County Executive Scott Walker is considering closing the downtown work-release center and putting everyone in it on electronic bracelets, according to the JS.
Funny how you can become a corrections reformer when property tax dollars are being sucked away by jail and prisons. Walker was fine with locking up everyone in sight at the state's expense when he was a state legislator, but now that he is managing the money that has to pay the bills, he's seeing things differently.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
The majority of folks in the work-release center would do just dandy on the bracelet, but this proposal probably won't get out of the prison gate. Even if Walker suddenly experienced a conversion, at least some of the judges clearly haven't. Chief Judge Kitty Brennan already has expressed concern, although that might just be an instinctual response to any proposal from Walker, who has tried repeatedly to underfund and dangerously understaff the courts. (Besides, what's more unelectable than a highly-visible judge calling to let the inmates out, even if they are on bracelets?)
Walker is going against his red meat base with this proposal. It has been for years the battle cry of Walker and his ilk to get tough on crime, and any move that may appear in any way not to do that has been met with a huge outcry.
Now Walker has painted himself into a box. Corrections, like transit and parks, cost money. Walker, although every year proposing a higher tax levy than he did the year before, keeps pledging not to raise taxes. He can get away with letting transit and parks fall apart, but jails have inspectors and sooner or later that downtown work-release facility is not going to pass its inspection. The place is a mess and has been for years.
Walker had a choice: fix the facility or find another way. He chose the latter. Now we'll see if his supporters let him get away with it.