The Green Bay Correctional Institution, GBCI, was built in 1898. A May 2019 report of Wisconsin’s Legislative Audit Bureau reported that many believe its antiquated design is not conducive to the efficient operation of a modern prison.
The report further stated that GBCI is the best candidate for closure among Wisconsin’s prisons. The Village Board of Allouez — the Green Bay suburb where the prison is located — has unanimously supported the distribution of a petition supporting the decommissioning of GBCI.
It is clear that after 121 years GBCI is nearing the end of its useful life. That means Wisconsin’s governor and Legislature have a big decision to make: Will our state spend $1 billion over the next 20 years to build and operate a new prison, or will we join the many states around the nation that are reducing their prison populations? Will we spend $1 billion on another prison, or will we invest $1 billion over the next 20 years on programs that can uplift our people, reduce crime, and re-build our communities?
If we choose not to replace GBCI, Wisconsin could invest $50 million each year for the next 20 years in programs like Treatment Alternatives and Diversions, programs for at-risk youths and innovative public health approaches to violence prevention, which would not only help to restore lives, families and communities but also further reduce the prison population.
GBCI houses about 1,000 men.
In the Wisconsin prison system, there are 5,000 people who have been re-incarcerated for “crimeless revocations” — meaning they have not been convicted of a new crime, but have committed a “technical violation” of their terms of supervision.
Another 3,000 have been incarcerated more than 20 years and are eligible for parole.
At least 2,000 more could be diverted from prison each year if Wisconsin fully funded the Treatment Alternatives and Diversions, TAD, program.
Wisconsin can reduce the prison census by dealing with parole, revocations and TAD to create more than enough space to accommodate the men who are currently housed at GBCI in less time than it would take to build a new prison.