Criminal Justice Reform in Wisconsin


In 2018, Wisconsin passed two bills to make stricter mandatory minimums. These are a problem in the criminal justice system because they neglect the case-by-case nature of the judicial system. Mandatory minimums impose the same sentence on every person without considering the uniqueness of each situation. Removing judicial discretion prevents judges from sentencing according to the facts of the case and imposes a mandatory minimum predetermined by the legislature. Between 1995 and 2000, Wisconsin’s prison population increased by nearly 20,000 following the implementation of mandatory minimums. Since then it has continued to increase-- a clear indication that something needs to be done in order to slow this growth.


Other states implemented successful criminal justice reforms that lead to a drastic decline in state prison populations. The state of Texas, for example, noted that a large amount of its inmates were drug offenders. Recognizing that the recidivism rate among these users was high, Texas established rehabilitation programs as an alternative to prison. This was not only cheaper, but more effective. The state saw a reduction in recidivism by 14%. They also reduced the length of sentences for nonviolent offenders, thereby opening up more room within the facilities for violent offenders. By enacting these reforms, the state saved more than $2 billion in cost avoidance. Wisconsin should adopt similar reforms rather than stricter mandatory minimums to reduce recidivism, promote a safer society, and save money.

Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.