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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Wisconsin must stop the early release of dangerous inmates now

Corrections, Legislation


Legislation will soon be introduced at the state Capitol to immediately repeal the early release privileges for convicted felons, a provision that was included in the 2009-2011 state budget. I will be a co-sponsor of the legislation to end this dangerous policy.

During last year’s state budget deliberations, I blogged, “Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society. Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.”

I added the following:

“Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, ‘A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.’

And we want to release more of them earlier? Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.”

I was also one of 45 state legislators to sign a letter to Governor Doyle requesting that he immediately stop his early release of felons. Our letter to Governor Doyle reads in part:

“In the interest of public safety and in light of the suspension of a similar program in Illinois, we are respectfully asking you to consider an immediate repeal of the early release program.

Chief among our concerns is the threat this program poses for compromising public safety. Out of the 21 offenders who were released this week, many of them have a history of serious felony convictions. Most could be classified as career criminals who have been in and out of the corrections system their entire life.

Furthermore, the fact that this program does not rely on judges, prosecutors, or law enforcement to determine whether these inmates are safe for release makes it even more likely that new crimes will be committed.


Also, communities are not being notified when these felons are being released.”

You can read the entire letter
here.

Our letter was ignored by Governor Doyle.

The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute did an independent analysis of the criminal backgrounds of the first 22 offenders released early and reports, “The 22 inmates together have been convicted of at least 150 crimes and that, in nearly 70% of the cases, judges earlier denied their requests for early release.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported last week, “
A review of court records for (Derrick) Parnell and other offenders from Milwaukee who have been released early this year shows that several of the men - convicted of a range of felonies including drug dealing and identity theft - have extensive criminal records and a history of returning to crime during previous stints on the streets.”

The incredibly risky procedure of releasing dangerous prisoners must end immediately before an innocent citizen is victimized by a freed inmate that should have been behind bars.

Governor, stop the early release of felons now

Corrections


I am one of 45 state legislators to sign a letter to Governor Doyle requesting that he immediately stop his early release of felons. Our letter to Governor Doyle reads in part:

“In the interest of public safety and in light of the suspension of a similar program in Illinois, we are respectfully asking you to consider an immediate repeal of the early release program.

Read more

Wisconsin is late on releasing prisoners early, and that’s ok

Corrections, State budget


It has been about five months since Governor Doyle signed the 2009-11 state budget that allows the early release of certain felons. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “
Not a single inmate has been released - and no money has been saved. Because of a lengthy inmate review process that must be conducted by Wisconsin Department of Corrections staff, the first inmate won't be released until next year, the agency says.”

Please take your time, everyone.

During this year’s state budget deliberations, I blogged, “Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society. Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.”

I added the following:

“Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, ‘A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.’

And we want to release more of them earlier? Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.”

While Wisconsin delays action on early release, the state of Oregon has had some experience with this issue, and we certainly do not want to have the same results.

The Oregonian reports:

“A law intended to save taxpayers $6 million by lopping time off the sentences of Oregon's nonviolent prisoners has unwittingly opened freedom's door early to hundreds of violent inmates. They include Troy Lee Hischar, who fired a bullet so close to his ex-girlfriend's skull that it clipped off a tuft of hair; Raul Peña-Jimenez, who gave a 16-year-old girl drugs and alcohol before sexually assaulting her; and Joseph Duane Betts, a convicted child molester who exposed himself to two boys.

Nearly 800 of the 2,397 inmates approved for reduced sentences were sent to prison for crimes as serious as robbery, arson and attempted murder or had previous convictions for crimes against people, The Oregonian found in an examination of state corrections data.”


There is a call to repeal the Oregon law because violent offenders were set free. 
Can we really be assured the same nightmare won’t occur here?

We cannot afford to ease up on corrections.

Letting prisoners go will cost, not save the state

Corrections, Legislation, State budget


Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society.

According to the Associated Press, the Council of State Governments Justice Center reports Wisconsin prisons are about 20 percent over capacity and that our prison population is expected to grow 21 percent in a decade, costing the state $2.5 billion. The Council of State Governments Justice Center claims its recommendations will hold the prison population level steady and save $2.3 billion.

The recommendations include putting limits on the time offenders can be out of prison on extended supervision and allowing courts to impose lesser sentences if inmates complete programs aimed to reduce danger to the public. The recommendations could be drafted as separate bills for the Legislature to consider. Governor Doyle has also proposed in his 2009-11 state budget the early release of thousands of felons and the elimination of parole for so-called nonviolent offenders.

Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.

Using FBI data and uniform crime reports, the Disaster Center has compiled Wisconsin crime rates. The number of violent crimes dropped from 13, 998 during 1997 to 11,548 during 2004. However, the number increased to 13,367 during 2005, 15, 783 during 2006, and 16,296 during 2007, the last year data is available.

Murders, property crimes, forcible rapes, aggravated assaults, burglaries, and larceny-thefts have all increased. The number of these kinds of crimes per 100,000 Wisconsin residents has also increased.

Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, “A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.”

And we want to release more of them earlier?

Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.

The National Center for Victims of Crime also keeps crime statistics. The Center reports that crime is estimated to create $105 billion in medical expenses, lost earnings, and costs for victim services.  Add in pain and suffering and a reduced quality of life, and the total estimated cost of crime comes to $450 billion annually.

Victims of violent crime and their families receive benefits and mental health counseling and there are huge medical expenses.

During the previous legislative session when I served on the state Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Corrections, I witnessed first-hand the sentiment that Wisconsin should cut back on Corrections, open the cell doors and let more prisoners go. The same risky philosophy has carried over into the current legislative session.

I do not subscribe to the theory that we cannot afford corrections, especially with various categories of violent crime are increasing. Given our economic status, the situation could get worse. The truth is the state cannot afford not to put prisoners away.