Criminal Justice

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Our Guiding Principles on Criminal Justice Reform

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.

Coalition urges passage of expungement bill

Conservative organizations, business groups support commonsense reforms
June 3, 2021

Ensuring Safety, Sobriety and Savings

The new age of electronic monitoring
By Patrick Hughes
May 2021

Proposed expungement law would mostly help misdemeanants

Eighty-seven percent of people who would qualify for an expungement under proposed legislation have never committed anything more serious than a misdemeanor, according to new data from the Badger Institute.
By Julie Grace
May 6, 2021

Julie Grace and Jenna Bottler: Wisconsin voters overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform

In a state where voters split on nearly everything, we can all agree on the need for criminal justice reform.
By Julie Grace and Jenna Bottler
May 1, 2021

Statewide Criminal Justice Poll

A majority of voters believe the state’s criminal justice system needs significant improvements, nearly three-quarters believe expungement law needs reform, among other findings.
April 7, 2021

It's Time to Reform Wisconsin's Expungement Law

The Badger Institute recently hosted a virtual discussion with two Wisconsinites who have seen firsthand the need for expungement reform: State Public Defender Kelli Thompson and Shanyeill McCloud, founder of Clean Slate Milwaukee.

‘A breath of fresh air’

Expungement reform would open new opportunities for grandmother, teacher
By Julie Grace
March 22, 2021

Few marijuana offenders in prison

Incarceration is rare for pot-only convictions; coupled with municipal policies, Wisconsin has, in effect, decriminalized marijuana.
By Julie Grace
March 2021

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 in its second edition of Criminal Justice Reform Recommendations.
February 2021

Policy Priorities: Criminal Justice

Wisconsin’s criminal justice landscape and ideas for reform
By David Fladeboe and Julie Grace
February 2021

Florida’s corrections data law: A model for Wisconsin

If Wisconsin policymakers want to reform the state’s criminal justice system in a way that achieves better outcomes for taxpayers, communities and offenders, they will need detailed, accurate and robust data.

Reforming Community Supervision

Review and recommendations
By Patrick Hughes
January 2021

Just the Facts

A trilogy of reports looking at police use of force, police discipline, and violent crime
By Patrick Hughes and Julie Grace
November 2020

Q&A with Kevin McMahill

A cop's toughest call: if and when to use force to apprehend a suspect
By Mike Nichols

Police use of force rare here

What happened in Kenosha is an anomaly, defying the critics' charge that police violence is systemic
By Patrick Hughes and Mike Nichols

With police in retreat, view from Fond du Lac Ave. is bleak

Cutting cops unnecessarily to placate protesters will do nothing to help George Floyd or Jacob Blake
By Mike Nichols

Violent: a matter of definition

The state labels thousands of offenders violent when they've never committed an act of violence
By Julie Grace

How to Make Police Discipline Fair, Quick, Transparent and Decisive

Disciplinary actions against police officers in Wisconsin’s largest cities, whether for use of force or anything else, are rare
By Patrick Hughes
October 2020

Wisconsin DOC classifies as violent many more offenses than does the FBI

State needs better crime data to get an accurate picture of who’s incarcerated here and why
By Julie Grace
September 2, 2020

Police Use of Force: How common is it?

A call for greater transparency
By Patrick Hughes
August 2020

Informed communities are safer communities

Wisconsin needs criminal justice data collection and reporting legislation
By Patrick Hughes
July 7, 2020

Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System in Wisconsin

What we know thus far
By Mike Nichols, Patrick Hughes and Julie Grace
July 2020

State budget realities make new prison construction unlikely

Policymakers will need to look to reforms to address overcrowding issues
By Patrick Hughes
June 4, 2020

Timing important on compassionate release

Move would stress support and health care systems throughout the state
By Patrick Hughes
April 22, 2020

Claim that violent crime is up 24% statewide is wrong

Badger Institute analysis shows the rate is much lower, and complicated crime reporting makes comparisons difficult
By Julie Grace
February 26, 2020

Unintended Consequences

Revoking supervision for ex-offenders accused of new crimes would cost taxpayers without improving public safety
By Patrick Hughes
February 20, 2020

Problems with prosecutor funding in Wisconsin

The current system is vulnerable to politics and perverse incentives
By Julie Grace and Patrick Hughes
January 10, 2020

Why hiring the previously incarcerated is good business

An employer handbook
By Julie Grace and Thomas Lyons
November 2019

Ex-Offenders Under Watch

Two studies look at Wisconsin's complex community corrections system and why many on supervision are failing
By Cecelia Klingele, Julie Grace and Patrick Hughes
July 2019

Expungement reform would put people back to work

Wisconsin’s law, which requires a judge to decide on expungement at the time of sentencing, is unlike any in the nation.
By Julie Grace
April 11, 2019

Proven successes in criminal justice reform

How can Wisconsin improve its criminal justice system? Representatives from the University of Wisconsin, Right on Crime, and the Charles Koch Institute discuss areas for reform.
Featuring Cecelia Klingele, Tom Lyons and Jeremiah Mosteller
February 20, 2019

Ban the Box Policies

Fair-chance hiring laws may hurt the job-seekers they aim to help
February 2019

Breaking the cycle of incarceration

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.
November 14, 2018

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.
October 2018

Black Robes & Blue Collars

How to let Wisconsin's judges help job-seekers and employers.
The report includes two policy briefs:
► Problems with Wisconsin's Expungement Law: How the Law is Used and How to Make It More Equitable and Effective
► Sentence Adjustment Petitions: Is this Truth-in-Sentencing Provision Really Working?
May 2017

Rising prison population will force state to consider options, DOC secretary says

Litscher: "We're in a slow creep"
By Michael Flaherty
February 23, 2017

Unlocking Potential: Full Program

The Badger Institute's "Unlocking Potential" event in Milwaukee drew more than 100 participants representing law enforcement, the judiciary, the Legislature, business, community groups and faith leaders. The discussion focused on how ex-inmates, with help from one of their own and the same cops who once pursued them, can find a way back to their families and jobs.
February 14, 2017

Unlocking Potential

Wisconsin cannot afford the status quo on its corrections policy. Programs across the nation that are working to reduce recidivism should be part of the state's strategy.
Authors include Michael Flaherty, Marie Rohde, Michael Jahr, Janet Weyandt, Joe Stumpe and Gerard Robinson.
December 2016

Should Wisconsin Allow Commercial Bail in Pretrial Release?

Evidence suggests that there are ways to minimize the risk of non-appearance while avoiding unnecessary detention of defendants.
By Kate Lind
March 2013

Why Milwaukee's Police are More Effective Than Their Teachers

MPS has a fundamental lack of focus. Instilling accountability will require a structural and cultural transformation similar to the one the Milwaukee Police Department has undergone — one that revolves around measurable objectives.
By Mike Nichols
September 2011

Stopping the Revolving Door: Reform of Community Corrections in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s criminal justice system is marked by a pronounced cycle of crime followed by incarceration followed by parole followed by repeated crime.
By Kate Lind
July 2009

Consolidating Dane County Law Enforcement Agencies

An examination of potential cost savings
By Dennis Winters
May 2002

Outstanding Warrants in Milwaukee County

Fugitives from the justice system
By Jean White
June 2000

Privatizing Parole and Probation in Wisconsin

The path to fewer prisons
By George Mitchell
April 1999

Private Prison-Industry Enterprises

Is it an idea whose time has come (again)?
By Sammis White
May 1998

The Truth About Sentencing in Wisconsin

Plea bargaining, punishment, and the public interest
By George Mitchell and David Dodenhoff
March 1998

Casinos and Crime in Wisconsin

What's the connection?
By William Thompson, Ricardo Gazel and Dan Rickman
November 1996

Who Really Goes to Prison in Wisconsin?

A profile of urban inmates in Wisconsin prisons
By John DiIulio and George Mitchell
April 1996

Prison Works

As Wisconsin spends more money on its correctional system, this report analyzes how much value citizens are getting
By George Mitchell
August 1995

Broken Bottles

Liquor, Disorder, and Crime in Wisconsin
By John DiIulio Jr.
May 1995

Community-Based Policing in Wisconsin

Can it cut crime?
By John DiIulio Jr.
October 1993

Probation in Wisconsin

Every day in the state of Wisconsin, there are approximately 45,000 convicted criminals who are still under sentence and are living in our neighborhoods and communities
By Anne Morrison Piehl
August 1992

Parole in Wisconsin

On any given day, 83% of the offenders who have been convicted of a serious crime in Wisconsin are not in prison: they are on the streets, while 17% of criminals are in Wisconsin prisons
By George Mitchell
June 1992

Crime and Punishment in Wisconsin

A survey of prisoners and an analysis of the net benefit of imprisonment in Wisconsin
By John DiIulio Jr.
December 1990