Scott Walker is suggesting that judges not sentence inmates to work-release, according to a letter from Chief Judge Kitty Brennan. Brennan suggests that Walker has a duty to provide a decent work-release facility, as much as would rather not do so.
Brennan's letter also raises the key question: if judges don't have work release, where the hell are they supposed to put these miscreants? Should judges let 'em all go? Lock them up if they don't need to be totally locked up? The county already is on the hook for huge damages due to its maltreatment of inmates in the jail, which staff testified was due in part to overcrowded conditions -- hasn't Walker learned anything?
Anyway, here's Brennan's letter, sent in response to a Feb. 5 Walker missive.
February 12, 2008
Milwaukee County Executive
901 N. 9th Street, Room 306
Milwaukee, WI 53233
Dear County Executive Walker:
I have received your letter of February 5, 2008, in which you ask the Judges not to sentence anyone to work release. Apparently you do not believe your work release center can effectively supervise offenders and safely protect the public. In that case, I suggest you fix it or shut it down. You, not the Courts, are responsible for the effective and safe operation of the House of Correction and Community Release Center.
Judges are obligated by law to consider work release along with many other sentencing possibilities. It’s part of the statutes and case law requirements. It’s up to you, as the ultimate supervisor of the HOC, to provide a work release center that effectively and safely supervises offenders.
If you decide to eliminate your work release center, please consider that you may be creating bigger problems for the public. All of those offenders who would otherwise be eligible for work release must then be housed in the jail or House of Correction. That will significantly strain the jail and HOC capacity and cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. In addition, without a work release program, no convicted offenders will be able to earn the money to: 1) provide restitution to victims; 2) support their families; or, 3) pay their fines and forfeitures.
While the newly formed Community Justice Council (CJC) will address this issue, it may take weeks or months for the CJC to fully develop and discuss a work release center or GPS proposal. We have no idea what conclusion the CJC may reach on this issue. Whatever resolution they reach, the elected officials with responsibility in the area of courts, corrections and budget will have to determine their official response. Neither you, nor I, nor any elected official can delegate our Constitutional responsibilities to the CJC.
We all recognize this is a difficult problem. And we in the Courts are happy to work with you, the HOC staff and the CJC to help you find a solution to your work release program’s problems.
Hon. Kitty K. Brennan
C: All Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judges
Members of the CJC Executive Committee w/Enclosure