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Alma senator calling for audit of Wisconsin prisons



Problems seem endless, but stem
from, possibly, overpopulation

A state senator says the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections is currently in a crisis situation and an audit could help move it forward.

When it comes to troubles with Wisconsin’s prison system, it seems that the list is nearly endless to Alma Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

“Problems ranging from security of the inmates, of the guards,” Vinehout listed, “problems with cost overrun and over crowding, problems with appalling treatment of juveniles up at Lincoln Hills.”

All problems that could be from having too many people behind bars, she says. 

“About 70 percent of the people in prison have alcohol and drug addiction problems,” Vinehout said. “Over 30 percent have mental health problems.

“Maybe there’s a different way to deal with the problems that put people in prison that are not related to violent crimes.”

And, when it comes to comparing these problems, Vinehout points out, you don’t have to look far to find potential solutions.

“When we look at Minnesota,” Vinehout said, “they have less than half the number of inmates and they have about the same population and about the same crime rate.”

Around 40 lawmakers have signed on to Vinehout’s request to the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau to do a probe at the Department of Corrections.

It comes just as the senate is poised to confirm Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s new appointment for Department of Corrections secretary. 

The Dept. of Corrections has been under siege recently with a federal investigation into abuse allegations and possible civil rights violations at the state’s juvenile prison. The department has also been dealing with short staffing and very low morale among prison guards, who are forced to work overtime shifts.

“Not just the problems of safety and security, but overtime policies, turnover, care of the juveniles, problems with mental illness,” Vinehout says. “These are all problems that we need to take into consideration.”

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