WI lawmakers want more funding for prison diversion program


By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — The Republican co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Finance are asking the state to double to $3 million a year the budget for the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion grant program.

Having seen significant cost savings in the program’s pilot, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, recently introduced legislation for 2014-15 that would expand the program beyond the 13 counties originally given grants by the state Department of Justice.

Sen. Alberta Darling co-sponsored legislation to increase funding for TAD grants.

“If there are that many counties that are ready to launch an effective program, I think let’s invest in them,” Darling told Wisconsin Reporter. “We know that in the several counties (that already have TAD programs) the investment is worth every penny. We will look at how this expansion works. If it works, we should invest more.”

Treatment alternative programs are targeted at non-violent but high-risk offenders — those with multiple OWI or drug offenses — and administered through OWI courts and drug courts.

The offender serves a shortened jail sentence and undergoes intensive rehabilitation and monitoring over a probationary period. Research shows people who successfully complete the program are far less likely to return to the criminal justice system.

A University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute study conducted for the state Department of Corrections found alternative and diversion programs yield significant cost savings. For every dollar invested in TAD programs, the state saved $1.93 in corrections costs. The same study found a TAD graduate is nine times less likely to return to state prison than other offenders.

An update to the study in July 2013 found that after 6