Two words could describe the criminal justice system in Wisconsin: chronically underfunded. That's the critical view of State Bar of Wisconsin President Diane Diehl. Diehl says the numbers tell the story of a criminal justice system in Wisconsin in crisis, because of the pay scale for prosecutors and public defenders. Diehl says it would take prosecutors 68 years to advance to the top of what she calls the state's "very modest" pay scale. "Unfortunately, most careers can't last 68 years," she adds.
A recent state audit revealed Wisconsin has 117 fewer prosecutors than needed to adequately handle the increasing number of criminal cases referred to district attorneys, and that DAs offices in a majority of the state's 72 counties are understaffed. So, Diehl says it's time to ask Governor Jim Doyle and lawmakers to rectify the situation. Diehl says the hourly rate the state pays to private practice attorneys who take public defender cases has not been increased since 1992, and in fact was cut to its current level in 1995.