I am seriously, tire-biting, Ed Anger outraged.
Kathleen Falk is now dictating how our elected judiciary is supposed to sentence the criminals who come before them. The Kathleen has directed that the judges must meet a quota of sentencing lawbreakers to community service.
This woman will do anything to return lawbreakers back into our neighborhoods!
If our judges don't commit 45 bad guys by May 1, The Kathleen will withhold funding for four needed staff lawyers. This is what is known as "the benchmark" strategy.
Worse yet, The Kathleen apparently slipped into last year's budget a proviso where you the taxpayer will foot the bill for posting bond for some of the effluent that works its way through our court system. Yes, our property taxes are now being used to bail out the creeps who diminish our quality of life.
It is called the "Revolving Bail Account." Which pretty well describes the revolving door philosophy The Kathleen has toward criminal justice in Dane County.
The Revolving Bail Account provides up to $250 in bail to jail inmates in the form of interest-free loans. Want an interest-free loan? Commit a crime and Dane County is at your service! No credit crunch for criminals!
The Wisconsin State Journal broke this story Sunday and I am still awaiting the ire of the mainstream news media's opinion makers. So far, the sound of crickets.
I worked with former chief circuit judge Daniel Moeser when I was on County Board. Ed Treleven of the State Journal quotes him thusly:
"I think one could legitimately debate whether taxpayer funds should provide bail for persons charged with a crime and whether even more taxpayer funds should be used to chase after the people who do not pay the county back."
One could, but few are.
The Kathleen's mouthpieces parrot the line that it costs $80 bucks a day to jail each inmate so let's get 'em out of jail ASAP. But what does it cost society to let them out?
The Kathleen is hot to depopulate our jails under the cover of the "study" done by the Institute for Law and Policy Planning out of Berkeley, California. The researchers, as I wrote when it came out two years ago, were never asked whether the county should build more jail space - only how to most rapidly evacuate those that we spend good dollar on apprehending and then convicting and then, returning to the streets.
From what I am hearing on Mayhill Drive, Russett Road, Bartlett, West Hammersley, those residents don't want the bad guys back in their neighborhoods.
Also in the mix, apparently, state law allows the County Board to set 24 hours of community service as equivalent to one day in jail or as few as 8 hours of community service to one day in jail.
Your Blaska's Blog queried the 37 County Board members on their stands. I asked the question: Since it is the County Board that has ultimate funding authority, will you follow Kathleen's directive or will you allow the judges, in chief Judge William Foust's words, "to be mindful of the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, and the need for the protection of the public."
Here are the responses so far:
The righteously indignant:
Melanie Hampton, County Board Supervisor for the far Southwest side of Madison, succeeding Mike Hanson.
I will not support the benchmark conditions put forth in the operating budget resolution. Being new to the Board, I have listened to the rationale behind the entire benchmark strategy, and I must admit I find it at a minimum distasteful policy and potentially wrought with constitutional issues of separation of powers. ... Think of being a victim of a crime and knowing that the judge presiding over your case has a vested interest in sentencing an offender a certain way. It's simply not where I'd ever thought we would be.
[8 hours of community service offsets 24 hours in jail?] How many people do you know who work an 8 hour day, and they're not convicted criminals? No, 8 hours is not sufficient.
Vote for the bail fund? Are you kidding? That happened before my time on the board. I had hoped its existence was an ugly rumor. I have tried and tried to explain that an in-custody arrest means that the offense was such that a municipal citation or a misdemeanor citation were not appropriate. That is, the officer has determined the probable cause exists to make an in-custody arrest. This is a relatively high threshold.
Is this a good risk of taxpayer money to loan them bail? Absolutely not! This program undercuts all the progress officers are trying to make in ensuring safe neighborhoods. Plus, in many cases where there are in-custody arrests there are issues of victim safety. I'm not about to put up taxpayer money with the potential for someone to suffer harm due to a suspect's premature release from jail.
... the operating budget resolution actually takes away the Board's oversight of the budget for the staff attorney's for the judges and gives that power solely to the County Executive and the County Board Chair. I am at a loss for words.
BTW, Melanie Hampton is a uniformed police officer.
Eileen Bruskewitz, Waunakee-Westport:
The revolving bail account is a joke.
... and just who is going to be monitoring the community service? That will require some additional staff time.
There was no vote taken on the revolving bail account. It is probably some internal sheriff budget transfer.
Dennis O'Loughlin, DeForest area:
We never knew about the taxpayers fund to bail bad guys out. It was hidden in the bowels of the Sheriffs detail budget.
Defending The Kathleen's catch and release:
John Hendrick, vice chairman Dane County Board:
Thank you for your continuing concern about county issues. As you know, our efforts are often overshadowed by the local governments that seem to be more visible to most people.
You will recall that county government has three branches: judicial, executive and legislative. I won't call them equal and they are not completely separate. The County Executive has proposed a budget. The County Board has only begun its review. And as an attorney, I am well aware of the duties and discretion entrusted to our judges. By the way, we still refer to her as "County Executive Falk".
I have not taken a position on 24 hours versus 8 hours. Thanks for highlighting that issue.
The bail fund is a recommendation of our Criminal Justice Audit. It seems like a good idea. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused will appear for trial. Public safety is not served by clogging our jail with minor accused offenders making fundraising calls until they can get friends or family to bail them out.
Please continue to use your experience to publicize the important work of county government. You should have a blog or something.
Robin Schmidt, Monona:
What I hear from my constituents is that there needs to be balance with the high cost of incarceration and the need for incarceration based on the nature of the crime. Many don't see the need to incarcerate for minor non-violent crimes, and when they become aware of the criminal justice system assessment report and recommendations, they seem pretty comfortable with those recommendations. When they hear about some of the ways the judges could partner with the county to save money and then see that the partnership doesn't happen, they are angry about wasting taxpayers money.
They see the new courthouse and the amenities that the judges have and then the see the lack of concern by the judges about taxpayer money, they get mad. So I think one is capable of setting a minimum number of community service sentences while allowing judges to be mindful of the nature of the offense (unless I'm missing something, there is no mandate that specifies which crimes get which sentences).
I can certainly relate to the judges wishing to not be held accountable to the taxpayers for the costs of their actions, but lets face it, wouldn't we all? Balancing needs and mutual respect would go a long way in solving many of today's problems.
Diane Hesselbein, who succeeded Ruth Ann Schoer on the far west side of Madison:
Ahhhh it is good to get your email. I have many questions about the whole thing.
Do you miss all of this?
Do I miss it? No, reminds me too much of the pusillanimity of the board I left. Nothing has changed except that The Kathleen's utter contempt for the legislative branch has, if anything, grown. It now extends to the judiciary.
Turns out that not only were the judges unaware of the Revolving Bail Account, so was the County Board. The evidence is that The Kathleen (sorry, John) buried that chestnut deep rather than put this major policy change on the agenda for an honest up or down vote.
Here is how to contact your supervisor - and the other 38: email@example.com
Red lipstick, pit bull, school board mom
Last Spring I challenged the moderate/conservative community to mount a challenge against The Kathleen's hegemony (liberal word alert) over local politics. Her term is up next April. I rounded up the usual suspects, including Mark Bugher, fully cognizant that he and others lack the requisite bone marrow to take the plunge.
I was remiss in not mentioning the name of Nancy Mistele. Nancy is the straight-talking former (1989-1996) member of the Madison School Board - the toughest duty any elected official must endure. She asks the tough questions that unsettle the established order. Gee, do you think maybe her time has come again?
Nancy Mistele has not announced for County Executive but I believe that she will do so.
I also believe that she will have a hard time getting campaign dollars from Madison's timid business community. I figure she needs $150,000 to be "credible." But she will get coverage because she is, like my Sarah Palin, a force of nature - fully Kathleen Falk's equal in any smackdown.
I spoke to Nancy over the weekend. Most of it was off the record. This is on. Referring to the latest example of The Kathleen's catch and release, Nancy said: "(Kathleen) just keeps handing us stuff. Is she trying to commit political suicide? My big issue driving me toward (running) is how she's telling everyone in the world how to use their land and buy more cattails and green space and forget the neighborhoods and put (criminals) back on the street. And tell judges how to sentence them."
"When you cater to the criminals instead of the citizens who lived here 20 and 30 and 40 years, this has got to stop. Someone needs to bring these issues out."
Nancy will do that. If nothing else, she will be Eugene McCarthy to Kathleen Falk's LBJ -- she will blow the lid off the reticence to confront this imperious executive.