Friday, June 12, 2015

Invest In Education, Not Prisoners

To the editor,

Gov. Scott Walker's 2015-'17 budget has proposed significant cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and K-12 public education while recommending $1.25 billion annually to the Department of Corrections.

Wisconsin continues to lead the states in the Midwest with the highest number of incarcerated prisoners as well as leading the nation with the highest rate for incarcerating African-Americans and Native Americans.

Wisconsin's total number of prisoners - more than 22,000 - remains twice as high as the total incarcerated in Minnesota. Wisconsin's cost per prisoner is $52,833 per year.

This is in sharp contrast to educating a student at UW-Madison for approximately $20,000 per year including tuition, housing and meals.

Recently, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee approved an additional $5 million to expand the state's prison population by 500 inmates over the next two years.

We need to drastically lower the prison population, not increase it. This is a bipartisan issue and even conservative Grover Norquist has recommended reforms to reduce prison costs.

One organization that has been leading the effort for prison reform in Wisconsin is WISDOM. This group consists of representatives from more than 160 congregations of 19 different religious traditions throughout the state. 

They have been promoting the 11 x 15 campaign to reduce Wisconsin's prison population to 11,000 by the end of 2015.

WISDOM recommends treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent offenders. We need the legislature and Department of Corrections administration to take the steps necessary to begin a comprehensive overhaul of our prison system.

Citizens should take action and contact Walker and their respective legislative members to work toward reform in Wisconsin's prisons.

Jim Hansen


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