A minimum-security prison especially for convicted drunken drivers could get them off the road, and give them the treatment they need, said state Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon.
“That’s where you could send people to get more treatment and incarcerate them longer, keep them off the roads,” Ott said in an interview aired Sunday on “UpFront,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
Ott said such a prison would cost less, because fewer guards would be needed, and an existing structure could be converted into a secure detention center.
Ott, who has worked for years to strengthen Wisconsin’s OWI laws, saw some recent success when the Assembly passed two of his bills last week.
One would require a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for drivers convicted of killing someone in an OWI crash. The other would require first-time OWI offenders to appear in court.
“What I’m hoping to do,” Ott said, “is have fewer first offenders become second offenders.”
Having to stand in front of a judge, Ott said, could “really make an impression on people.”
The five-year mandatory minimum sentence is necessary, Ott said, because some people convicted in fatal OWI crashes are still getting off with light sentences.
“I’ve heard of enough cases where a drunk driver kills someone and they get as little as a year or two. And it just seems to add insult to injury to the family who lost someone,” Ott said.
Also on the program, state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Milwaukee, who represents a heavily Hispanic district, said there is concern in the immigrant community over President Trump’s threat of mass deportations.
The interview with Zamarripa was done on Friday before published reports said Trump had ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to begin rounding up people with deportation orders. On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he would delay the raids by two weeks to give Democrats and Republicans in Congress time to work out a compromise agreement on federal immigration policy.
Zamarripa said Trump’s tweeted threat may be part of a political maneuver, since the tweet came shortly before he declared his bid for re-election in 2020.
“But part of me knows there is a real fear here, and we feel it in the community,” Zamarripa said.
Zamarripa said the White House and Congress need to fix the country’s immigration system.
“We have a broken immigration system in this country,” she said. “At the federal level we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
She was joined in the interview by one of her constituents, Valeria Navarro Villegas of Milwaukee, who falls under DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — an immigration option for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of 16.
Navarro Villegas said she was brought to Milwaukee when she was 7 years old, along with her sisters. Her family was reunited with her father, who had already come to Wisconsin, she said.
Congress and President Trump have not agreed on a fix for DACA, and Navarro Villegas said she doesn’t see a solution happening any time soon.
“The DACA program is almost like a Band-Aid that’s worked so well for some of us, that the progress to make a solution for everyone, and a permanent solution, is going to take a lot longer than we would hope for, and that’s how most of us feel,” Navarro Villegas said.
In another segment, Ben Wikler, the new chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said the whole country will be watching Wisconsin, and the party will be organizing and knocking on doors year-round to deliver Wisconsin for Democrats in 2020.
“In the fall of 2020, everyone will be staying up late at night, biting their fingernails off, watching what happens in Wisconsin, and what we want them to see is that it is nothing like 2016,” Wikler said.
“This is the year when we not only stop Trump, but we also build the foundation for Wisconsin to be the blue state that I still think it is at its heart, that passes legislation that helps people, and makes the state work for everyone,” Wikler said.
Wikler, who was a senior adviser at MoveOn.org, said Democrats will be knocking on doors in all areas of the state, and reaching out to “include and respect people from all communities,” and then giving the grass roots workers the data, technology and training they need out in the field.
He said the state party also will use the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Milwaukee in July 2020, as a springboard.
“The stakes are so high, and people feel it so personally, and the question is; can we translate that energy into meaningful activity to win elections? That’s the goal of the party,” Wikler said.
“This is where the fight is. It all comes down to Wisconsin,” he said.
See more from the program: