State Supreme Court Justice: More Treatment, Less Jail


Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson is urging legislators to support more treatment and diversion programs for drug addicted or mentally ill offenders.

During a meet and greet session with members of the Senate and Assembly judiciary committees, the chief justice described a growing number of alternative court programs that she says are saving several counties money by reducing the number of repeat offenders. “They reduce prison time and jail time and keep people safe, and safer maybe than prison because these people don’t repeat crimes as frequently.”

Nine counties now operate alternative courts for a wide range of offenders including drunk drivers, military veterans and those suffering from drug addiction or mental illness. These courts keep tabs on offenders and hold them accountable by sending them to jail if they don’t follow the treatment and supervision rules imposed on them. Assembly judiciary committee member Evan Goyke of Milwaukee says there’s clear evidence that using treatment instead of prison doesn’t only help the offender. “That person can reenter their family’s lives, their children’s lives, the workforce. Us taxpayers then save on the jail bed and we save by getting the taxes from them once they’ve got a job. Ultimately our goal is to have less people in jail.”

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Goyke says there aren’t any bills in the pipeline yet to provide funds more alternative jail diversion programs but he says, “Stay tuned! Stay tuned.”

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee Glen Grothman says his priority this session is to pass bills that focus on family issues such as child support and domestic violence but he says it’s likely the committee will also take up treatment and diversion programs as well.