MOSES Open Letter and Position Statement on Reducing the Dane County Jail Population Due to the Coronavirus, March 23, 2020
The Dane County Jail must do everything possible to keep people who are incarcerated there safe from the coronavirus. The effort must include substantially reducing the jail population.
MOSES advocates that Dane County judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys engage in a coordinated effort to produce a moderate reduction in sentence length and significantly limit the period of supervision. Wisconsin Truth-in-Sentencing laws increased the length of sentences and the periods of supervision. The length of sentences in Dane County are determined by a courthouse culture in which plea bargaining and joint recommendations determine the sentence in most cases. Research has shown that longer sentences do not reduce recidivism (a relapse into criminal post-release behavior). Other states have reformed their criminal justice systems and increased public safety. International comparisons support sentence reductions. Sentencing reform is placed in the larger context of decarceration (reducing the number of people held in custody or under supervision).
In reforming sentencing and mass incarceration, it is essential to examine why we (judges and prosecutors and indeed the community) choose to incarcerate people. What is the desired outcome of incarceration? There is a need to investigate whether the Wisconsin correctional institutions and policies are producing the desired outcomes. The paper raises concern about the community and family harm that occur due to incarceration. Decreasing the number of people incarcerated should lead to funding being available for justice reinvestment in the community and more effective interventions to promote public safety.
The goal of a Crisis Restoration Center is to provide an alternative to jail for people experiencing a mental health crisis. A Crisis Restoration Center is a place that police can take a person so that they are safe, become stabilized and a plan for treatment can be created.
High utilizers are people who are well known to police, social services and medical services. Often communities spend lots of money treating high utilizers without providing an increase in their quality of life. Many communities are finding that with coordinated approach, not only can money be saved, but high utilizers are better off.