Back in September, I wrote about the reforms to Wisconsin’s Truth in Sentencing laws that were enacted as a part of Wisconsin Act 28, and at the time I noted a good number of violent felony offenses would be statutorily eligible for early release from prison and/or early discharge from extended supervision or parole.
The Cap Times is reporting Democrats in Madison are getting ready to reintroduce several sentencing reform measures that were not included in Act 28, including a proposal which would cap at 90 days the amount of time an offender would spend in prison for rule violations that don’t constitute a new crime. The Cap Times notes the measures being re-introduced are unlikely to pass, and I can only hope the Cap Times’ assessment is correct. In my opinion, capping the amount of time an offender can spend in prisons for rule violations is a terrible idea, because rule violations obviously have varying degrees of seriousness. For instance, absconding from supervision, whether for one month or ten years, is a simple rule violation, but does that mean absconding from supervision for a year only merits a 90 day stay in prison?
What about absconding and leaving the State of Wisconsin? Let’s say an offender absconds from supervision for three years and is caught in another state – do those rule violations warrant just 90 days in prison?
What about an offender who has contact with a victim, in violation of a no-contact rule placed on the offender by his or her agent?
While I understand the desire of some lawmakers to reduce the number of inmates in Wisconsin’s state prison system as a dollars and cents issue, I can’t help but wonder how high a priority public safety is, given the reforms that are currently in place, as well as those lawmakers are hoping to implement. I’ve often been told the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and it would seem to me that allowing violent felons to be released from prison early – and then limiting the ability of agents to send offenders back to prison – is a recipe for disaster, and it’s a disservice to the community.