Wisconsin currently incarcerates 20,000 individuals in its state prison system and supervises over 63,000 in some form of community supervision. The state has seen its prison population steadily increase since the turn of the century, even though crime rates have decreased since 2000. Every day of imprisonment costs the state $90 for each male inmate and $103 for each female inmate.
The Department of Corrections’ budget called for $1.35 billion in taxpayer spending in 2020, eight times more than 25 years ago. This sum is only expected to increase as the state’s prison population continues to grow and age at a time when corrections costs are rising rapidly.
Racial disparities in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system are among the worst in the country. In 2019, 42% of the state’s prison population was black — six times higher than black representation in the state’s population as a whole. In some instances, it’s difficult to determine whether these disparities are a result of the system itself — police, prosecutors, courts or corrections — or whether they reflect disparities that exist elsewhere.
Wisconsin can decrease taxpayer expenditures and increase public safety concurrently by adopting the simple recommendations offered in this publication. The main areas where the state should consider implementing reform are:
- Community Supervision
- Conditions of Court Supervision
- Police Reform
- Sentence Adjustment Petitions
- Collateral Consequences
- Reentry Services
- Bail Jumping