March 10, 2015 – Wisconsin’s incarceration rate remains many times higher than historical norms and is twice as high as neighboring Minnesota. Is it time to bring back early release programs that let prisoners out early for good behavior?
In the March Wisconsin Lawyer, Marquette University Law School Professor Michael O’Hear reviews troubling aspects of “mass incarceration,” including the human and fiscal costs, and concludes that “good time” should be part of the reform conversation.
In his cover story, “Let the Good Times Roll: Early Release for Good Behavior in Prison,” O’Hear notes that Wisconsin now spends more on corrections than on the entire University of Wisconsin system. Although Wisconsin enacted a package of earned release reforms in 2009, those reforms were quickly dismantled in 2011.
However, the appointment of two special legislative committees may indicate a renewed and bipartisan interest in prison policies that include early release, and the Marquette Law School poll shows the public may share an interest in such early release reforms.
“In 2014, two-thirds of respondents agreed that prisoners who are no longer a threat to society should be considered for release after serving two-thirds of their sentences,” O’Hear writes. “Such overwhelming majorities – all of which suggest support for good time – are remarkable in a state as politically divided as Wisconsin.”
Video webXtra: Michael O'Hear
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In this follow-up video, O'Hear discusses how a transformative experience at a Wisconsin prison convinced him of the need for a constructive early release program for inmates. He discusses his background on the topic and why “good time” for prisoners matters.
O’Hear discusses a middle-of-the-road “good time” program adopted in Washington State and says this model could work for Wisconsin. “A good time program like Washington’s entails some loss in certainty, but much less so than existed in Wisconsin’s old parole system,” O’Hear writes in his article.
Other Feature Articles
Wisconsin is, literally, held together by wires: the 12,000 miles of electronic transmission lines connecting the state to the regional electric grid. And who regulates this vast expanse of electricity? The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC).
For attorneys, understanding the workings of the PSC is crucial to helping clients, says former PSC general counsel and administrative law judge Edward Marion in his article, “Held Together by Wires: A Primer on Practicing Before the PSC.”
“Suppose you represent a hospital, a supermarket, or other 24/7 user of electricity,” writes Marion, an attorney in Madison. “The PSC’s brand-new rate designs – increasing the charge for covering the utility’s embedded costs, relative to the charge for usage – may dramatically affect your client’s electric bills, and energy is a major cost center.”
Madison attorney Timothy Edwards keeps the electricity flowing in his article, “Avoid Cat-and-Mouse Tactics: Planning for Electronic Discovery.” In it, Edwards discusses the electronic discovery plan that can prevent unnecessary disputes about data.
“This article focuses on a plan that recognizes the unique technology that accompanies the discovery of electronic data,” writes Edwards, who notes the need for early cooperation as a necessary component under meet-and-confer rules. “This process starts with the obligation to preserve ESI through a properly drawn litigation hold.”
Columns and Insights
101 column: U.W. Law School Professor Gretchen Viney explains “How to Give Clients Bad News – Without a Spoonful of Sugar.”
Managing Risk column: In “Scams and Hackers: Or, 12 Security Basics Every Lawyer Should Know,” attorney Tom Watson, a vice president at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company (WILMIC), explains necessary security measures to protect law firm data, which is particularly vulnerable to attack.
Technology column: In his article, “So You Want To … Read and Edit Documents on the Go (Or On Your Couch),” State Bar Practice Management Advisor Tison Rhine discusses four tablet options to make life easier.
On Balance column: In “Rethinking Lawyer Motivation and Well-being,” attorney and stress management guru Paula Davis-Laack, CEO of the Davis Laack Stress and Resilience Institute, discusses specific ways law students and lawyers can build well-being and stay motivated as the legal profession continues to change.
Ethics column: In “Rude Behavior at Depositions,” attorney Dean Dietrich, chair of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee, explores the implications of crossing the line at depositions.
Final Thought column: In “That Guilt Shall Not Escape or Innocence Suffer,” Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Peter Tempelis explains how a loss of funding for prosecutor pay progression could jeopardize the delivery of justice and public safety as good prosecutors leave for greener pastures.
Check out the March Wisconsin Lawyer.