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Total Correctional Population: 100,500

Number on Parole or Probation: 64,900

Number in Local Jail or Prison: 35,600

Incarceration Rate per 100,000 residents: 620

Incarceration Rate Rank: 23rd

Corrections Share of 2018 General Fund Expenditures: 6.8%


“Correctional Populations in the United States, 2016,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

"2018 State Expenditure Report," National Association of State Budget Officers 


January 18, 2019

“There are still grave concerns. This just emphasizes to us that the state of Wisconsin has to move these kids out (of the facilities).”
The first report from court-appointed monitor Teresa Abreu shows Wisconsin’s juvenile facilities continue to face “serious, chronic, and dangerous” staffing shortages. Abreu reported that guards at Lincoln Hills School (LHS) and Copper Lake School (CLS) continue to use pepper spray to subdue people when lesser means could have been used, and individuals are sometimes placed in solitary confinement for more than seven days. The report does point to some areas of improvement, including the decreased use of physical restraints and strip searches. Abreu also noted that the Wisconsin Division of Juvenile Corrections Director and LHS/CLS Superintendent were both receptive to her recommendations. 

September 7, 2018

“We lock up too many people for too long, and it’s about time that we change the dynamics. I apologize for that, I want to be on the front end for changing that.”

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson apologized for his role in what he called the “hysteria” of locking people up. Thompson was a lead sponsor of so-called “truth-in-sentencing” laws in 1997, and oversaw the expansion of the state’s prison system. Currently, 23,500 people are held in Wisconsin’s prisons, and the state is studying plans for a new $300 million facility.  Thompson voiced support for substance abuse treatment and job training for people who are incarcerated, saying it could also help the state’s worker shortage.

January 19, 2018

“It’s a second chance. I think we’re proving ourselves out there to be pretty solid workers.”

With a national unemployment rate of 4.1%, and some local rates closer to 2%, employers are increasingly open to workers with criminal records. An analysis of job-market data by Burning Glass Technologies showed a decline in job postings requiring criminal background checks, from 8.9% in 2014 to 7.9% in 2016. Steady, meaningful employment for those with a record can not only fulfill employer needs, boosting our economy, but it can stop the cycle of recidivism in its tracks.