Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County District Attorney John T. Chisholm all expressed concern Wednesday about the effects that the early release of some prisoners as a result of Wisconsin Act 28 could have on the city of Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections granted early release to 21 prisoners this month, the first group of offenders to be released under Wisconsin Act 28, a plan devised by state Democrats to relieve prison overcrowding and save money.
“This is going to have an effect on us,” Flynn said. “That’s undeniable, particularly in light of the fact that we have insufficient probation and parole officers to monitor (offenders’) behavior. If there’s a point I want to make, a takeaway here as we confront 2010, it’s that disinvestment in criminal justice is a false economy.
“We think we’re saving money, but we’re not really saving money because these costs are going to be reflected in what happens to crime victims and their property, medical treatment, insurance cases, and the reputation of neighborhoods as being safe for business. There is a cascading effect that can be very negative.”
Flynn, Barrett and Chisholm met with Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch last week to discuss the early release program.
All three local officials said more investment in re-entry programs for released prisoners is necessary.
“We have to have resources for additional probation and parole agents in Milwaukee and for legitimate re-entry programs and support so that people who are being released are not just being put in a position where they’re going to recommit crimes,” Barrett said.
While the first 21 offenders released under the conditions of Wisconsin Act 28 are categorized as “nonviolent,” I’m willing to bet it won’t be long before offenders with records that include violent offenses are released from prison before having served their entire sentences, and that’s a recipe for disaster for a community that’s made great strides towards becoming more safe.