As I See It
Expense no reason not to lock up repeat drunk drivers
Wisconsin remains notoriously lax on those caught driving drunk. Some legislators have tried for years, most often unsuccessfully, to strengthen the state’s drunk driving laws. And they are trying again this year. Some of our elected officials want to impose mandatory minimum 18month prison sentences on drunk drivers found guilty of a fifth or sixth offense. That seems reasonable. But other lawmakers argue that mandatory prison sentences would be too expensive for taxpayers to afford. The State Department of Corrections estimates this legislation would come with a hefty pricetag. They estimate that this bill would cost taxpayers about $15 million per year. More people locked up means more beds and more treatment programs, and that doesn’t come cheap. But the fact is, ensuring public safety comes with a price. We don’t refuse to lock up murderers because it costs taxpayers money. We shouldn’t let repeat drunk drivers off the hook just because it is too expensive to lock them up. Our lawmakers in Madison are scheduled to debate this minimum prison sentence today. They should remember that their obligation is not only to spend our money wisely, but also to ensure public safety.