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Cutting Wisconsin’s prisoner rolls; high supervision leads to more incarceration; gerrymandering ruling setback for Dems; drug charges fill Washburn jail

Of note: This week we draw your attention to the two-story package by Wisconsin Watch reporter Izabela Zaluska examining Gov. Tony Evers’ goal to cut in half the number of people in Wisconsin’s prisons, which are overcrowded and understaffed. Zaluska found some things are in Evers’ control, such as boosting paroles and invoking a little-used early release program to lessen overcrowding. But other measures, including reducing sentences and increasing funding for treatment and diversion programs, require the cooperation of the Republican-run Legislature and judges. In a separate story, Zaluska examines the huge role that so-called crimeless revocations play in swelling Wisconsin’s prison population.

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Hard road ahead for Gov. Tony Evers’ promise to slash Wisconsin prison population

Wisconsin Watch June 30, 2019

Gov. Tony Evers is considering enacting an obscure 30-year-old early release program and halting reincarceration of offenders for rule violations to reduce Wisconsin’s growing prison population. While 31 states saw decreases in their prison populations from 2017 to 2018, Wisconsin is not one of them. Currently, Wisconsin’s prison system is 33 percent above capacity, with 18 of the state’s 20 adult prisons listed as overcrowded. The prisons are also understaffed, with 7,650 full-time equivalent employees working the equivalent of nearly 900 additional FTEs

Wisconsin’s high supervision rate can cause — rather than prevent — longer incarceration, studies show

Wisconsin Watch June 30, 2019

One of the biggest drivers of prison growth in Wisconsin is so-called crimeless revocations in which offenders are sent back to prison for violating rules of their supervision and not new crimes. About 40 percent of all new prison admissions in Wisconsin are due to crimeless revocations, which Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to end. Wisconsin’s lengthy supervision terms of three years and two months — nearly double the national average — means more opportunity for offenders in the community to slip up and wind up back behind bars.

Decision on gerrymandering brings new urgency to Democratic fight to win state seats

Washington Post June 27, 2019

Democrats confronted a political thunderclap Thursday following the Supreme Court’s ruling that partisan gerrymandering is beyond the reach of federal courts, sparking outrage among party leaders and giving new urgency to efforts to win back state legislatures next year. The court’s 5-to-4 decision also electrified the 2020 presidential campaign, putting state-level power at the forefront of a Democratic primary season so far dominated by national issues. In related news: Federal court dismisses Wisconsin redistricting case

Data reveals a county jail burdened by drug charges

Leader Register June 25, 2019

Hundreds of people in Washburn County are struggling with substance abuse and the criminal penalties tied to it. Eight years of data from the Washburn County Jail and Washburn County Circuit Court show that the number of people incarcerated in the jail is increasing and, at the same time, the number of criminal cases opened has increased, with drug possession cases driving the increase. 

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