Partners: Human Impact Partners; the Wisconsin Department of Health Services; the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute; the Wisconsin Council of Churches; Community Advocates Public Policy Institute; Voices Beyond Bars; Madison-area Urban Ministry; the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office; the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future; WISDOM local affiliates; Catholic Campaign for Human Development; the Greater Milwaukee Foundation; The Needmor Fund.
Project Location: Wisconsin
Contact: David Liners, executive director, WISDOM, 414-736-2099 or email@example.com
Excessive and inappropriate incarceration threatens the health and safety of people entering prison, as well as the emotional and financial wellbeing of their families and communities. WISDOM—a faith-based organization that includes representation from 145 congregations and 19 different religious traditions across Wisconsin—and its partners are using their grant funding to research the health benefits that could be realized by increasing funding in the state budget that would enable Wisconsin counties to provide effective, local alternatives to incarceration. The study also highlighted the cost savings that could be anticipated in future budgets when the prison population is decreased significantly.
In 2008, there were approximately 23,000 people—about half a percent of the population—in state prisons in Wisconsin. The great majority of those held in Wisconsin’s prisons and jails are non-violent offenders who could benefit from alternatives to incarceration. About one-third of the prison population struggles with mental illness, and estimates are that as many as 80% have substance abuse issues. The goal of this project is for the state of Wisconsin to provide sufficient funding in the July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2015 budget for counties to be able to initiate or expand proven local programs that offer alternatives to incarceration, such as drug and alcohol treatment courts, day reporting centers, the Safe Streets Treatment Options Program, and more.
To generate the public and political will necessary to support this systemic change, WISDOM and its partners conducted a health impact assessment which illustrates the potential health benefits that the proposed budget shift could afford to prisoners, their families and their communities. After a successful roll-out of the Health Impact Assessment (including dozens of media stories, many large public gatherings, and dissemination of the HIA summary to more than 2,500 decision-makers and opinion leaders), WISDOM members continue in their efforts to educate the public and policymakers about treatment alternatives to incarceration.