With the recently passed state budget including a provision to allow some felons out of prison early in order to save the state money, the manner in which we fund corrections has become a hot topic.
Today, WPRI released a new report by Kate Mize, J.D., that details Wisconsin’s current porous system of probation and parole. The report, titled “Stopping the Revolving Door: Reform of Community Corrections in Wisconsin,” provides recommendations for Wisconsin to fundamentally re-structure the way it deals with the release of inmates.
Mize’s report focuses on the devastating effects of recidivism on our state, and how the system can be changed to focus more on preventing criminals from re-lapsing. The current statistics are disturbing:
While the monetary cost of crime is high, the cost to public safety is also of concern. The Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance reported 176,155 violent and property crimes committed in 2007. Based on research showing that 62% of all felony defendants have prior criminal convictions, we can attribute an estimated 109,216 of these crimes to recidivists. Using a conservative estimate that 21% of all Wisconsin felony offenders were on either probation, parole, or pretrial release at the time of arrest, recidivists under active community supervision account for 36,992 violent and property crimes over the course of one year. A 10% reduction in crimes committed by recidivists would save Wisconsin from nearly 11,000 violent and property crimes per year.
Among Mize’s recommendations for making Wisconsin safer:
First, the system should recast its orientation to focus on reducing recidivism.
Second, Wisconsin should improve the state bid process for community corrections services and initiate performance-based contracts to oversee both public and private providers. Performance-based contracts would include precise benchmarks and outcome-based measures of recidivism and public safety.
Third, it should move away from a system in which the public sector is the primary service provider. In the public sector there will be few consequences suffered if recidivism is not reduced. Contrast this with a private-sector service provider for which remuneration could be directly tied to recidivism rates. It is logical that the private-sector provider has more incentive to actually reduce recidivism. The United Kingdom can serve as a model in that it has moved away from a predominantly public system to one in which both public- and private-sector providers service the needs of community corrections. This blend of public and private providers should be used in Wisconsin.
Read the full report here.