That is what this coalition of groups is asking for, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but based on the results from rigorous evaluation—is there any other worthwhile kind—the programs have failed, and some have even made the problems worse, which we report on our rehabilitation page with links to the evaluation reports mentioned.

The California group advocating this is a health coalition, the type of liberal organization who tend to see most problems as emanating from deficient health care or crimogenic social structures, while conservative criminal justice experts see individual criminal behavior largely a result of individual criminal decisions—a view Lampstand agrees with.

An excerpt from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story.

“Investing in addiction and mental health treatment, instead of prison, for nonviolent offenders would likely lower crime, strengthen communities and save the state millions of dollars annually, according to a study released this week by a coalition pushing to expand Wisconsin’s drug courts and other alternatives-to-prison programs.

“The health-impact assessment, by the California-based Human Impact Partners, recommends the state increase funding for its existing treatment alternative programs from about $1 million to $75 million annually, expand eligibility, and add $20 million for mental health treatment, jobs programs and other, related services.

“There’s every reason in the world to see that alternatives to incarceration work, especially for people whose primary issue is addiction or a mental health issue,” said David Liners of the faith-based advocacy group WISDOM, whose 11-by-15 Campaign for Justice aims to cut the state’s prison population in half to 11,000 by 2015.

“We’re never going to solve health issues with criminal justice solutions,” he said.

“WISDOM, which sees the state’s incarceration rates as a moral and social justice issue, commissioned the study with a $200,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The faith-based coalition of social justice groups is working on legislation for the 2013-’15 biennium modeled after a 1973 Minnesota law that stressed community treatment over incarceration for low-level offenders.

“Such measures have historically been a tough sell in Wisconsin, where the Legislature passed the truth-in-sentencing law in 1999 and last year rescinded a program that released prisoners early for good behavior or health reasons.

“But Republican Gov. Scott Walker and others have expressed interest in the study’s findings.”