Lawmakers from both parties in the Wisconsin legislature will work to reform a state law that requires criminals to serve their entire prison sentence with virtually no chance for early release, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The legislators responded to a series that began Sunday in the Journal Sentinel about Wisconsin’s truth-in-sentencing law. Among key findings:
The law was enacted four years ago without the cost ever being assessed. If current trends continue, the additional cost to taxpayers for inmates admitted through 2025 will be an estimated $1.8 billion. Prisons are approaching the university system in state tax dollars; 12 years ago, taxpayers invested three times as much in universities as in prisons. Thousands of inmates are on waiting lists for prison jobs, education, and treatment programs. Wardens report more bad conduct and hopelessness among offenders. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s toughest truth-in-sentencing laws. It applies to both violent and non-violent offenders, provides no role for the parole board, and allows wide latitude for judges in sentencing. Even for terminally ill inmates, early release is next to impossible. Good behavior and rehabilitation in prison do not earn a chance for a shorter sentence.