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  • Press Release
    June 21, 2018

    State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors Approves New Criminal Justice Policy Positions


    June 20, 2018

    Kristen Durst
    State Bar of Wisconsin
    (608) 250-6025



    Lake Geneva, WI – The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors has unanimously voted to adopt several new policy positions related to criminal sentencing procedures. Approval by the elected 52–member board that manages and directs the State Bar allows the Bar to advocate on behalf of Wisconsin’s 25,000 member attorneys on issues that are legislative priorities to the legal profession and the administration of justice.

    At their June 20, 2018, meeting, the Board of Governors voted to support the following positions:

    1. The State Bar of Wisconsin supports reforming bail and pretrial detention laws so as to moveaway from the use of cash bail and toward the use of a validated risk–assessment instrument as a basis for pretrial detention decisions.

    The State Bar supports using scientific risk assessment, instead of cash bail, in determining whether someone who is charged with a criminal offense is released before trial. The current practice of using cash bail disproportionately affects low income and low risk individuals who may have difficulty obtaining the necessary funds to make bail. Additionally, decisions based on the nature of the offense and access to cash can lead to the release of high risk and dangerous defendants.


     2. The State Bar of Wisconsin supports amending the extraordinary health condition (EHC)release statute, Wisconsin Stat. § 302.113(9g), so as to facilitate the prompt release from prison ofinmates who suffer from an EHC and who no longer pose a threat to public safety.


     Expanding opportunities for early release due to extraordinary health conditions for people who no longer present a threat to public safety would assist with the enormous financial burdens placed on the prison system by aging and sick prisoners as well as reflect end of life realities faced by prisoners. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation millions of dollars could be saved.
    Currently procedures make it difficult for inmates to obtain early release based on an extraordinary health condition.  Proposed changes would streamline the process.
    3. The State Bar of Wisconsin supports amending the geriatric release statute, Wisconsin Stat. § 302.113(9g), so as to make the statutory procedures and standards for geriatric release availableto inmates with indeterminate (i.e., pre–Truth–in–Sentencing)sentences.
    Older prisoners who were sentenced prior to truth–in–sentencing currently are not eligible for early re lease on the basis of age. Expanding opportunities for early release for older prisoners who no longer present a threat to public safety would assist with the enormous financial burdens placed on the system by an aging and sick population as well as reflect end of life issues. 
     4. The State Bar supports establishing a process by which a person on parole release or extended supervision can obtain an early discharge from supervision.
    When individuals are released from prison, they are almost always subject to a period of supervision in the community with significant restrictions on their liberty. This period of supervision can last a decade or more. However, almost all repeat–offending occurs in the first five years after release. The State Bar supports creating a process by which individuals who have been doing well on supervision can be granted an early discharge.

     5. The State Bar of Wisconsin supports requiring the regular collection and dissemination of dataon racial disparities in the criminal justice system by appropriate agencies, and permit the consideration of such data by decision makers in the system.

     The new policy positions are the work product of the State Bar of Wisconsin's Mass and Disparate Incarceration Committee and the Criminal Law Section.


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