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Losing Track: Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings; and other news affecting our state

Of note: This week we highlight a significant package of stories by Center reporter Riley Vetterkind revealing widespread flaws in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program for offenders. Riley’s story comes five years after the Center first uncovered the technological problems that land offenders in jail — even when they have done nothing wrong. In other news, the Associated Press reports on water contamination from coal ash, an issue the Center explored back in 2014. Writing in the New York Times, a government professor slams economic development subsidies such as the billions in taxpayer dollars promised to Foxconn as elected officials “using the public coffers for political theater.“ The Times also reports on the suddenly quiet House Majority Leader Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Finally, we offer a column in The Crime Report written by two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater researchers who warn that raising the age of criminal culpability to 20 or 21, as some states do, could lead to more crime. On the other end of the spectrum, Wisconsin automatically treats all 17-year-olds as adults, which can lead to is own problems, as the Center found in 2011.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism — March 4, 2018

In our latest investigation, the Center returns to an issue we examined in 2013: the inefficiencies and inaccuracies in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring system. Five years later, serious problems remain. Such problems have led some law enforcement and other officials to doubt the program’s ability to ensure public safety and assist offenders in reintegrating into their communities. Also in the Losing Track series: Opponents claim GPS monitoring violates civil rights; judges not so sure; Homeless offenders create gaps in Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring system; Electronic monitoring pioneer wants less punishment, more reward

U.S. utilities find water pollution at coal ash dumps

Associated Press — March. 2, 2018

Major utilities have found evidence of groundwater contamination at coal-burning power plants across the nation. The Environmental Protection Agency required plants’ owners to install test wells to monitor groundwater pollutants, a first step toward cleaning up the sites, but those efforts were cast into uncertainty when the Trump administration announced it intends to cut aspects of the program to reduce costs. Earlier from WCIJ: “Beneficial reuse” of coal ash could contaminate drinking water statewide

Once outspoken, Paul Ryan wields his speaker’s gavel gingerly

New York Times — March 5, 2018

On one contentious issue after another, Speaker Paul Ryan, who “rose to prominence as an outspoken, almost brash leader, determined to bring his party along with his vision of governance,” has receded. Even on one of his signature issues, free trade, he has mostly worked behind the scenes. To his supporters, Ryan’s approach is “pure pragmatism and smart politics.”

Why are your state tax dollars subsidizing corporations?

New York Times — March 6, 2018

In an opinion column for the New York Times, Nathan Jensen argues incentives are overpaying firms, leading to lost resources that could be used for other purposes. If the incentives don’t pay for themselves, they must be paid for by higher taxes or decreases on government spending. Wisconsin has offered Foxconn $3 billion for new manufacturing operations and Gov. Scott Walker has offered Kimberly-Clark a Foxconn-sized deal (in cost per job) to keep its facilities from closing.  

How far should “raise-the-age” reforms go?

The Crime Report — March 8, 2018

The U.S. imposes an age of majority at the age of 18 to separate juvenile offenders and juvenile correctional systems from their adult counterparts. In recent years, many have argued that the U.S. should move to a higher age of majority, such as 21, to reduce correctional costs and improve outcomes for youth offenders. A new study, however, shows youth criminality experiences a sharp drop at the age of 18 as a result of greater sanctions. The findings imply raising the age of majority to 21 would lead to an increase in criminal offending. Earlier from WCIJ: Minor offenders, major consequences

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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