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‘We don’t have any more room:’ State rep. says prison overcrowding costing you thousands a day, millions a year

Rep. Evan Goyke

MILWAUKEE -- A forum Sunday afternoon, Jan. 21 shed light on some eye-popping statistics, as a Democratic state representative hopes to try to help reform Wisconsin's prisons.

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) recently introduced three bills in the Legislature aimed at prison reform, and during the forum, said prison overcrowding is costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

"We don't have any more room in our prison system," Rep. Goyke said.

Up to three inmates sharing a single cell in some facilities has created an overcrowding issue that is both counter-productive to inmate rehabilitation and also a serious drain on taxpayer dollars. At Turner Hall on Sunday afternoon, Goyke was joined by a panel of three former inmates.

Milwaukee County Jail

"The point about violent offenders not being given opportunities to right their ways is a very good point," Daniel Monge, former inmate said.

"Lincoln Hills -- once again, four-and-a-half hours away from Milwaukee -- why can't we repurpose Ethan Allen which is 45 minutes from Milwaukee?" James Cross, former inmate said.

Rep. Goyke said the state is currently sending 453 inmates to county jails, because there's no room for them anywhere else. There are only 500 contract beds available to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections -- meaning an already packed system is about to burst. That also comes at a huge cost to the state.

Lincoln Hills

"$23,000 a day. $8.5 million a year -- just to handle the overflow inmate numbers," Goyke said.

Goyke said he wants to reduce the overall population through inmate reforms. He's also advocating to close the Lincoln Hills youth prison and create five scattered facilities for juvenile offenders throughout the state. Governor Scott Walker is also calling on lawmakers to replace Lincoln Hills by the end of the year, and vowed to commit $80 million in next year's state budget to build the five smaller site -- all capped at 36 beds each.

Lincoln Hills School for Boys

"This is about reducing crime. About two out of three boys that go to Lincoln Hills commit a new crime within three years," Goyke said.

The panel was organized by Milwaukee Turners. It's part of their on-going series about confronting mass incarceration.