The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is preparing to make major changes to community supervision. These reforms will be enforced by the Division of Community Corrections (DCC), which is responsible for the supervision of 66,000 offenders on probation, extended supervision, parole and under electronic monitoring.
Some of the proposed changes can be implemented unilaterally under current DOC authority via new policies and instructions to probation and parole agents. Some appear to have already been enacted in order to temporarily reduce the inmate population during the COVID-19 crisis.
Others would require amendments to the administrative code that must be approved by the state Legislature.
If fully implemented and made permanent, the changes will significantly affect the state’s criminal justice system and should be of intense interest to regular citizens, including crime victims and taxpayers, as well as state officials involved in supervision decisions. The Department of Administration’s Division of Hearings and Appeals is responsible for revocation hearings, for instance, and must be aware of any changes to rules of supervision or supervision standards. Judges and attorneys need to know what community supervision requires of offenders before criminal sentences are determined.
While many of the details have not been made public, the Badger Institute has used information presented at a virtual town hall meeting, laid out in a DOC memo and provided by the DOC in response to specific questions to identify seven of the most significant proposed changes.
The institute also has analyzed whether the changes help achieve or detract from the depart- ment’s stated mission of “enhancing public safety through the management and reduction of offender risk by providing supervision and collaboration with community partners to assist offenders to change their behavior and repair the harm they have done.”
Effective community supervision is vital to im- proving the criminal justice system in Wisconsin. When an offender successfully completes his or her term of supervision without being revoked or being sentenced to a new term in prison, the strain is eased on an overcrowded prison system, communities are safer and more ex-offenders become contributing members of society.
Some of the proposed changes are worthwhile reforms that will reduce burdens on taxpayers and the DOC, bolster or at least maintain public safety levels and improve reintegration of ex-offenders into society; others are in need of further study.