The issue of who can avoid prison or complete their sentence back in the world is controversial here in Wisconsin. This spring, competing bills that would have amended the state’s parole and probation rules failed to pass the Legislature. One bill would have toughened the rules by making it easier to send people back to prison after a rule violation. The other two would have had the opposite effect by adding incentives, services and restrictions to keep more people out of prison.
The debate is over what is known as revocation-only prison admission. Simply put, these are cases where someone is incarcerated because they violated the terms of their probation or parole — not directly because of the crime for which they were convicted.
The long list of rules for staying out of prison
Staying out of prison can be a big challenge. In Wisconsin, a person on supervised release must follow a list of at least 18 rules or face possible incarceration. Many of these rules involve everyday things, like how much money you have in your pocket or if you are accepting a new job. You may have to check with your probation officer or another agent regularly to show that you are following the rules.
Wisconsin’s prison system is overcrowded
Still, as tough as it can be to maintain the terms of your supervised release, most people would agree that it’s better than living in prison. As it is, Wisconsin’s prison population is large and growing rapidly. In 2000, the prison population was around 7,000. By 2018, around 23,000 people were in Wisconsin prisons. Currently, the prison system is 33 percent overcapacity. This arguably raises questions of whether prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment are being violated.
The lack of room for new prisoners is one reason some lawmakers argue for expanding supervised release and making revocation-only prison admission less common.