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Legislature plans to monitor early prisoner release

Recent reforms in Wisconsin's prison system include releasing some non-violent prisoners before their sentences are complete. That's caused concern among law enforcement officials, especially in Milwaukee. Most of the prisoners released each year return to crime prone neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

It's an issue the legislature plans to track carefully. The state senate passed a bill last week requiring an annual report form the new Prison Re-entry Council evaluating the effectiveness of programs designed to prevent ex-offenders from committing new crimes.

State Rep. Joe Parisi of Madison says tracking the success and failure of the early release program is key to reducing recidivism. He says there must be an open line of communication between legislators and the re-entry council, so lawmakers know what's working and what isn't and can make changes accordingly.

Wisconsin is one of many states trying to balance its state budget by cutting prison costs.

Critics say the money saved will have to be spent on increasing the number of parole agents to monitor the increased outflow from prison. Advocates say the money would be better spent funding non-profit groups that help ex-offenders find jobs and housing.