Wisconsin’s criminal justice system largely fails both the population it is meant to serve as well as the taxpayers footing the bill. Our prisons are overcrowded, spending on corrections is increasing and too many returning citizens struggle to integrate back into their communities. Here we offer the Badger Institute’s guiding principles that inform our work and research related to criminal justice reform.
Wisconsin’s law, which requires a judge to decide on expungement at the time of sentencing, is unlike any in the nation.
Badger Institute policy analyst Julie Grace testifies in Madison before the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee in support of Senate Bill 39, which will make necessary reforms to Wisconsin's expungement law.
► Read the transcript of her presentation.
► Watch a video excerpt of her testimony.
How can Wisconsin improve its criminal justice system? In this video, Cecelia Klingele, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Tom Lyons, state director for Wisconsin Right on Crime, and Jeremiah Mosteller, policy liaison for the Charles Koch Institute, discuss potential areas for reform. Their presentation was delivered at the Badger Institute’s Policy Symposium in February 2019.
Policy brief says fair-chance hiring policies may hurt the job-seekers they aim to help. While the goals of BTB policies are noble and reducing recidivism rates should be a priority, leaders should resist simple acceptance of BTB as a tried-and-true solution.
Wisconsin legislators and stakeholders unveil the "Expungement Reform: Pathways to Employment" bill, which would allow individuals with misdemeanors or Class H and I felonies to seek expungement after they serve their sentence, remove the age 25 restriction and apply retroactively to those who served time before the new legislation.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
► 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.