Felons Begin Filing From Prison Cells to Streets
Governor Doyle's ill-conceived Early Release program began last week, allowing for the first round of 21 inmates to be released from Wisconsin prisons on to Wisconsin streets - including one inmate convicted of 5 OWI offenses. As a result of this, I joined 44 fellow legislators in sending a letter to Governor Doyle asking that he end the program, or at the very least suspend it until legislative committees have a chance to much more fully review the program.
During the budget debate I was very vocal about the fact that it was dangerous to release prisoners in the name of fiscal savings. Especially considering the fact that the Governor never was able to place a true cost savings on to the proposal. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, there were too many factors involved to make an accurate prediction with regard to cost savings.
In any case, whatever the true cost-savings of releasing prisoners early, no amount is worth the risk. While many states implemented some sort of "Let 'em Out Early" provision in recent budgets, Illinois is already seeing firsthand the dangers of such policies. So much so, that Governor Quinn suspended their early release program last month, calling the idea a "big mistake". This is no doubt the right decision, considering the fact that of the 1,718 inmates released under the Illinois program, 56 have returned to prison. Of those, 48 violated parole terms and at least 18 were arrested for new offenses, ranging from battery to drug crimes.
It's only a matter of time until we learn what consequences this reckless policy will have in Wisconsin. Many of the first 21 inmates released can be considered career criminals, so it won't be surprising when one or more of them commits another crime. Further, I am astonished that Democrats would stand for the release of a 5-time OWI offender after the Legislature voted almost unanimously for stronger drunk driving penalties. It seems disingenuous.
The priorities of Governor Doyle and Democrats are definitely questionable, especially if they fail to follow Governor Quinn's example by suspending the early release program. By allowing felons back on to our streets, without so much as a warning to the residents of the neighborhoods they will inhabit, our families will be in danger of becoming victims of crime and violence that could have been very easily prevented.
In Racine County, this is an especially serious issue, as we already have a very high crime rate. I would encourage you to contact Reps. Mason and Turner and Sen. Lehman (who all voted for the early release provision in the budget) and urge them to tell the Governor to reconsider early release in Wisconsin.
State Representative Robin Vos State Capitol - Room 321 East - Post Office Box 8953 - Madison, Wisconsin 53708 Phone: (608) 266-9171 - Toll Free: (888) 534-0063 - Fax (608) 282-3663 Email: Rep.Vos@legis.wisconsin.gov On the Internet: Representative Vos' Web Site