GREEN BAY - Wisconsin's estimated 22,000 inmate population could be seeing asignificant reduction in coming years.
Governor Jim Doyle wants nonviolent offenders to be able to getout of jail sooner by earning days off their sentences with goodbehavior. He also wants to eliminate probation fornonviolent offenders convicted of misdemeanors.
"You go and behave yourself in prison and you do what you aresupposed to do, there is actually some incentive for you to dowell," Doyle said.
The plan, which is part of the governor's budget proposal, wouldsave the state considerable money and alleviate crowding inprisons. Wisconsin is facing an estimated $5.7 billionshortfall by mid-2011. Doyle has said nothing is off limitsin terms of making cuts.
Wisconsin's Department of Corrections Secretary, Rick Raemisch,estimates about 3,000 inmates would be eligible for earlyrelease.
"They truly do have to earn their way out, whether it be throughprogramming, behavior adjustment, or positive changes behind bars.It's being smart on crime instead of tough on crime," Raemischsaid. He did not have an exact savings estimate,however.
State Republican leaders are criticizing the plan, saying itwould sacrifice public safety just to save some money.
It also goes against a decision from 10 years ago to create anew criminal sentencing system where prisoners must serve theirfull term of confinement. It is known as truth insentencing.
"I think the feeling is that if somebody lands in prison orjail, they probably belong there," Brown County District Attorney,John Zakowski, said.
Zakowski acknowledged Doyle's difficult task in making cuts tothe state budget but he said he would like to see offenders servefull sentences.
"There may be other ways to have savings then to undercut truthin sentencing, which I think has worked out quite well over theyears and again is very important to victims," Zakowski added.
Raemisch said some inmates would serve 1 fewer day in prison forevery 2 days of good behavior. Others would earn the earlyrelease at a slower rate. The most violent offenders,however, would not be eligbile.
Doyle's plan still has to pass the Senate and Assembly, but bothare controlled by fellow Democrats.
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