Jackson Correctional Institution likely will be unaffected by Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to end offenders’ ability to earn early release from prison.
Warden Randall Hepp said even if Walker’s budget provision causes prison populations to increase, the medium-security, adult male institution will be physically incapable of accepting more offenders. JCI currently is at its operational capacity of 995 inmates, he said.
“We’re already at capacity, so if any of (Walker’s) changes would result in the (Department of Corrections) having increased numbers — and that would be a big if — it wouldn’t likely have an impact here,” Hepp said.
Walker’s biennial budget proposal, introduced March 1, would repeal sentencing changes approved in 2009, which allow certain offenders to be released from prison early for good behavior. The proposal also would repeal the DOC’s ability to discharge an offender from extended supervision after two years, according to an abbreviated version of Walker’s budget.
As of Friday, a total of 491 inmates had been granted early release from confinement, and 65 were granted early release from extended supervision, according to Tony Streveler, the DOC’s policy initiatives adviser.
Walker’s proposal would revert the law to its pre-2009 form and return it to “truth in sentencing,” meaning offenders will serve the time to which they are sentenced with no possibility for early release. The decision-making for offenders would then solely lie with a judge rather than the DOC secretary or earned-release review commission; both helped determine offenders’ eligibility for release under the 2009 change.
“This brings it down to where it’s much easier to understand, much easier to administer and much more consistent with the truth-in-sentencing principle,” Streveler said.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Lister said he will continue to determine appropriate sentence length for offenders. He did not wish to comment further on Walker’s proposed changes.
Streveler noted the possible repeal likely wouldn’t affect the state’s prison population. The state is seeing a reduction in crime rates and jail and prison admissions, he said.