Wisconsin’s prisons are designed to house roughly 16,000 adult inmates, yet tonight, they’ll have over 23,000. Cells are double and tripled filled. The overcrowding in our adult prison system is rising at an alarming and unsustainable rate. To pay for the overcrowding, $23,000 a day is spent to county jails to house state inmates − which will total $8.6 million in 2018. These payments come from the general fund and mean less investment in other needed areas like education, job creation, or health care.
Coinciding with the overcrowding of our adult prison system is the decline in the number of juveniles at Lincoln Hills. Tonight, Lincoln Hills will hold approximately 135 boys, making the facility roughly 70 percent vacant. As Lincoln Hills gets smaller, it also gets more expensive. This year, Republicans increased the cost of Lincoln Hills to a total of $390 per day per juvenile. This cost increase will lead to even fewer juveniles being sent to Lincoln Hills and highlights the challenging economic future for the facility.
Democrats in Wisconsin are leading on meaningful criminal justice reform to address these converging crises. Around the country, bipartisan efforts have been successful in red and blue states. Wisconsin though, has yet to learn these valuable lessons. Smart criminal justice reform can save millions of dollars while also reducing crime.
This is an urgent issue and Democrats have put forward smart, innovative solutions to solve the problems. We commit today to continuing to work on smart criminal justice reform in Wisconsin.
Democrat Evan Goyke, Milwaukee, represents the 18th Assembly District.