SHAKESPEARE IN THE COURTS: VALUABLE LATER, BUT SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE NOW

Milwaukee (December 8, 2011) – Deanna Alexander, candidate for Milwaukee County Supervisor District 18, sees value in Shakespeare program but urges leaders think critically and prioritize.

Shakespeare in the Courts is a plan presently before the Milwaukee County Board that would allow judges to sentence juvenile offenders to theatrical training rather than incarceration.  Questions that have been left open include how many offenders the program would serve, whether or not the program would be designed for permanence, and how the program would be monitored and evaluated.

Handling of the penal and rehabilitation systems hits close to home for Alexander, who is not only the daughter of a former inmate, but also worked as a communication facilitator at the Racine Correctional Institution during her conflict resolution studies at UW-Parkside.

“I’ve seen first-hand the way offenders begin to turn around in the way they think and act as a result of such programs.  While punishment is essential, when rehabilitation is also a focus, a program like this can rebuild some of the proper bridges between thought, reason, and action,” Alexander said.

However, Wisconsin has a “home-grown” prison Shakespeare program that has been very successful and it doesn’t carry such a hefty price tag.  According to Jonathan Shailor, Director of The Shakespeare Project, basic costs were kept below $2,500 annually to work with 15-17 offenders when volunteers participated.   “Surely a better and less-expensive plan can be designed if this is to move forward,” Alexander said.

“More important, however, is the message we’re sending.  Financing this program right now will only amplify inconsistencies in our county government.  What of the law enforcement personnel loosing their jobs – no doubt despite the public’s need for them?  What of the prospect of ensuring that offenders, even first-time youth offenders, are punished as well?  What of burdening the taxpayer?  This program has its merits, but it should be planned for adoption in future budgets rather than quickly inserted as a mode of spending more money that we technically don’t have,” Alexander said.

Alexander hopes to bring balance to the Milwaukee County Board.  Her professional background is in accounting and auditing.  She holds a certificate in Conflict Analysis & Resolution and has studied Law & Public Policy at the master’s level.  She has also served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and is a current Milwaukee County employee.  Philip and Deanna Alexander are in their 30’s, own their Milwaukee home, and have two daughters.