It's no secret that America's criminal justice system is broken. From overpopulated prisons to high incarceration recidivism rates, the past few decades have shown that efforts to improve the system have fallen short — both in effectiveness and cost savings. The issues we face are vast and all-encompassing, and — as is often the case with large, complex problems — they can be difficult to visualize.

Many people want to easily explain the breakdown of our criminal justice system as something that only affects urban neighborhoods and those whom society has let fall behind, but that could not be further from the truth. Drug addiction, high incarceration rates and the monetary burdens of both, affect the entirety of the American population, spanning across urban, suburban and rural communities.

Nowhere is this more apparent than right here in Wisconsin.

Data released from a 2013 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health report showed 4.3% of Wisconsin adults reported using heroin or other opioids that year — a dramatic increase from a decade earlier. What's more alarming is that statewide data reveals one-quarter of people who began using heroin were under the age of 25.

According to a 2014 report released by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, "between 2006 and 2011, Wisconsin experienced a 350% increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. Further, according to the 2011 Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Drug Trafficking Trends Survey of law enforcement agencies across the state, many agencies reported that heroin is an increasing problem within their jurisdiction, or in many instances, 'the number one drug problem in their jurisdiction.'"

In addition to the devastation addiction has on individuals and families, the monetary consequences of abuse are overwhelming for society. A 2001 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the economic cost of heroin use in the United States was a staggering $21.9 billion — Wisconsin accounted for approximately $220 million of that total. Among the factors contributing to this burdensome price tag are increased health care and judicial costs, criminal activity and unemployment.

In response to this growing epidemic, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in the House of Representatives. Companion legislation was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a full Senate vote. A multifaceted approach to solving the problems of addiction, CARA identifies solutions for every stage of addiction.

Unfortunately, opioid and heroin addiction is only one piece of the complex criminal justice crisis we face nationally, as well as on the state level.

Over the past three decades, America's prison population has more than quadrupled — from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. Here in Wisconsin, an astounding one in 39 adults is under state correctional control.

Along with increased prison populations, is increased spending on both the national and state level. Research released by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that between 1980 and 2013, national prison spending has increased by 595%, a staggering figure that is both irresponsible and unsustainable.

Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25% of the entire Department of Justice budget. In Wisconsin, lawmakers appropriated $2.5 billion to the state Department of Corrections in the 2011-2013 budget, an amount that is expected to rise before 2020. In fact, according to a 2012 article posted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that budget allotted more taxpayer dollars to state prisons and correctional facilities than to the University of Wisconsin System.

As a nation, we face nearly $20 trillion in debt. And although we fare better in Wisconsin thanks to the common sense policies enacted by Gov. Scott Walker and our Republican Legislature, we cannot afford the continuing financial burdens placed on us by our broken criminal justice system.

Last year, I introduced targeted legislation that tackles these issues based on proven fixes developed by states around the country. I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions that will reduce the taxpayer burden, heal fractured families and communities and save thousands of lives. There is more work to be done to achieve comprehensive criminal justice reform, but congressional lawmakers are making progress, and I believe many of the proposals made on the federal level can be just as effective on the state level.

Criminal justice reform can be achieved through cooperation, thoughtful legislating and the belief that some issues are bigger than party lines and partisan politics.

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