincoln Hills facility into an adult prison, and to develop smaller, regional facilities to treat juvenile offenders.

That would make available 500 more adult prison beds, which would only be part of a solution to ease crowding in the state's adult prison system.

Goyke says the Legislature needs to work on smart, innovative solutions for criminal justice reform.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI