Assembly Republicans Vote to Get Tough on Crime

Jan. 26, 2022 | MacIver News Service

How to get Wisconsin’s crime problem under control brought out fundamental differences between Republicans and Democrats on the State Assembly floor on Tuesday, Jan. 25th.

Republicans introduced and passed a package of bills designed to give more support to law enforcement officers and locking criminals up behind bars.

The proposals included: AB 777 provides police beat patrol grants, AB 824 increases prison time for attacking a DOC worker while in custody, AB 826 allows DOC workers to use pepper spray, AB 827 increases penalties for theft that occur by a mob, AB 828 increases pay for DOC workers, AB 829 sets a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days after being convicted of theft for a third time in ten years, AB 833 provides grants to hire part time law enforcement officers, and AB 834 authorizes no-knock search warrants. All resulted in votes along partisan lines.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R – New Berlin) authored AB 174, which goes after criminals out on parole, probation, or extended supervision and are charged with a new crime. When that happens the Department of Corrections would be required to recommend that person’s community release be revoked.

Sanfelippo pointed to a statistic from the City of Milwaukee that found the same 100 people were responsible for 2,600 crimes over a ten-year period.

Democrats remained silent for most of the Republican bills, but actively opposed Sanfelippo’s bill. They have their own package of criminal justice reform bills that includes a grant program to support pre-trial release.

Pre-trial release is different from parole, probation, and extended supervision, which is covered by Sanfelippo’s bill. However, they all concern whether someone should be behind bars or out in the community. Rep. Evan Goyke used the opportunity to argue for the Democrat package.

“It includes grants to communities that are experiencing an above average rate of crime for violence prevention grants, and place-based neighborhood grants to reduce crime, and investments in pre-trial monitoring. These three programs can reduce crime. They are proven in my community in Milwaukee to work,” Goyke said. “They hold individuals accountable, they empower local residents, and crime goes down.”

The MacIver Institute has reported extensively that pre-trial monitoring in Milwaukee has been an abject failure. Darrell Brooks was on pre-trial monitoring under the supervision of JusticePoint in Milwaukee the night of the Waukesha Christmas Parade Massacre.

Democrats also voiced strong opposition to SB 296, which defines what a “riot” is and makes it illegal to participate in one.

“Protest is democracy. This bill being brought forward by my friends on the opposite side of the aisle, is a declaration of war against the first amendment,” Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) said.

Hong went on to claim Republicans lie about Black Lives Matter’s events. Neither she, nor her fellow Democrats, spoke about how BLM burned Kenosha to the ground, looted State Street and beat bystanders in Madison, destroyed public monuments and hospitalized a Democrat Senator, tried to torch the Madison City-County Building, and shot at a police officer in Wauwatosa (which Rep. David Bowen tried to cover up).

“This addresses when we go from protesting to violence and destruction. Who of us was not here when in Madison worried about the safety of our staff. We have a colleague from the other side of the aisle who was hospitalized and traumatized by protesters,” Rep. Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc) said.

Democrats ultimately claim that Republican lawmakers are wasting time with criminal justice reform, because Gov. Evers will veto them, just like he did last session. They insist the best way to prevent crime is to give more money to local governments.