ELDERLY RELEASE BILL
A WORK IN PROGRESS
BACKGROUND: We have just passed a landmark in Wisconsin. For the first time in our history, we are spending more on Corrections (prisons and jails) than we are on our colleges and universities. Nationwide ,we have become overdependent on prisons to solve our problems and this blindness is coming back to haunt us. Wisconsin spending on corrections increased by 9.5.% in the same period it decreased by 7.5 % in all other programs( see study). Our bill addresses one crucial aspect of this rise: The elderly in prison.
Many studies show a nationwide rise of the elderly- here are two of the latest: Old Behind Bars; January 2012 by Human Rights Watch (HRW); and in July, ACLU put out the study “At America’s risk”. In Wisconsin , the cost of caring for the elderly is consuming the Department of Corrections Health Care budget , putting on old many important innovations in other programs. For example, model units for the treating the mentally ill are in place with no funding to expand that program. We have so concentrated our funding on correcrtions that Schools have suffered.
Here is some background information we consider as we craft our bill :
a)50 to 55 is considered old by the Corrections department as people in prison age 8 to 10 years faster than the non- incarcerated.
b) Older prisoners commit fewer crimes. The recidivism rate for prisoners 50 years and older is 2% ( Department of Justice stats).
c) The cost of housing an elderly prisoner is three times the cost of a younger prisoner.
d) Prisoners are not eligible for social security or medicare while in prison so all costs falls to the Wisconsin Taxpayer
e) Prisoners are not set up for carig for the elderly whose needs are vastly different that the needs of younger inmates. Prisons are being forced to develop hospice units and other programs for people who pose no threat to society.
There are two parts to our bill:
WHO IS ELIGIBLE : for prisoners 55 and over who have served at least 15 years
WHAT IS THE PROCESS
1) first there is screening by law students to select prisoners with get best prospects for release, then they find placement for the people they select. We will be working with the UW Law school to expand their present screening process and also with the POPS program (project for older prisoners)in George Washington University under Jonathon Turley to craft our bill. The POPS program also finds support and housing for the eligible prisoners and that would be vital to our bill also. Those prisoners who pass the screening and are placed would be able to go in front of their sentencing judge.
2)The prospective prisoners go before the sentencing judge or substitute if he is no longer serving. This would be an open hearing where those for and against have voice. Wisconsin is unique in that all prisoners eligible for release in our bill were incarcerated before Truth in Sentencing came into existence in 2000 are largely stuck. They live in limbo, have been eligible for parole for many years, some as long as 25 years . Many have spent their years in prison well, have become truly wise and kind, and are needed back in their communities. UP till now, any screening done in WI has no effect as the the wardens and parole board is afraid to release prisoners who were once violent no matter how rehabilitated they are or how long ago they committed their crime. Our bill bypasses the present stuck system.
Help Needed: The details of this bill have not been worked out yet and we will be working with republican and democratic legislators , with UW law school , judges and the POP program in Washington DC. All input is welcome. We are especially looking for WI residents who could help us get in touch with their legislators.
FILL OUR OUR SURVEY- (coming)let the powers that be know you believe that people change and we need to provide a second chance.