Saturday, May 16, 2015

Locking em up proving costly in Wisconsin

Among next week’s Joint Finance Committee topics in the state budget will be funding for the Department of Corrections. And inside the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s papers are some disturbing trends in the state’s prison population, and the additional costs that state taxpayers will have to pay as a result.
The male prison population is by far the largest group in jail in Wisconsin, and unfortunately, those numbers are slated to increase well beyond capacity in the coming years.

Male inmate population, Wisconsin prisons
Operating capacity 20,916
2015-16 LFB Estimated population 21,151 (235 over)
2016-17 LFB Estimated population 21,484 (568 over)

You will also find that this yet another area where Governor Walker’s budget bill didn’t anticipate the costs and needs that exist in Wisconsin for 2015.
7. Since the [budget] bill would provide contract bed funding for 71 [additional] beds in 2015-16 and 198 beds in 2016-17, additional funding for 164 beds in 2015-16 and 370 beds in 2016-17 would be needed. However, the Department [of Corrections] indicates that it is in the process of transitioning150 probation and parole hold beds at the Sturtevant Transitional Facility (STF) to inmate beds. Corrections is able to make this transition as a result of having sufficient probation and parole holds available at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. The transition would allow the Department to increase its operating capacity by 150 beds annually. It should be noted that while funding is budgeted for food and health costs for probation and parole hold offenders at STF, the Department would need an additional $148,600 GPR annually associated with inmate variable non-food costs which is not currently budgeted for these offenders.

8. As a result of converting 150 beds at Sturtevant Transitional Facility to inmates beds, additional contract bed funding would be need for 14 inmates in 2015-16 and 220 inmates in 2016-17, at a cost of $412,300 GPR in 2015-16 and $4,280,800 GPR in 2016-17.
Put that together, and you have nearly $5 million in costs that would have to be added to the budget to take care of these needs.

But we’re not just seeing a spike in male inmates, as the female prison population is also over capacity in Wisconsin. The LFB reports female inmate population is up 12.6% since 2011-12, is now back near the levels they were at seven years ago, and is slated to continue to rise in the next two years.
Female inmate trends, Wisconsin prisons
2008-09 1,339
2009-10 1,273
2010-11 1,205
2011-12 1,170
2012-13 1,216
2013-14 1,234
2014-15 (projected) 1,317
2015-16 (projected) 1,381
2016-17 (projected) 1,442

And just like with the men, not only was this increase in female prisoners not anticipated by the Walker boys when they wrote up the budget, the female institutions are also slated to be over capacity.
As the table indicates, with the revised population estimates, the Department would exceed capacity by 43 females in 2015-16 and 104 females in 2016-17 under the bill. As indicated previously, Corrections has been reviewing options to address the increased capacity need. With the projected female population revised to be higher than originally estimated for 2015-17, it may be argued that the Department would need additional capacity and staffing to accommodate the increases.

12. The juvenile Southern Oaks Girls School, located in Union Grove, was closed in the 2011-13 biennium due to declining juvenile populations. In the 2013-15 biennium, the Department transferred administration of the facility from the Division of Juvenile Corrections to the Division of Adult Corrections and renamed the facility Southern Oaks Correctional. The facility is located near the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center for women. Southern Oaks Correctional (SOC) has an annex with three housing units which could be staffed to address the additional needed capacity for female inmates.

13. According to the Department, to open the SOC annex for approximately 43 inmates in 2015-16 and 104 inmates in 2016-17, funding and staffing of $1,202,500 GPR in 2015-16 and $1,480,900 GPR in 2016-17 and 21.25 GPR positions annually would needed.
Combined with other cost adjustments, that means we’re another $2.7 million - $3 million short of what is needed to handle the extra female inmates.

Corrections is also underfunded when it comes to juvenile inmates, particularly the ones who commit the worst offenses. That area is also seeing higher-than-anticipated populations, and as a result, there’s nearly another $800,000 that is needed to fully fund the costs of that area of Corrections. So you put these numbers together, and the state has to find another around $8.5-$8.8 million just to keep up with the inmate population.
Now keep in mind, in most Wisconsin communities, there are higher disparities than Ferguson, Missouri when it comes to the arrest rates of black people vs all other races, and in 2012, Wisconsin had by far the highest rate of black male incarceration in the country. Included in that NPR story on black male incarceration in 2012 is this amazing stat regarding non-violent drug offenses in Milwaukee County.
A commenter wondered if it might be helpful to know what kinds of crimes the people in Milwaukee County were being incarcerated for committing the breakdown of incarceration in Wisconsin between various racial groups. These are good points, so we're adding some of that contextualizing info from the study.

Here's some of it, which looks back at Milwaukee County's recent history
"8,287, or one-third, of the African American men incarcerated since 1990 showed only non-violent offenses."


"Forty percent(N=10,497) of the African American males from Milwaukee County incarcerated since 1990 were drug offenders. In the early 1990s African Americans had 4 times as many annual admissions for drug-related offenses as white men. As drug offenses soared in the 2002 to 2005 years African American men had 11 to 12 times as many drug-related prison admissions as white men."
Is it safe to say these Corrections policy aren’t working in Wisconsin? This seems to be true not just in the overly costly solution we’ve had of locking these offenders up, but also when you combine it with the growing and crippling racial disparities in outcomes that is holding this state back.

And after some progress in the 2000s, it feels like we're right back to where we were when this song was made in 2001. Our course has to change.

1 comment:

  1. It would be interesting to know if the beds the DOC is counting as what they have as capacity is including segregation cells, because the current direction they are going is away from using segregation as punishment which is leaving many segregation cells empty.