FILE - Wisconsin Sen. Alberta Darling

Wisconsin Sen. Alberta Darling

A new package of bills at the statehouse in Madison is designed to help make sure witnesses and victims feel safe when going to court.

Sen Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, led a contingent of Republicans Monday in introducing a new package of proposed laws that will stiffen sentences or create new crimes that focus on protecting victims.

One of those new laws focuses on intimidating victims of domestic violence.

“Too often criminals are let off the hook because witnesses are too scared to testify,” Darling said, “These bills will get more criminals off the street because witnesses and victims will be protected.”

Darling and the others also want judges to have the tools to protect witnesses and make testifying easier. They are suggesting that courts have the option of allowing victims or witnesses testify via video-conferencing. 

Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, said the idea in the victim-protection plans are common sense. 

“Increasing protections for crime victims and witnesses is important, particularly in cases of domestic abuse,” Knodl said, “We should be making it harder for criminals to continue terrorizing our communities, not easier. The legislation we’re introducing today moves us in the right direction.”

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin, said the Republicans' push to get tougher on some criminals comes at the same time that Gov. Tony Evers is talking about letting people out of prison. 

"Somebody makes a mistake, we should give them a second chance," Sanfelippo said. "What we are aiming at are the habitual offenders who repeat crime over and over and over again. Yet the system doesn't do anything to change it."

Sanfelippo added that Republicans are not necessarily against criminal justice reform as long as communities are protected. 

"Criminal justice reform has been a topic of discussion since the Evers Administration took over. But we have very clearly different ideas as to what that reform should look like," Sanfelippo said. "We want to focus on the criminals. And focus on keeping the public safe."

Staff Reporter

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.