Sentencing Reform and Diversion
The governor is recommending several changes to the way individuals are sentenced, released, revoked, and are eligible for expungement. This budget continues to refocus Wisconsin’s criminal justice system on evidence-based practices that result in better outcomes and make our communities safer. The governor recommends establishing a Sentencing Review Council to study and make recommendations regarding: reforming the state’s criminal code, equity in sentencing, the state’s bifurcated sentencing structure, and sentences for violations committed by those between 18 and 25 years of age. The most recent wholesale rewrite of Wisconsin’s criminal code occurred almost 20 years ago, and much more has been learned about evidence-based sentencing practices.
Treatment and Diversion Programs
Wisconsin’s Treatment and Diversion (TAD) program reduces recidivism and costs by sidestepping the traditional criminal justice system in a supportive, encouraging environment designed to accommodate specific needs. The 2019-21 budget as signed by the governor provided the highest ever funding level for TAD. In this budget, the governor is proposing to more than double the TAD funding level over the biennium by providing an additional $15 million to greatly expand the program.
The governor also recommends making statutory language changes related to the TAD program to improve administration, encourage the adoption of programs, expand eligibility, and increase the types of programs. Specifically, the governor is proposing to reduce the match requirement from 25% to 10% and specifying that a program funded by a TAD grant need not focus solely on alcohol and other drug treatment but must employ evidence-based practices targeted to the population served by the program. This will allow programs such as veterans courts, mental health courts, and other diversion programs to be funded through the TAD program.
Alternatives to Youth Incarceration
The governor is proposing a wholesale investment in intensive, community-based youth justice services with the goal of dramatically reducing the need for removing youth from their communities and placing them in secure or highly restrictive settings. This proposal will build a better continuum of services statewide.
Changes to the Criminal Justice System
The governor is also proposing the following changes to and investments in the criminal justice system:
- Establishing that requesting an applicant for employment to supply information regarding their conviction record, or otherwise considering the record, prior to selection for an interview constitutes employment discrimination. Under current law, the Division of Personnel Management may not request a person applying for a position in the civil service to conviction record information unless a particular conviction record disqualifies applicants for a certain position in the state civil service. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia prohibit private employers from asking applicants to identify whether they have criminal records, including Illinois and Minnesota.
- Limiting physical restraints on pregnant and postpartum people in correctional facilities and provide them certain testing, materials, services, and information.
- Provide $156,000 SEG each year to the Department of Natural Resources to contract with the Department of Corrections for persons in the Department of Corrections’ care to work as LTEs in state park system properties through a work-release program.
- Establishing statutory procedures for processing and storing sexual assault kits.
- Requiring, with certain exceptions, that any firearm transfers be done through federally licensed firearm dealers with background checks conducted on recipients.
- Creating an extreme risk protection injunction procedure where a court, after a hearing, may order an individual to refrain from possessing a firearm if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that he or she is substantially likely to injure himself or herself or another by possessing a firearm. The Department of Justice would, in addition to checking for prohibitions under current law, check whether an applicant for a license to carry a concealed weapon is prohibited from possessing a firearm under an extreme risk protection injunction.
- Restoring immunity from revocation of probation, parole, or extended supervision for certain controlled substance offenses. This would reinstate immunities which sunset on August 1, 2020.
- Funding an additional eight circuit court branches, providing an additional 5.9 assistant district attorney positions, and providing an additional 10 State Public Defender positions.