Legislative Republicans introduce "Tougher on Crime" initiative

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- On Monday, Representative Jesse James (R) Altoona, announced a new “Tougher on Crime” initiative at a press conference in Altoona.

The package of bills is intended to address violent crime in the state. James introduced the legislation alongside Representative John Spiros and Representative Treig Pronschinske.

“I think we can do a better job on addressing violent crimes,” James says.

The measures include accountability for prosecutors, signature bail reform, oversight of the correction system, transparency in court, protection for crime victims and consequences for violent and repeat criminals. The package will also address what James says is a growing issue of retail theft in the area.

Local law enforcement officials including Altoona Police Chief Kelly Bakken and Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer were in attendance to show support for the package.

“It will hold people accountable, it will help the victims be more protected and help the community be protected,” Bakken says. “We are out there working hard to prevent crime from happening but it is important that we have the support to be tough on that crime and that people are serving their sentences.”

James also says more data on crime is necessary to understand what kind of action needs to be taken to address violent crime.

“It is very important to include the sheriff’s department and different municipalities and have them be a part of the solution because they work with it every day,” James says.

Sheriff Cramer says it is beneficial to work alongside legislators to address the issues he is seeing in the community.

“We need to look at our own system issues and address some of those issues,” Cramer says.

James says he anticipates bipartisan support for the package however Senator Jeff Smith (D) Brunswick says he is unsure if this initiative is the right approach to addressing crime in the state.

“Right from the start I am concerned they are choosing the language ‘tough on crime’ when in fact in Wisconsin we are at 133% capacity of our prisons,” Smith says. “What we need to be doing is reduce recidivism, reduce that population in incarceration and we need to put money into rehabilitation and reduce sentences for non-violent crimes and make sure people who are making those sorts of mistakes and serving those sentences are able to come back into society and be productive citizens.”
James says the package of bills will be rolled out later this week and this will be ongoing legislation that will carry over into the spring session.