Wisconsin inmates would agree that it is better to be out on probation or parole than it is to be in jail. Probation is a court-imposed sentence that allows a person to be released into the community rather than committing the person to prison or jail. Parole is the early release of an incarcerated person. Under both probation and parole, the sentenced individual must obey certain requirements, which could include obeying all laws, reporting to an officer of the court and refraining from alcohol and drug use, among others. Violating these conditions can result in a return to jail or prison.
But parole can be hard to come by and some terms of probation can be draconian. For example, Governor Scott Walker recently signed into law a measure that would allow police to search the home or possessions – without a warrant – of a person under probation or parole if police believe that person has committed a crime or violated the terms of their release. Currently the law applies to anyone who has committed a felony involving a violent crime, a crime against children or a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
Inmates languishing in jail
Recently several faith-based organizations and prison reform advocates approached Governor Walker regarding how difficult it is for a prisoner to receive parole under Wisconsin’s current system. Wisconsin has seen its prison population triple since 1990 and is now among the states with the highest incarceration rates in the country. Wisconsin is first in the nation in the percentage of African-American men currently incarcerated.
One reason for the high number of inmates is Wisconsin’s truth-in-sentencing law, passed in 2000, which mandates that prisoners serve their full terms. However, prisoners incarcerated before the law went into effect are now seeing their sentences last longer than the sentencing judge ever intended. These prisoners are forced to carry out their full sentences despite the fact the truth-in-sentencing law was not in effect when they were originally incarcerated.
Purpose of probation and parole
A judge will grant probation based on several factors, including the likelihood the charged individual will appear at future court dates and the likelihood that person will not break the law in the future. An inmate can receive parole based on the original sentence and because of good behavior in prison.
Probation and parole can benefit both the accused or convicted person and the state. It costs $30,000 to incarcerate an individual for one year. Instead, a person on probation can work a job, stay free and contribute positively to society rather than be stuck in prison, with less cost to the state.
An attorney can help
Plea bargaining is a process in which a suspected criminal negotiates with a prosecutor in exchange for a lighter sentence or lesser charge, which may include probation or the possibility of parole. People in Wisconsin accused of a crime should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend their rights in court and discuss potential sentencing.