In the 1990’s it was often said that Wisconsin’s prison system had a revolving door. Many complained that criminals were being coddled and let back onto the streets without any punishment. People wanted stricter laws to keep criminals where they belong, in prison. Truth in sentencing was created to keep criminals in jail for longer periods. It’s 2014 and people are upset because inmates aren’t getting paroled.
Truth in sentencing became the law in Wisconsin in the late 90’s. It was one of the strictest laws dealing with penal sentences in the USA. Wisconsin put the law into effect for all criminal cases, not just violent crimes. The law solved the problem of the revolving door the prison system was accused of perpetuating. Governor Scott Walker signed off on the new law when he served in the Assembly. Many people today have a problem with the low number of inmates being paroled.
The faith group WISDOM recently held a rally in the state capitol demanding for Walker to overhaul the Corrections Department. The group claims that many inmates who are eligible for parole are not given the opportunity. Inmates have to meet certain criteria before they can be paroled. It is up to the program review board at each prison to get the inmate the needed services to meet the criteria for parole. This is the glitch WISDOM says has kept many parole eligible inmates incarcerated.
Many inmates in question went to prison before truth in sentencing became law. WISDOM wants an overhaul of the prison parole system by Walker to help inmates meet needed criteria for parole. Walker has yet to meet with the group to discuss these changes. This is where reality has to set in. WISDOM is wasting time to believe that Walker is going to do anything to change to the system.
All the marches, rallies and tears don’t change the fact that Wisconsin is just that, Wisconsin. Instead of wasting gas going to Madison, Milwaukeeans need to focus on the problem at hand. People have to learn to stay out of the prison system. It may be unfair that there are people in prison who may make productive citizens if given the chance. But society as a whole has to start working on keeping people, all people, out of prison. If people were better educated on what they face in the prison system all the speeches and protests could be avoided.
At some point people of all nationalities have to understand that Wisconsin isn’t playing when it comes to prison time. Youths of all backgrounds need to be educated to not go to prison. This would nullify the need to beg parole boards and prison review boards to free people. Unless the person is rich or lucky it’s usually too late after the cell door has closed.
There are programs in the community designed to educate people on the society they live in. These programs are where the funding should be channeled. Many youth live in a rap music created dreamscape that leads them to incarceration. An education program that highlights the reality of life with a felony past may deter many impressionable youth. What is the best way to avoid needing parole? It is not going to prison. The answer is so simple it is complex.
Frank James IV © 2014
The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not of the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper or NCON Communication, its staff or management. Being Frank is a bi-weekly column exclusive to the Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper.