By State Representative, Leon D. Young
I recently had the occasion to contact the Department of Corrections and requested statistical information on the number of paroles that has been granted, in the last four years, by the Parole Commission.
To my great dismay and astonishment, I was led to believe that the department “doesn’t keep track of this particular statistical reference.”
If that is in fact the case, which is incomprehensible to believe, this would be a horrendous oversight. Moreover, it speaks directly to a broader indictment of the department’s ongoing insensitivity in parole matters.
There are approximately 2,800 inmates currently incarcerated under the “old law” in Wisconsin.
By this I mean that the felony offenses of these inmates were committed before the effective date of Wisconsin’s Truth-in- Sentencing laws, which was December 31, 1999.
These “old law inmates” are the only offenders who are statutorily eligible for parole.
These sentences are referred to as “indeterminate sentences” because the total amount of time that an offender will serve in prison is not known at the time sentence is imposed.
Offenders who are sentenced under this indeterminate sentencing system (based on the date their crimes were committed become eligible for discretionary parole after serving 25% of the court-imposed sentence, or six months, whichever is greater.
Generally speaking, offenders are required to be released on parole after serving 2/3 of the imposed sentence, which is referred to as the offender’s mandatory release date (“MR Date”).
However, under Scott Walker’s cruel parole hoax, parole-eligible inmates are repeatedly being denied an opportunity to return to their communities, in hopes of becoming productive members.
To add insult to injury, it costs the hardworking taxpayers of the state a hefty $96 million each and every year to warehouse inmates who (by the virtue of time spent behind bars and their behavior and accomplishments while incarcerated) should already be back in their respective communities.
The Department of Corrections goes to great lengths in perpetrating the perception that parole-eligible inmates “pose some grave danger to the community.” Let’s examine the real facts:
• The number of inmates released on parole has decreased dramatically in recent years, from 1,146 in 2005 to 132 in 2012
• About 2,800 people whose sentences allow for parole remain in prison
• 400 of these inmates have minimum security classifications and are housed in low-risk facilities
• Many of these inmates work outside the institution, in the community, and operate state vehicles in order to get back-and-forth to work
• Under old law sentencing practices, judges imposed longer sentences believing the inmate would be subsequently paroled
• Truth-in-Sentencing inmates receive shorter sentences, and actually spend less time behind bars, even for the same crime
Let’s not forget that Scott Walker was the principal author of truth-in-sentencing when he served in the State Assembly.
Moreover, Wisconsin has the toughest Truth-in-Sentencing law in the country; requiring inmates to serve 100 percent of their sentence and its imposition can be for any offense.
Make no mistake about it, Wisconsin’s parole system is morally bankrupt, and needs to be reformed now.
Too many parole-eligible inmates are denied an opportunity to move on with their lives by returning to their communities, due in large measure, to Scott Walker’s parole shell game.