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Gov. Evers proposes major changes to address crisis at Wisconsin prisons, but lockdowns persist

Wisconsin Policy Forum analyzes state prison trends with new report, "Prison Blues"
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Wisconsin Policy Forum analyzes state prison trends with new report, "Prison Blues"

Last week, Governor Tony Evers proposed major changes to operations at several prisons meant to alleviate staffing shortages, end lockdown conditions, and make necessary updates to these aging facilities. Meanwhile, a package of bills introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature would help improve conditions for people currently incarcerated by strengthening rules on prisoner rights.

These proposed changes come in light of a growing crisis in Wisconsin's jails and prisons.

"The prisons here are vastly understaffed with an overall vacancy of 41.5% as of Nov. 4. That that's a lot. This is not just one or two prisons. This is a number of prisons, including maximum and medium security prisons here that have been hit the hardest," says Vanessa Swales, a local government reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gov. Evers' proposed plan to improve these conditions includes transitioning to a single-cell occupancy facility by March 1 of next year, but didn't include a clear timeline for other changes. In the Wisconsin Legislature, Representative Ryan Clancy introduced bills focused on improving conditions for current inmates, like raising their minimum wage, increasing required bathing periods per week, and increasing recreational hours and opportunities.

Despite these proposals, Swales says these proposals are unlikely to lead to an immediate solution

"It's just not an overnight fix. But I think it's certainly a big push from [Gov.] Evers and other officials to really address ongoing concerns that have been happening and have certainly been highlighted in recent months, particularly with the lockdown periods," Swales explains.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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