Friday, April 19, 2024
Friday, April 19, 2024

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Wisconsin DOC Failed to Revoke Supervision of 6,000 Offenders Who Committed New Crimes


Did you know that thousands of people charged with new crimes while on state supervision don’t go back to prison?

More than 6,000 people on state supervision basically thumbed their noses at the system by committing new crimes recently, but the state of Wisconsin Department of Corrections chose not to send them back to prison.

A Republican state lawmaker, Julian Bradley, is trying to change that, along with some of his colleagues.

The numbers come from a fiscal estimate in a bill currently before the state Senate, and they’re only for one recent year, so the cumulative total over the years is much higher. The new bill would require the Wisconsin DOC to revoke a person’s extended supervision, parole or probation if they are charged with a new crime. Some people might be surprised to learn that doesn’t always happen now, but it doesn’t – a lot.

That’s an issue that Bradley has taken charge of highlighting at a time of rising violent crime. Many in the media seem to focus far more on the police end of the criminal justice system, failing to scrutinize the Wisconsin DOC’s failure to revoke people who seriously violate supervision and the Milwaukee County DA’s refusal to criminally charge almost 6 in 10 of every felony charge requested by police last year. All of it – along with soft sentences by judges – results in more criminals being on the streets to re-offend. Again, and again.

Believe it or not, this is controversial. Remember, these are people who already were convicted of a crime, received a sentence, and then went out and committed another crime while on state supervision for the first offense.

Last month, the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3 vote (Alberta Darling, Lena Taylor and Kelda Roys were all nos), and it is now up for full consideration of the Senate.

The bill was introduced in March by Senators Bradley, Jacque, Stroebel and Feyen; it was co-sponsored by Representatives Sanfelippo, Brandtjen, Horlacher, James, Knodl, Kuglitsch, Magnafici, Murphy, Ramthun, Rozar and Wichgers.

The Wisconsin DOC Numbers

In 2018, Wisconsin DOC recommended revocation for 9,961 cases of individuals on extended supervision, parole or probation, and 87% of those were upheld through an administrative review process. The DOC didn’t seek revocation in almost 40% of offenders who committed new crimes while on supervision, the fiscal note says.

The Department of Corrections used Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access data for 2019 and estimated that 6,280 offenders on community supervision were charged with a new crime and remained on community supervision. “Under this bill, DOC would be required to recommend revoking the community supervision of all 6,280 individuals,” the fiscal note says.

“According to new data from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, we know that statewide in 2020, there were 302 homicides – up 30% from 2016. There were 2,024 cases of rape – up 43% from 2016. And there were 41,733 cases of aggravated and simple assault – up 17% from 2016. This trend is so disheartening, and we must do what we can to reverse it,” State Sen. Julian Bradley (R-Franklin), said in testimony supporting the bill, which he authored.

“The Department of Corrections, in its fiscal estimate for this bill, has admitted that recommending revocation for criminals committing new crimes on probation increased by 6,280 in the first year of this bill. This is based on information from the Wisconsin Court System Circuit Court Access (CCAP). This means that under their own supervision, previously convicted criminals are today being charged with 6,280 crimes annually, and they’re left on our streets. That’s in addition to the 9,961 times crimes are charged where probation is already recommended for revocation. Adding these numbers up means that offenders on supervision are being charged with more than 16,000 crimes annually – or 1,300 crimes a month – and yet they are out and about in our communities.”

Bradley added: “We must do what we can to ensure previously convicted offenders who have proven they haven’t changed or shown regret for their crimes cannot terrorize our communities. Now is especially the time for us to take a look at how we manage probation. In 2020, the Department of Corrections released at least 1,600 prisoners early due to the coronavirus outbreak. We need to ensure the Department has strict guidelines monitoring those who have broken our laws and were supposed to be in prison serving out their sentences. They shouldn’t be given extra chances to commit new crimes because of the pandemic’s extraordinary circumstances.”

What happens now? That’s up to the Wisconsin DOC.

The state Department of Corrections’ fiscal estimate states that under current law, the DOC “utilizes Department Policy, evidence-based practices, Department Administrative Code, and statutory requirements to determine whether or not to revoke a person’s extended supervision, parole or probation if the person is charged with a crime while on extended supervision, parole or probation.”

A 2013 act gave the Wisconsin DOC the authority “to develop a system of short-term sanctions for violations of conditions of parole, probation, extended supervision, and deferred prosecution agreements.” They include placing offenders in a regional detention facility or a county jail for up to 90 days. The short-term sanctions would no longer be an option under the bill.

The DOC estimates the new bill would cost many millions of dollars in Division of Hearings and Appeals review charges, new facilities, increased operations costs, and the like.

In 2018, 87% of the cases recommended for revocation by DOC were revoked by DOA DHA (Department of Administration’s Division of Hearings and Appeals.) That resulted in the offender being sent to prison. In 2016, on average, people on community supervision with a new conviction were revoked to prison for approximately 39 months.

DOC made its fiscal estimate by estimating that 47% of the revocations would be affirmed by the Administrative Law Judge, which would be a dramatic decrease. Thus the department is assuming an additional 1,599 people would be in the state prison system. And eventually a permanent increase of 4,673.

The number of people in DOC’s care has been declining because of the pandemic but exceeds capacity.

The department estimates it would need to construct two new Oshkosh Correctional Institution-sized facilities. The cost of one is $450-550 million. There would be an estimated cost of $170 million in increased operations costs.

The bill adds that a person has not completed his or her sentence for purposes of expungement if the criminal charges are pending against the person or, if the person was on probation, the person violated any rule or condition of the probation or at least one year has not elapsed since being placed on probation.

The Director of State Prosecutors Office wrote that it did not “anticipate a significant fiscal effect on their offices resulting from this proposed bill.”

In addition, under current law, a sentencing court may order a person’s criminal record “expunged of a crime if the court determines that the person will benefit and society will not be harmed and if certain conditions are met. This bill adds to those conditions that the court may not order the record expunged of a crime if the person had previously been convicted of a crime, including a crime for which the record had been expunged.”

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(The Center Square) – One of the biggest critics of Wisconsin’s election administrator says no one should be threatening her and says threats don’t help fix election integrity issues.

State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, on Tuesday offered her thoughts after the Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed elections administrator Meagan Wolfe is receiving extra security protection.

"Threatening Administrator Meagan Wolfe, or any election official, is unacceptable and counterproductive. Venting frustrations on individuals like Wolfe, clerks, or poll workers is not only illegal but also harmful to rebuilding trust in our elections,” Brandtjen said. “Threats only undermine our republic and empower the courts and media. It's essential to address any concerns about election processes through legal channels. Threats have no place in our democracy.”

Brandtjen has been one of Wisconsin’s loudest critics of Wolfe. She led hearings as far back as 2021 into Wolfe’s role in the 2020 election. Brandtjen also led the push to get Wolfe removed from the Elections Commission.

“Wolfe’s term has indeed expired, and according to Wisconsin Statutes 15.61(1)(b)1, she should be removed, but Republicans are too worried about the press or too compromised to follow existing law.” Brandtjen said.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday clarified that Wolfe is receiving extra security but refused to offer any details.

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission has had productive conversations about safety and security with state leadership, including the governor’s office, which is tasked with approving security measures for state government officials,” WEC spokesperson Riley Vetterkind said in a statement. “Those conversations have resulted in additional security measures being approved for Administrator Wolfe and the WEC when the need arises.”

Brandtjen on Tuesday blamed Wisconsin Republicans, and once again blamed Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, for Wolfe’s continued time on the Elections Commission.

“It's disappointing that Sen. Dan Knodl and Rep. Scott Krug, chairs of the election committees, have not exercised their investigative and subpoena powers. This inaction has allowed the neglect of essential laws, such as providing ballots to individuals declared incompetent, lack of checks in military ballot requests, an insecure online system, and improper guidance on voting for homeless individuals without proper documentation,” she said. “The Legislature, particularly Speaker Vos' control, is responsible for the frustration caused by election irregularities due to their inaction.”

Wisconsin’s local election managers have reported an uptick in threats and angry rhetoric since the 2020 election, and some local election offices have taken extra precautions. But there haven’t been any cases in Wisconsin where someone has acted on an election threat.

Wisconsin’s Largest Business Group Sues Over Evers’ 400-year School Funding Veto

(The Center Square) – There is now a legal challenge to Gov. Tony Evers’ 400-year school funding veto.

The WMC Litigation Center on Monday asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up their challenge to the governor’s summer veto that increased per-pupil funding for the next four centuries.

“At issue is Gov. Evers’ use of the so-called ‘Vanna White’ or ‘pick-a-letter’ veto,” the group said in a statement. “The governor creatively eliminated specific numbers in a portion of the budget bill that was meant to increase the property tax levy limit for school districts in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 fiscal years. By striking individual digits, the levy limit would instead be increased from the years 2023 to 2425 – or four centuries into the future.”

The WMC Litigation Center is an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce (WMC), the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association.

Litigation Center Executive Director Scott Rosenow said while Wisconsin’s governor has an incredibly powerful veto pen, there are limits.

“No Wisconsin governor has the authority to strike individual letters or digits to form a new word or number, except when reducing appropriations,” Rosenow said. “This action is not only unconstitutional on its face, but it is undemocratic because this specific partial veto allows school districts to raise property taxes for the next 400 years without voter approval.”

Wisconsin lawmakers and voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1990 that put limits on the governor’s veto power.

Rosenow and the WMC Litigation Center say the governor’s veto goes beyond those limits.

The legal challenge also raises the constitutional issue that all state spending has to originate with, and be approved by, the legislature.

“In no uncertain terms, 402 years is not less than or part of the two-year duration approved by the Legislature – it is far more,” concluded Rosenow. “The governor overstepped his authority with this partial veto, at the expense of taxpayers, and we believe oversight by the Court is necessary.”

The WMC Litigation Center is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case as quickly as possible.

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Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to charges he paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a lawyer and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.

Trump has attempted to delay the start of the New York state trial several times, including three longshot tactics judges rejected this week.

What charges does Trump face in the New York hush money case?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to money paid to Daniels and another woman, former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Bragg has alleged Trump broke New York law when he falsified with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Prosecutors allege Trump falsified internal records kept by his company, hiding the true nature of payments that involve Daniels ($130,000), McDougal ($150,000), and Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen ($420,000). Prosecutors allege the money was logged as legal expenses, not reimbursements. Both Cohen and Daniels are expected to testify.

Cohen is expected to be a key witness in the trial. Daniels has said she expects to testify.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., Bragg's predecessor, did not bring the case to trial.

What happens on Monday?

Prosecutors, defense attorneys and Donald Trump are expected to be present when the trial before Judge Juan Merchan gets started Monday. The first step will be picking a jury, a process that could take a week or more depending on how things progress. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys will select 12 jurors and six alternates from a pool of potentially hundreds of people. Each juror will answer 42 questions designed to determine if they can be impartial in the high-profile trial of a polarizing former president. The jurors will remain anonymous because of security concerns.

Once a jury is seated, it's on to opening statements where prosecutors and defense attorneys will get to address the jury about what they plan to show during the trial.

What is Trump's defense to the charges?

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has accused Bragg of bringing a politically motivated case involving conduct in 2016 during a presidential election year as Trump faces incumbent Joe Biden in a rematch of the 2020 election.

Trump has spoken out against the judge, the district attorney and other involved in the case repeatedly. Trump's comments prompted a gag order from the judge who said Trump can't talk publicly about certain people involved in the case and their families.

"The White House Thugs should not be allowed to have these dangerous and unfair Biden Trials during my campaign for President. All of them, civil and criminal, could have been brought more than three years ago. It is an illegal attack on a Political Opponent. It is Communism at its worst, and Election Interference at its Best. No such thing has ever happened in our Country before," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social this week. "On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds. All of these New York and D.C. 'Judges' and Prosecutors have the same MINDSET. Nobody but this Soros Prosecutor, Alvin Bragg, wanted to take this ridiculous case. All legal scholars say it is a sham. BIDEN'S DOJ IS RUNNING THE CASE. Just think of it, these animals want to put the former President of the United States (who got more votes than any sitting President!), & the PARTY'S REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE, IN JAIL, for doing absolutely nothing wrong. It is a RUSH TO THE FINISH. SO UNFAIR!"

Will Trump take the stand?

That's not clear yet. Trump said last month that he'd be willing to testify at trial if needed.

Could Trump go to jail?

It's too earlier to tell what will happen if Trump is convicted. Under New York state law, falsifying business records in the first degree is a Class E felony that carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Trump's age and lack of any prior criminal convictions could work in his favor at sentencing if he's convicted. His attacks on the judge could have the opposite effect at sentencing. Before sentencing, the judge would look at sentencing guidelines, recommendations from prosecutors and any other pre-sentence reports.

In late March, Trump said that he wasn't worried about a conviction when asked if he thought a conviction could hurt his chances of returning to the White House.

"It could also make me more popular because the people know it's a scam," he said. "It's a Biden trial, there is no trial, there's a Biden trial."

Whatever happens during the trial, Trump will be protected by the U.S. Secret Service.

Even if convicted and sentenced to jail, Trump could continue his campaign to re-take the White House.

"The Constitution does not bar felons from serving as President," said Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Trump could not pardon himself from any state charges, Hasen said.

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s next supreme court race could be even more contentious and even more expensive than the last one.

Liberal Justice Anne Walsh Bradley on Thursday surprised the state when she announced she will not run for re-election next year.

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run. But it's just time to pass the torch, bring fresh perspectives to the court," Walsh Bradley said in a statement.

She is one of Wisconsin’s longest serving justices, serving her third 10-year term on the court.

“In the 177-year history of the court, only four justices have served longer than my length of service,” she wrote.

Walsh Bradley’s decision means the next election will be open.

Former Republican attorney general, and current Waukesha County judge, Brad Schimel has already jumped into the race. There aren’t any declared Democrats yet.

Schimel on Thursday said Walsh Bradley’s decision isn’t changing anything for him.

“From the beginning of my campaign, I made it clear that I’m not just running against one person, I’m running against this Court’s leftist majority,” Schimel said. “I wish Justice Ann Walsh Bradley well in retirement after decades of public service. I look forward to continuing the fight to bring integrity and respect for the Constitution back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin’s last race for the supreme court, in April of 2023, set records for spending. The race between Justice Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly cost more than $56 million. That makes the 2023 Wisconsin race the most expensive judicial race in American history. Many court observers and politicos in Wisconsin say the 2025 race could be just as expensive, or even more expensive.

Protasiewicz’s victory flipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.

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