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Op-ed Placement

Wisconsinites Are Calling on Lawmakers to Support Justice Reform

BY Adam Brandon and Chris Ahmuth
04/16/2016
Originally Published in The Cap Times by Adam Brandon and Chris Ahmuth on 4/16/16.

As Wisconsin residents begin to engage in this election, Republicans and Democrats are split on many pressing issues — like how to handle the economy, what education policies to pursue, or what national security policies will keep us safe. But there’s one issue many voters are united on: criminal justice reform.

Since one in three adults in the country has a criminal record, nearly every American has a family member, loved one or neighbor who has — or who will — come in contact with the criminal justice system. These numbers are mind-boggling and create a huge financial burden to taxpayers, who shoulder an enormous $80 billion price tag to maintain a prison system that winds up sending more and more people back to jail. Not to mention, the costs keep getting higher — taxpayer spending on those prisons has increased approximately 595 percent in the past 30 years.

Wisconsin taxpayers share a similar burden, spending about $1.5 billion on their corrections system each year, one of the highest rates in the country.

Our bipartisan coalition, the U.S. Justice Action Network, came together to take action and showcase the growing support across the country for justice reform. We polled likely voters in Wisconsin and five other key 2016 battleground states and it’s clear there is a strong consensus on this issue. An overwhelming majority of likely voters in the Badger State, regardless of political party, agree that the current criminal justice system imprisons too many for too long, mandatory minimum sentences should be replaced, and judges should have greater discretion in determining sentences.

At a time when our federal prison system houses over 2.3 million Americans, it’s no surprise 61 percent of voters in Wisconsin agree our federal prisons house too many people who have committed nonviolent offenses. And 70 percent of voters agree that the federal government is spending too much tax money keeping nonviolent offenders behind bars.