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ROC Wisconsin

Restore Our Communities (ROC Wisconsin)
There are two opportunities in the very near future to let your voice be heard on matters of great concern to the Restore Our Communities (ROC Wisconsin) campaign for criminal justice reform.

1. The Department of Corrections is accepting comments on potential changes to the Administrative Rules that affect "inmate classification, sentence, and release provisions". We are asking the Department to make two very specific changes: One is to make it a priority for parole-eligible people in prison to be placed in assignments that will help them to complete the requirements for their release. The other is for the DOC to identify and assist people who are eligible for "compassionate release" to get through that process.

We have until November 1 to send in comments.

The address to send those comments is

To download a sample comment to send regarding Parole-Eligible People, click HERE.
To download a sample comment regarding Compassionate Release, click HERE

2. There is a bill working its way through the legislature right now that is about building a new prison in Green Bay. Essentially, the bill calls for the state to sell the current prison (and its very valuable land on the Fox River) to the Village of Allouez. If needed, they would rent it back until a new prison is completed. In the meantime, the state would contract with a private firm to build a new prison on some less-valuable farmland. When it is done, the state would lease the prison from the builder.

We are not opposed to closing the Green Bay prison. We need to be clear, however, that we do not need to build a new prison.

Through common sense reforms (e.g. ending Crimeless Revocations, fixing the Parole system, increasing TAD funding), we can reduce the prison population enough so we will have no need for a replacement prison.

To download WISDOM's position paper on this, click HERE.

Right now, the bill is before the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection. You can send comments to the Chair and the other Senators on the Committee:

Senator Duey Stroebel, Chair;
Senator David Craig;
Senator Chris Kapenga;
Senator Bob Wirch;
Senator Tim Carpenter;

Support is Building for Alternatives to Incarceration: Show YOUR support!
Counties around the state are considering resolutions calling for the state to increase Treatment Alternatives and Diversions (TAD) funding by $15 million per year.  TAD is a state program that gives grants to counties so they can implement or expand programs for people with addictions and/or mental health issues.  The program has been extensively studied, and has shown that every $1 spent on TAD saves taxpayers $2 in incarceration costs.  Not only that, people who participate in TAD programs are less likely to commit another crime than people who spend time in jail or prison.  

TAD saves money and keeps us safer: seems like a common sense way to invest money!

That is what County Boards around the state are saying.  This week, three County Supervisors in Madison who have worked with MOSES (the WISDOM affiliate there) to craft a resolution calling for the state to increase TAD funding by $15 million.  At least six other counties are looking to do the same thing.

As our state looks for ways to invest in the well-being of its people, a maximum investment in TAD makes a lot more sense than planning for new prisons.  Before committing hundreds of millions for new prisons, our state should first put $15 million more into TAD.  It can help Wisconsin stay in step with other states, both "red" and "blue" (like Texas, Michigan and New Jersey) that are closing prisons every year, and are watching their crime rates drop as they do.

To find out if your County Board is helping to promote a TAD increase, or to get involved in the campaign to reduce Wisconsin's prison population, contact us at

There is No Chairperson for the Parole Commission

That might not sound very urgent to you, but it is very urgent for the 3,000 people in Wisconsin's prisons who are eligible for Parole.  No one can be released on parole without the approval of the Chairperson of the Parole Commission.   Please call Governor Walker, 608-266-1212.  Tell him that he needs to appoint a Chairperson for the Parole Commission IMMEDIATELY, and that the new Chair needs to unclog the bureaucracy that is keeping people in prison long after they should have been released.  Then, please call the offices of your State Senator and State Assembly Representative. Ask them to contact the Governor and tell him to fix the parole system. Learn about the broken parole system Here

Thirsting for Justice - ROC Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s overuse of jails and prisons is out of control.  A few facts give a sense of the overwhelming failure of our state’s criminal justice system:
  • Wisconsin has the nation’s highest rate of incarceration for African American males AND for Native American males;
  • Over half of all African American men from Milwaukee County in their 30s and early 40s have been or are incarcerated;
  • The Wisconsin prison population has more than tripled since 1990;
  • Wisconsin spends over $1.3 billion per year on the Department of Corrections.  The state’s Corrections budget passed the University of Wisconsin budget as the destination for taxpayer dollars.
Our state's commitment to mass incarceration has reached a point where it has broken the system. The most basic problem is not too few guards, too few programs or mismanagement.  The biggest problem is that we have far too many prisoners. Find out more here.

"We have a Department of Corrections with deep, deep problems that are causing a lot of harm to many people and that are costing us a lot of money; and we have a lot of people on the government payroll who don't seem very interested.  Both of those things have to change." David Liners, WISDOM

Why Mass Incarceration Doesn’t Pay New York Times Opinion April 21, 2016

Wisconsin Council on Children and Families – Incarceration and Children

According to the new KIDS COUNT® policy report, A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities, 88,000 children living in Wisconsin have experienced the separation of a parent who served time in jail or prison. Nationally, more than 5 million children have a parent that has been incarcerated. The effects of incarceration, the report says, can have as much impact on children’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. Read the Report

President Obama Announced Changes to the Federal Prison System

On January 25 Obama announced changes to the federal prison system that include banning solitary confinement for juvenile offenders and for prisoners who have committed low-level infractions, calling the practice overused and potentially devastating. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Obama invoked the case of Kalief Browder, a young man who spent nearly two years in solitary confinement after he was thrown in jail in 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack when he was 16.  Read article here

U.S. Bishops Support Sentencing Reform 
Read the Bishop’s letter to members of the Congressional Judiciary Committee here.

11X15 – A Breakthrough for Prison Reform?

On July 1 Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent out the statement below in his newsletter to constituents. ACTION: If you are a constituent of Rep. Sensenbrenner, please take a moment to send him a note of support and thanks for his work on federal criminal justice reform. Ask him to use his influence with state of Wisconsin senators and representatives to do the same for the state of WI. Contrary to his comment about Wisconsin, we have not been a leader in criminal justice system reform. Email Rep Sensenbrenner here.

From Rep. Sensenbrenner’s July 1 Newsletter

A Monumental Step Forward for Criminal Justice Reform
As we celebrate Independence Day, we are reminded of the values our nation’s founders fought tirelessly to safeguard: individual liberty, equal justice under the law and limited government.

After leading the House Judiciary Committee’s Over-Criminalization Task Force for a year and a half, I have seen firsthand how these most basic principles of freedom and fairness have fallen by the wayside in our criminal justice system. Our jails are overcrowded, our criminal code is convoluted and our taxpayer dollars are being wasted.

The United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, but holds 25 percent of the world’s prison population. From 1980 to 2013, the number of incarcerated offenders in federal prisons skyrocketed from 24,000 to more than 215,000. Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25 percent of the entire Department of Justice budget.

Despite this dramatic rise in incarceration rates, crime rates have remained stagnant. And even with the startling increase in prison spending, more than 40 percent of released offenders return to prison within three years of their release—proving yet again that big government does not mean better government. Something must be done, not just from a fiscal perspective, but a moral perspective.

Read the full statement here.

New WISDOM Video that documents the benefits of Treatment Alternatives and Diversions over incarceration.