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undeterred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-09-09 02:42 PM
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Both Dems, GOP irked as gov strips budget of key prison release terms
Steven Elbow 7/09/2009 1:17 pm

No one expected critics of Gov. Jim Doyle's plan to allow criminal offenders a way to get out of prison early to be happy with its inclusion in the state budget.

"Citizens of Wisconsin beware: Thousands of dangerous criminals will be out of jail early and they may soon be coming to a neighborhood near you," Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, fumed in a press release after Gov. Jim Doyle signed his "earned release" plan into law as part of the budget last week. The plan has also been criticized by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

But the final version of sentencing reform that Doyle signed into law disappointed some within Doyle's own party as well. "What the governor did was a start, but we could have accomplished so much more," says state Rep. Joe Parisi, D-Madison, chairman of the Assembly Corrections Committee.

Doyle's plan represents a sea change in the tough-on-crime philosophy that dominated debate on corrections for the past two decades. It would make all but the most violent offenders and sex offenders potentially eligible for early release, just as they were under the old system of parole, before truth-in-sentencing legislation took effect in 1999 to make offenders serve the entire duration of their sentence. Parole was renamed "extended supervision," and was also part of the mandatory sentence, to be served in full.

Doyle's earned release plan was presented last spring as a way to chip away at a burgeoning prison population, which grew by 14 percent between 2000 and 2007 and is projected to balloon by another 25 percent by 2019, costing the state $2.5 billion in prison construction and operating costs.

But Democrats wanted more. They inserted several additional sentencing reform measures into the budget, only to see most of their efforts fall victim to the Democratic governor's veto pen.

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midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-10-09 12:45 AM
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1. I just read this once, but it sounds like the Gov. is doing
what needed to be done a while ago. The tough on crime crowd needs to turn their agnst to creating jobs, and not prisons.
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 08:50 AM
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2. Wisconsin took the wrong turn in about 1988, during the Thompson Administration,
when the politicians decided that incarceration was the all-purpose solution for crime. As a result, WI's prison population went from about 5,000 to about 25,000. Contrast that with Minnesota next door, which has a very similar population in terms of racial mix, economics, and absolute size. MN opted to get creative with alternative sentencing, and as a result they now have maybe 7,000 in their prisons--and their crime rate has almost exactly paralleled that of WI over the past couple of decades. That is, WI's crime rate seems to be entirely independent of its incarceration rate. Prison doesn't work.

What does work is a combination of psychotherapy and jobs. The canadians showed decades ago that they could cut their recidivism rates about in half by providing appropriate treatment to their criminals. The Canadians used simple, cheap cognitive-behavioral therapy, administered in groups, to reduce recidivism. However, the more resources you put into therapy, the greater will be the payoffs. Almost all "habitual criminals" have alcohol/drug problems, and almost all have underlying issues of childhood dysfunction, abuse and neglect driving both their addictions and their crimes. When you do individual therapy that reaches these issues, you will get corresponding increases in rehabilitation. (As an aside, let me mention that one unrecognized but major side-benefit of universal health care would be the reduction in the crime rate that would accompany widely available psychotherapy. You wouldn't believe the number of times I have recommended psychotherapy for individual offenders but had no way of providing it for them.)

However, regardless of what efforts you put into improving the psychological condition of criminals, all your efforts will go for nothing if you don't train them for work and then employ them. Take someone whose only skills involve burglary and car theft. Throw him out on the street with no food, no money, and no job. What do you predict that he will do?
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sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 12:37 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. You got it, Jack.
I really appreciate your expertise in this area, but I've long thought the same. :-)
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dragonlady Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-12-09 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Let us not forget
that all the while a felon is in prison and on any kind of probation or parole, he or she cannot vote in Wisconsin. Considering the demographic makeup of the prison population (and the Thompson administration likely did consider it), that is probably quite a few Democratic votes lost over the years. And as you point out, failing to provide rehabilitation makes it less likely that they will ever get their voting rights back again. The ACLU is working on getting laws passed to restore the voting rights of everyone released from prison. That would let them feel like they could participate on an equal footing in at least one respect.

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