Budget proposal would allow for electronic monitoring for Milwaukee County work release inmates

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MILWAUKEE -- Some Milwaukee County inmates could be placed on GPS monitoring, allowing them to stay in their homes. It's included in Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's 2020 budget proposal and would be used for inmates on work release.

Milwaukee County inmates spend nights at the House of Correction after spending their days in the community working, going to school, or taking care of their families. A new proposal could mean the Huber dorm would close, and inmates would stay home, wearing a GPS anklet instead.

"Because, presently, when they go out, they can be released for up to 16 hours a day," said Michael Hafemann, HOC superintendent. "We have no idea of where they are. We have no idea what they're doing."

A second phase would allow Huber-eligible inmates to take part in the program, but cannot, for reasons like transportation.

Milwaukee County House of Correction

Michael Hafemann

Michael Hafemann

"Unless they have a way to get to and from treatment, they can't go to treatment," said Hafemann. "They might be able to get a job, but they have no way to get to and from that job."

County leaders said expanding the electronic monitoring program could shave HOC costs by more than $1.7 million a year. Once on GPS monitoring, Wisconsin Community Services is the nonprofit contracted to keep tabs on everyone.

"It is very effective in terms of holding offenders accountable, improving public safety, and also allowing people to reintegrate back in the community," said Clarence Johnson, executive director of Wisconsin Community Services.

Clarence Johnson

Clarence Johnson

Before the proposal could get the green light, countywide stakeholders, including law enforcement and criminal justice officials and leaders in municipalities like Milwaukee would have to weigh in.

"So I'll be looking at it very carefully," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "Obviously, I understand the need to have fewer people incarcerated, so I want to make sure that the safeguards are there so that the public is not adversely affected."

Chief Judge Maxine White said neither she nor other judges were offering opinions on the proposal until it could be examined and presented to county leaders.

Milwaukee County House of Correction

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