Tommy Thompson on Crime

Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)


Death penalty for terrorism convicts

Question 13. Should those convicted of carrying out a terrorist attack in the United States regardless of country or origin be given a death penalty?

Mark Neumann: Yes

Tommy Thompson: Yes

Source: 2012 Wisconsin Tea Party Senate Debate Questionnaire , Aug 13, 2012

Building more prisons reduces the crime rate

We restored public confidence in the criminal justice system with truth in sentencing, strengthened our juvenile code by replacing a soft touch with tough love, and kept sexual predators off our streets until they’re deemed not to be a threat.

While no one likes to build prisons, there is an unmistakable correlation between rising prison populations and the lowest crime rates in 30 years. When the bad guys are behind bars, they’re not committing crimes.

Source: 2001 State of the State Address , Jan 31, 2001

Give prisoners a work ethic, and substance-abuse programs

Our goal remains to make a criminal’s first visit to prison his last. Our cutting-edge work programs give prisoners a skill and work ethic so they can leave prison with the ability to get a job and stay out of trouble. And drug and alcohol treatment programs help keep them sober. As we look to the future, every prison must have a work program that trains every prisoner. Otherwise, these criminals will just keep coming back.
Source: 2001 State of the State Address , Jan 31, 2001

Two strikes and you’re out for serious child sex crimes

Gov. Thompson has added a protective layer of security around our playgrounds, and neighborhoods from sex offenders who prey on children by creating a “two strikes, you’re out” provision for serious child sex offenders. Any person convicted of a second sexual assault against a child will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Source: WI Governor’s website , Jan 8, 2001

Three strikes and you’re out for felony convictions

“Three Strikes, You’re Out” - Gets tough with habitual criminals with mandating life in prison for the third felony conviction.
Source: WI Governor’s website , Jan 8, 2001

Zero tolerance approach to crime

Gov. Thompson believes the most fundamental responsibility of government is to provide a safe environment for its citizens to live, work and play. Therefore, the governor takes a zero tolerance approach to crime. The governor is dedicated to making sure Wisconsin remains a safe haven for its citizens and visitors.

1999 crime statistics indicate state residents are enjoying the lowest total of index crimes in 26 years (index crimes include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault).

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site , Dec 25, 2000

Truth in Sentencing, no exceptions

Gov. Thompson eliminated the charade of parole and mandatory release, imposing a new program called Truth in Sentencing.

The program is as straightforward as it sounds: a criminal will serve 100 percent of his or her sentence. No exceptions. No excuses. From now on, when a judge hands down a 20-year sentence, the criminal will serve 20 years behind bars. “We are weighting the scales of justice back in favor of the law-abiding citizens of Wisconsin,” Gov. Thompson said. Judges will now hand down two sentences: a prison sentence and an extended supervision sentence. The extended supervision sentence must be at least 25 percent of the prison sentence. Therefore, on a 20-year prison sentence, the criminal must spend at least five years under extended supervision after serving his sentence.

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site , Dec 25, 2000

Life means life, no possibility of parole

Gov. Thompson also eliminates time off for good behavior and replaces it with more time for bad behavior. Prison officials can now extend a disruptive prisoner’s time behind bars as well as transfer a prisoner to a more secure and strict prison.

The governor created a “life means life” law that allows judges to sentence murderers to prison without the possibility of parole.

Source: Wisconsin Governor’s web site , Dec 25, 2000

All felons will serve complete prison sentence

If a felon is sentenced to 20 years, he should serve 20 years. No exceptions. The current system provides the possibility that inmates can be eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of their sentences. There will be time off for good behavior. Parole and mandatory release from prison will no longer exist. Time can be added on for the prisoner who misbehaves.
Source: Speech on crime , Feb 23, 1997

Zero tolerance: swift & certain justice makes safety

I grew up in a community where individuals were held responsible for their actions. People were fair. If you did something wrong, you paid the price. It was both the integrity of the community, as well as the swiftness and certainty of the justice, that made Elroy a safe place.

In the 1960s and 1970s, elected officials refocused the political discussion of criminal justice issues on social causes. To prevent crime, one had to identify those injustices and overcome them. Social programs, they said, not prisons, were the answers to controlling crime.

I entered public service with the belief that one of government's most fundamental roles was to protect law-abiding citizens from crime. It was this commonsense understanding of government's role that drove my zero-tolerance approach to crime and my determination to change our out-of-balance criminal justice system. I promised to refocus state sentencing policies from treatment and parole to longer, "determinative" prison terms for violent offenders.

Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.177-179 , Sep 1, 1996

Life means life: Abolish mandatory release laws

Since 1986, we have been able to pass key legislation to change our sentencing laws--ideas I had been urging before catchy phrases like "three strikes" were even on the radar screen. Wisconsin abolished mandatory release laws, eliminated the "no consequences" language of the juvenile code, toughened our statutes on sexual predators, and introduced "life means life" to prevent judges from establishing any possibility of parole for murderers sentenced to life in prison.

Several studies have demonstrated the link between expanded prison capacity, longer sentences, and reduced crime in Wisconsin. It's not particularly difficult to figure out that keeping criminals in prison reduces crime. Punishment is effective crime prevention.

There are dangers, too, though, in taking the get-tough approach too far. Treatment programs can help people get their lives in order, and they do play a role in crime deterrence, but in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, law enforcement.

Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.182-183 , Sep 1, 1996

Turn prisons into factories where all prisoners are working

In 1996, the prisons in the state of Wisconsin began contracting with private companies to have inmates perform work that no one else in the private sector will do. Soon we expect prisoners in Wisconsin to be working to pay 25% of the cost of operating our adult prisons. In my mind, I can envision a completely different prison system. I would like to turn Wisconsin's prisons into factories--where all the prisoners are working. In many ways, it would parallel our W2 welfare reform, by which people who have been simply sitting around waiting for welfare checks are matched with levels of work they can perform. It could work the same way with prisons--with a few necessary precautions--where inmates would work all day, every day, instead of sitting in their cells. Good work would be rewarded, and poor performance, violence, and bad behavior would be punished.
Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.186 , Sep 1, 1996

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Page last updated: Oct 28, 2021