Corrections reform

Expungement reform bill news conference

Wisconsin legislators and stakeholders held a news conference on Jan. 29, 2019, to unveil the "Expungement Reform: Pathways to Employment" bill. The bill would allow individuals with misdemeanors or Class H and I felonies to also seek expungement after they serve their sentence, remove the age 25 restriction and would apply retroactively to those who served time before the new legislation.

Breaking the cycle of incarceration

Believe it or not, when law enforcement and ex-offenders come together, good things can happen. This video tells the story of Partners in Hope, a Milwaukee prisoner reentry program where cops, federal agents and prosecutors (among others) offer training, mentorship and friendship to people directly returning from prison or jail. The result is changed perspectives and transformed lives on both sides. Partners in Hope – a “force for healing,” in the words of neighborhood empowerment activist Bob Woodson – is modeled after Hope for Prisoners, a Las Vegas reentry program credited with a significant reduction in recidivism and improved community-police relations. The Badger Institute was instrumental in helping bring the Hope for Prisoners model to Milwaukee. Watch the video here. Read the press release here.


Criminal Justice Reform Recommendations

The Wisconsin Criminal Justice Coalition, led by the Badger Institute, offers policy ideas for combating recidivism, fostering opportunity, saving taxpayer money and maintaining public safety.



A historical policy dilemma

Wisconsin cannot afford to stay the course on its corrections strategy. The cost of locking up criminals in the Badger State tops $1 billion a year. How did we get here? Who are all these people we lock up, and what did they do? How do we compare to other states? Are the costs worth it? What can Wisconsin do to remain safe but rein in expenditures and also find a way to help former inmates re-enter society instead of a prison cell?


Black Robes & Blue Collars

How to let Wisconsin's judges help job-seekers and employers.

► Problems with Wisconsin’s expungement law: How the law is used and how to make it more equitable and effective 

► Sentence adjustment petitions: Are they working?


Giving hope to prisoners

An innovative program in Las Vegas helps ex-inmates — mentored by an array of volunteers including police officers, district attorneys and judges — rejoin society, the workforce and their families. Hope for Prisoners was founded in 2009 by former inmate Jon Ponder and has shown success, early research indicates. The program could serve as a model for Wisconsin and the rest of the nation.


Badger Bonds: A new way forward

Using social impact bonds — contracts between government and private-sector investors seeking to solve a social problem — is a potential solution to decreasing recidivism while increasing employment in the Badger State.


Unlocking Potential

Our full report highlighting programs across the nation that are working to reduce recidivism, which should be part of Wisconsin's corrections strategy.

Video of our Unlocking Potential event that drew more than 100 participants from law enforcement, the judiciary, the Legislature, business and faith leaders. Hope for Prisoners founder Jon Ponder (left) was featured.

Breaking the cycle

The Alma Center in Milwaukee, founded by Terri Strodthoff (left), takes on domestic violence by addressing the root causes of abuse. More than 2,000 men have participated in Alma Center programs, and the results appear dramatic. An annual internal evaluation shows an 86 percent reduction in the recidivism rate for men who complete the center's Men Ending Violence program.


An unlikely alliance

The Joseph Project connects Milwaukee job-seekers with employee-hungry businesses. Dozens of Milwaukee residents work for Sheboygan-area companies through the Joseph Project, an unusual partnership between an urban Milwaukee church and Sheboygan County manufacturers. The project is "resurrecting common sense" and creates "an expectation that people will be agents of their own uplift," says anti-poverty activist Robert L. Woodson Sr.

Removing barriers to employment

Milwaukee JobsWork takes a business approach to helping ex-inmates and chronically unemployed people who are living in generational poverty. "Our whole goal is not to take care of people in poverty; it is to help people help themselves get out of poverty," says MJW President Bill Krugler.



Skilled trades program offers a second chance

Milwaukee's Pro Trade Job Development teaches former inmates technical and life skills. The entrepreneurial, community-based model founded by Rashaad Washington has gained the attention of Milwaukee parole officers, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.



Training for a new life

The goal of MATC's machining program for offenders is to reduce recidivism and put them on a solid career path. "I've got a good job. I'm buying a house for him (his son). ... Instead of having to struggle, he'll have something. It worked out for me because I took this program," says Michael Williams (left), graduate of MATC's CNC program for offenders.


Private industry, prisons team up

Kansas inmates work inside prisons for private companies — earning their keep and learning skills for the outside. Kansas is one of only a few states that operate such a program. It has been a life-changer for hundreds of inmates, many of whom had never worked a day in their lives before participating in the private-industry prison program.