Violent crime has remained generally stable in the Midwest and across the nation, but in Wisconsin, it has increased over the past seven years. Furthermore, between 2000 and 2007, Wisconsin's prison population grew 14 percent, driven largely by an increase in the number of people who failed on community supervision.
From 2008 to 2019, the state prison population was projected to grow from 22,500 to 28,019, an increase of 25 percent. The state estimated the cost to accommodate that growth would be $2.5 billion--$1.4 billion in construction costs and $1.1 billion in annual operating expenditures.
In 2008, Governor James Doyle, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Senate President Fred Risser, and Speaker of the House Michael Huebsch requested technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center to help develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety in Wisconsin. In January 2009, the Wisconsin Legislative Council established the Special Committee on Justice Reinvestment Oversight, a bipartisan, bicameral, and inter-branch advisory group, to guide the Justice Center's analyses of the state's criminal justice system and development of policy options.