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    The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted.
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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 11, November 2008

    Letters

    Letters to the editor: The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted. Please mail letters to " Letters to the Editor," Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, fax them to (608) 257-4343, or org wislawyer wisbar email them .

    Truth-in-Sentencing’s Effect on Prison, Probation, and Parole Populations

    In the September 2008 Wisconsin Lawyer cover story, State Public Defender Nicholas Chiarkas is quoted as saying: “It’s time to reevaluate truth-in-sentencing. Since truth-in-sentencing was enacted, prison, probation, and parole populations have almost doubled, and they are growing exponentially. It’s time to stop it, fix it, and get it right.”

    When truth-in-sentencing (TIS) I went into effect on Dec. 31, 1999, Wisconsin’s prison population was 20,177, the probation population was 54,951, and the parole population was 8,903. When TIS II went into effect on Feb. 1, 2003, Wisconsin’s prison population was 21,554, the probation population was 56,599, and the parole population was 10,605. In the most recent data available, Wisconsin’s prison population was 22,421, the probation population was 53,139, and the parole population was 17,659. These figures are found at www.wi-doc.com/index_adult.htm.

    So since TIS went into effect, the parole population has almost doubled, but the prison population has actually increased by 11.1 percent, and the probation population has actually decreased by 3.3 percent. Rather than exponential growth, the average annual percentage increase in Wisconsin is 1.8 percent for the prison population, 2.6 percent for the probation population, and 1.9 percent for the parole population. These figures are found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/.

    Mr. Chiarkas was a member of the Criminal Penalties Study Committee, which recommended the legislation to implement TIS in Wisconsin, and he voted for the committee’s report. I served as staff counsel to the committee.

    Judge Michael B. Brennan, Branch 15,
    Milwaukee County Circuit Court

    Reasons Why Battered Women “Choose” Pro Se Representation

    In her September 2008 column, State Bar President Diane Diel has reversed reality when she says that, “It is clear that the growth in the number of pro se litigants is partly attributable to the many accommodations made by the court for them.” Pro se litigants have grown due to the lack of access to attorneys, not to the abundance of do-it-yourself forms. I have worked with battered women and abused children for 28 years now, and the problem is 1) Poor and battered women cannot afford the expense of attorneys; 2) attorneys refuse to take these difficult, messy, and traumatic cases; and 3) many of the attorneys who do take them offer very poor representation because they do not listen to the victim, understand the dynamics, or realize what is in the best interest of the client. Often the women are better off without lawyers who, through ignorance, bias, or spite, represent them inappropriately. So don’t look out there; look inside.

    Dianne Post
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Response: There is no question that battered women and abused children are an especially underserved community for civil legal services. I agree with the writer on the need for knowledgeable, skilled representation for these victims. The point is, the trend to represent oneself pro se is driven by many factors, including the lack of lawyers, the fractiousness or other nonconstructive representation by lawyers, and the Web 2.0 world that functions without lawyers. To be valued, lawyers need to be valuable and available.

    Diane S. Diel, President
    State Bar of Wisconsin  




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