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Early Release Program — Trouble for Milwaukee

According to Alderman Donovan, a minimum of 65% to 75% of the roughly 3,000 inmates eligible for early release as part of the state budget’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative will return to the Milwaukee area, where—based on the documented high rate of recidivism—many will re-offend.

That scenario, the alderman says, spells trouble for Milwaukee, for its neighborhoods, and for the Milwaukee Police Department, which has been doing an excellent job in reducing overall crime in the city in recent years.

Alderman Donovan, chair of the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee, said Milwaukee and 8th District constituents “deserve better treatment than this.” “Many 8th District residents volunteer long hours in the Block Watch program and in other ways to make their neighborhoods safer, and they need someone to fight for their best interest instead of letting inmates come back early,” he said.

In January, Alderman Donovan sent a letter (to read the letter, please click here) from him and co-signed by several colleagues asking Governor Doyle to suspend the early release portion of the initiative.

Under Chief Edward Flynn, Alderman Donovan said the Milwaukee Police Department has significantly reduced crime in the city, including a 25% drop in total violent crime over the past two years. “We’ve had double-digit decreases in robbery, aggravated assault, and auto theft, and people have taken notice that their neighborhoods are quieter and safer,” he said.

“But the early release program will, I fear—and Chief Flynn has said as much—erase the tremendous gains that we’ve made in recent years,” Alderman Donovan said. “Just as (former) Governor Thompson said years ago—‘Stick it to ‘em (Milwaukee)’ on the Miller Park financing, now Governor Doyle is ‘sticking it to Milwaukee’ with an influx of convicted felons who should be serving their full sentences.”

Alderman Donovan said Milwaukee is made even more vulnerable because of its high rate of police officer vacancies—set to approach 300 by later this year. “We are headed in the wrong direction with our vacancies, and now comes this ill-conceived idea of granting early release for some inmates,” he said.