PATHWAY TO PROGRESS; PATHWAY TO FREEDOM
A legislative proposal to help balance the budget and restore constitutional integrity in state government*****
WHEREAS our state budget is unbalanced in terms of reactive legislation and expenditure of valuable resources which are not possessed by the State Treasury;
HEREBY is presented a series of proposals which will lead our state back to its progressive roots and also lead us into the 21st century of fiscal responsibility.
PREVIOUS legislation in response to isolated crime has led the state to a reactive mode which resulted in the incarceration of thousands of former citizens for often long periods of time in a "lock 'em up and throw away the key'" model. This has led to the situation we saw festering up until the election of Scott Walker—the proliferation of powerful unionized state jobs as a driving factor in the spending explosion which had led the state toward bankruptcy.
THEREFORE, the following proposals are set forth in overall terms and also in three specific categories: (1) Offenders who have served 20+ years after receiving excessive sentences; (2) Youthful offenders who have been sentenced at age 17-23 and have served five years; (3) elderly offenders 67+ years who can be better monitored in the community while accessing their Social Security benefits. There is a fourth category of "special needs" prisoners but these mentally ill men and women will be dealt with by separate legislative efforts.
CATEGORY (1) requires the following considerations: (a) that the inmate has gone five years without receiving a major conduct report; (b) that the inmate has participated in a 9 month Restorative Justice program and received a passing grade of 80 on all cumulative testing, class attendance, and personal relationships; (c) that the inmate has demonstrated family, community, or church support; (d) that demonstrated job skills have been obtained during the prison term; (e) that educational requirements such as G.E.D. have been completed along with a 500 word essay outlining their long term goals The applicant will then appears in person before a five person Board of Release comprised of a legislator, retired judge, prisoner advocate, community representative and a certified professional such as a teacher, psychologist, VI.D, etc. of which four votes are required for an endorsement of release in 30-60 days. Since the outcome is a form of parole, the prisoner shall be supervised also by the Community corrections agent in the county where residence is established upon release. Note: those serving EWOP are ineligible for this program.
CATEGORY (2) requires youthful offenders to demonstrate all of the previous requirements of (1 a-e) with the following modifications: (a) two years of CR free time served; In (b) the RJ program duration will be six months; (d) enrollment in the community of a certified apprentice or vocational ed program;
CATEGORY (3) will entail the requirements of la, b, c, and in (d) demonstrate a willingness to volunteer in the receiving community for a period of not less than ten hours per week; and in (e) the essay shall be 1000 words. Furthermore, this category of prisoner shall have served a minimum of five years into the sentence of conviction and have participated in a mentoring (of younger prisoners) program to the satisfaction of the five person release committee.
IT IS IMPORTANT to note that each of the proposals for categories (1-3) will result in large cost savings to the D.O.C. budget in that those age 67+ are the most costly to maintain in prison and the cost in categories (1-2) are still high at apx. $33,000 per year.
HOWEVER, there is one additional proposal which can apply to each category (1-3): which has been successfully implemented in both Chicago and Washington, DC: called "One Prisoner; One Church" and entails the participation of a five member committee of any recognized church, civic club, or community organization in the mentoring and release preparation of any inmate who has been identified as eligible under categories (1-3). Any member of the committee will then meet with the designated prisoner to establish a working relationship which will lead to them meeting the ex-inmate at the prison gate and accompany him or her to the residence which has been prepared, the job or job access designated and other community services of value. In return, the ex-inmate will uphold all of the rules and recommendations of the group as well as the community and be prepared at some point in the first year to offer twenty hours of community or church service per week as designated. Although a prisoner can be released successfully without this safety net under (1-3) such identified participants in this 1-1 initiative will move to the top of the list for consideration of the five member release committee upon completion of the first phase of in-prison mentoring by the outside church or civic group. THIS INITIATIVE will activate a $10,000 state grant to assist the civic club or church community to provide resources such as transportation to the institution and things such as apartment deposit and transportation costs upon arrival in the community. Each service agency thus designated will account for this money to be used in the first year of participation upon release of the individual from prison. At that point the next person designated will become active in the next grant proposal. In other words, only one participant group per year will apply and access the grant. Twenty five designated groups of eligibility in the state would thus access $250,000 per year from this special budget which will be obtained easily by the cost savings from the D.O.C. when a prisoner is released instead of serving time in the institution.
THUS, in contrast to previous criminal legislation, this program accounts for expenditure in advance and will result in more successful releases, more ex-prisoners successfully integrated into the community, and a net savings of many times the actual cost of this last proposal. The return to rational thinking in response to the societal cost of crime and punishment will have then returned to the progressive roots of this great state of Wisconsin.