Republicans push for tougher bail laws in wake of Waukesha tragedy
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Some Republican lawmakers are seeking to reform the state's bail laws in wake of the tragic event in Waukesha.
State Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield) reintroduced a constitutional amendment that would remove restrictions judges face when it comes to setting bail.
The measure would allow judges to consider how dangerous a defendant might be to the public when determining the bail amount. A judge would also be able to set no bail to keep someone behind bars, Duchow said. Right now, the state's constitution currently doesn't allow this.
"What we are finding, especially in Milwaukee, people are out on bail committing more and more crimes. And I think this was unfortunately an eyeopener for people to say okay, we do need to put bad people in jail," Duchow said.
The man accused of plowing through the Waukesha parade Sunday, killing six and injuring dozens, has been charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. The driver has been identified as 39-year-old Darrell Brooks from Milwaukee and is currently being held on a $5 million bond.
Three weeks before Brooks drove through the parade route he was released on $1,000 bail for a domestic violence arrest where police say he ran over a woman he has a child with. The Milwaukee District Attorney's Office is now conducting an internal review calling the bail amount set "inappropriately low."
Duchow's constitutional amendment was first introduced in 2017 and is co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). In order for the measure to go into effect, a constitutional amendment has to pass two consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by voters.
Some Democrats have previously opposed the measure. State Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said while he agrees Brooks should have never been released, he doesn't fully support the Republican's approach.
"A higher cash bail could have resulted in Mr. Brooks being held and prevention of this tragedy in Waukesha, but maybe it wouldn't. Because if you have money and you can post bail, then you are out even if you are dangerous," Goyke said.
The Milwaukee Democrat is instead advocating for a New Jersey law that essentially eliminates cash bail. It took effect in 2017 with the assumption that innocent people should not be in jail and should only be held if they pose a flight risk or danger to their community.
"The deal I would support is a law that would hold someone pretrial without bail," Goyke said. "The counter is you don't have cash bail for low-level offenders."
Republicans are also pursuing legislation to revoke probation for repeat offenders. State Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) is co-sponsoring the bill and he said it's time to put an end to policies that catch and release violent offenders.
"We have to take a strong stance against this, we can't allow people that are constantly violating the terms of their bail or probation or parole," Bradley said. "If you're given a second chance and you violate those terms, you shouldn't be free on the streets to terrorize our communities."
Goyke, who's championed criminal justice reform efforts, said he'd rather focus on policies that address the root causes that drive people to commit crimes.
"Taking look that drives people to crime, mental illness, addiction, housing insecurity, poverty and I don't think the Senator's proposed bill does that," said Goyke.