Wisconsin lawmakers to vote on bail reform amendment

Thursday, January 12, 2023
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A bail reform bill is currently making its way through the Wisconsin State Assembly. If passed, it could close the door on some individuals being released before trial.

"This really is very common sense," State Rep. Cindi Duchow said. "This would give the judges a chance to say, 'OK, how dangerous is this person?'"

Duchow reintroduced the bill at the start of the legislative session. She said it's a secure way of making sure criminals who shouldn't get out don't.

"As I've talked to people over the years, they assume that that's what's happening right now," Duchow said. "They think the judges are looking back at their past criminal convictions and that they're looking at trying to keep the communities safe, and they're not currently allowed to do that under our constitution."

Lawmakers said yes to the bill last year, but not everyone believes the change is positive, WLUK reported.

"This proposal is a complicated issue," ESTHER lead organizer Katie Olson said. "The underlying issues of why the person who was able to cause the damage at the Waukesha parade was released -- obviously, he was a threat to society -- but labeling this as a bail issue is kind of dangerous."

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Social justice group ESTHER has been working to remove cash bonds entirely. Olson said raising bail could have negative consequences.

"Defendants who were held pre-trial, because they can't afford bail, are more likely to plead guilty even if they are not guilty, just because they've already served time," Olson said.

Olson also said its a targeted approach.

"Cash bail is really [an] antiquated system that we shouldn't be relying on because it really is a classist system that unnecessarily locks up people if they can't afford bail," she said.

Before the public will get a chance to vote on the bill, the state legislature must pass it for a second time. It was a top priority of Duchow in 2023.

"My goal was to do it immediately this session so we could get it on the April ballot," Duchow said. "Because the sooner we can start holding violent offenders, the safer we're going to make our community."

Another proposed amendment currently in the state legislature would strip the governor of the power to allocate federal funds.

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