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Bill would create reentry center to ease transitions after prison

Wisconsin's budget sets aside $4M for facility

Buildings flank the Wisconsin State Capitol
Wisconsin State Capitol. Angela Major/WPR

Legislation advancing in Wisconsin would create a reentry center that aims to ease transitions for people getting out of prison.

State senators heard testimony this month on a bill that would direct Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections to contract with a nonprofit or other organization to run the facility.

The center would include offices where people can meet with their parole and community supervision agents. Additionally, staff at the center would help people with tasks, including finding housing, creating and submitting resumes, signing up for health care, getting government documents like social security cards and setting up bank accounts.

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The goal is a one-stop shop to reduce recidivism by heading off pitfalls like homelessness, unemployment or drug relapse, the bill’s bipartisan supporters say.

“These services are being delivered — they’re just siloed and fragmented,” said Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee. “It makes it much more difficult for somebody with limited means or limited stability to access those very disjointed services, and we think putting them under one roof will help people access the treatment that we want them to get.”

Wisconsin’s current budget sets aside $4 million to start at least one reentry center. Officials hope that facility will be established somewhere in Milwaukee County, where it will be accessible by public transportation.

The reentry facility was among the recommendations to come out of a 2022 legislative study committee on increasing work opportunities for incarcerated people.

If the center is successful, Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, says she hopes money can be appropriated in future budgets to operate additional locations.

“To get this to be a success, we felt that we needed to put some seed money behind it,” said Felzkowski, who chaired the study committee.

Last month, Wisconsin’s Assembly Committee on Corrections recommended passage of the Assembly version of the bill. The legislation would also require that the DOC create a report by 2027 that tracks the services offered at the center and their outcomes.