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Prisoner plan will cost, not save, the state money
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Suggestions to save the state more than $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society.

According to the Associated Press, the Council of State Governments Justice Center reports Wisconsin prisons are about 20 percent over capacity and that our prison population is expected to grow 21 percent in a decade, costing the state $2.5 billion. The Council of State Governments Justice Center claims its recommendations will hold the prison population level steady and save $2.3 billion.

The recommendations include putting limits on the time offenders can be out of prison on extended supervision and allowing courts to impose lesser sentences if inmates complete programs aimed to reduce danger to the public. The recommendations could be drafted as separate bills for the Legislature to consider. Governor Doyle also has proposed in his 2009-11 state budget the early release of thousands of felons and the elimination of parole for so-called nonviolent offenders.

Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.

Using FBI data and uniform crime reports, the Disaster Center has compiled Wisconsin crime rates. The number of violent crimes dropped from 13, 998 during 1997 to 11,548 during 2004. However, the number increased to 13,367 during 2005, 15, 783 during 2006, and 16,296 during 2007, the last year data is available.

Murders, property crimes, forcible rapes, aggravated assaults, burglaries and larceny-thefts have all increased. The number of these kinds of crimes per 100,000 Wisconsin residents also has increased.

Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times newspaper also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, "A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime."

And we want to release more of them earlier?

Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.

The National Center for Victims of Crime also keeps crime statistics. The Center reports that crime is estimated to create $105 billion in medical expenses, lost earnings, and costs for victim services. Add in pain and suffering and a reduced quality of life, and the total estimated cost of crime comes to $450 billion annually.

Victims of violent crime and their families receive benefits and mental health counseling and there are huge medical expenses.

I do not subscribe to the theory that we cannot afford corrections, especially with various categories of violent crime are increasing. Given our economic status, the situation could get worse. The truth is the state cannot afford not to put prisoners away.

- Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, can be reached at or (800) 334-1442.