The Study Committee on Bail and Conditions of Pretrial Release met for the first time on Aug. 16, 2018. The committee, chaired by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), is tasked with reviewing the state’s pretrial release system. Committee members include legislators and various members from the criminal justice system including the state public defender, a sheriff, private practice attorneys and judges.
The meeting began with introductions of the committee members and an overview from Legislative Council on major cases pertaining to bail and how bail is determined. Legislative Council also reviewed the Wisconsin statutes that cover pretrial release procedures.
Following the thorough review from Legislative Council, Amber Widgery from the National Conference of State Legislatures presented on state legislation from across the country on pretrial release policy. Widgery stated that since 2012, more than 700 bills have been enacted in this issue area. The trends from across the country include legislation on risk assessments, statutory guidance to the courts, timelines for review procedures (“second-look procedures”), various conditions of pretrial release, technical violations and early interventions.
The next presentation featured Dr. Constance Kostelac, Director of the Bureau of Justice Information and Analysis in the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and Tianna Glenna, Criminal Justice Manager in Eau Claire County. Kostelac focused on Wisconsin Evidence-Based Decisions Making (EDBM) pretrial pilot programs. Glenna reviewed the principles behind the evidence-based decision making. The EBDM initiative is piloted in seven counties across the state and varies across size and diversity. The presentation focused on the pilot programs and the mission statements, policies and procedures, and assessment tools for the programs.
The final presentation for the day was from retired Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Kremers. Kremers’s presentation focused on evidence based pretrial release and monitoring in Wisconsin. Kremers reiterated that bail in Wisconsin is a monetary condition of release and that research shows that monetary bail does not improve court appearances or community safety. In addition, Kremers explained the research and applicability of the public safety assessment.
The committee wrapped up the meeting with a discussion on the scope of their assignment and next steps. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 17.