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New proposals would impose mandatory-minimum bails on some crimes in Wisconsin

Close-up of male prisoners’ feet in chains. (mediaphotos/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

New proposals would impose mandatory-minimum bails on some crimes in Wisconsin

January 06, 07:00 PM January 06, 07:01 PM

A new pair of plans at the Wisconsin Capitol would require judges across the state to set mandatory-minimum bail amounts on certain criminal cases in the state.

State Sen. Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, unveiled his plans on Wednesday.

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“I am all for second chances,” Bradley told The Center Square. “Everybody deserves a second chance. But these plans directly address when you’ve violated your second chance as well.”

One of Bradley’s proposals, LRB-5359, would require judges to set a minimum $10,000 bail for anyone who committed a felony or violent misdemeanor. He says that would have kept Waukesha Christmas Parade suspect Darrell Brooks Jr. behind bars and away from the parade. Brooks is accused of killing six people and injuring more than 60 when he drove his SUV into a crowd of people Nov. 21. He was out on $1,000 bail from a domestic case at the time.

Another proposal, LRB-5527, would require a minimum $5,000 bail for anyone charged with bail jumping.

“We’ve got to increase the consequences,” Bradley said. “We need to hopefully deter, and if not deter, then we need to keep the community safe by keeping you off the street.”

Bradley said the problem with low bail is not just a problem with Milwaukee County D.A. John Chishol’s office, or the Dane County prosecutor’s office. He says judges across the state are allowing dangerous criminals out of jail, often times on low or no bail.

“This is a philosophy problem,” Bradley said. “Rather than determining that [some people] shouldn’t be out on the street, they are providing opportunity after opportunity. And they are creating more and more victims.”

Bradley’s plan faces two hurdles. First, the Wisconsin Constitution requires judges offer suspects at least some bail, and the Constitution bans excessive bail.

Bradley said there is a constitutional amendment working its way through the Capitol to address those worries.

And second, raising bail will likely mean more suspects cannot make it, and will then spend more time in jail, leading to high costs.

Bradley said he expects to hear from sheriffs who say they won’t be able to afford that cost.

“The government’s primary function is keeping its citizens safe. Period,” Bradley said.

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