Governor Tony Evers (D-WI) and the Wisconsin Parole Commission are under fire from Republicans in the Badger State as they demand parole records, accusing the Evers administration of being soft on crime.
The Wisconsin Parole Commission was sued this week by Wisconsin Right Now, a conservative news outlet, to obtain the state’s most recent parole records, records the group had previously requested through an open records request.
The group is seeking the most recent information on how many violent criminals have received early release from prison by the parole board, which makes decisions independently of Evers.
“The Parole Commission’s unreasonable and unexplained delay in providing responsive records is unlawful, and we will pursue every legal angle on behalf of Wisconsin Right Now until the requested records have been turned over,” said Lucas Vebber, a lawyer with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which is representing the the group.
The group has given some data on parole during the Evers administration, but has been slow in releasing the most recent information, according to Wisconsin Right Now.
The state’s department of corrections has said that it will make the records available by the end of this week, after Republican lawmakers also applied pressure to the officials to obtain the records.
State Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) has accused the department corrections of “stonewalling” his and Senator Julian Bradley (R-Franklin) inquiry into parole records dating back to 2014 and information about Douglas Balsewicz, a convicted murderer who was granted parole earlier this year before that decision was reversed following backlash.
Overall, discretionary paroles have declined under the previous two Wisconsin governors, Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tony Evers, largely because of truth-in-sentencing laws first passed in 1998 and then re-implemented in 2011 by the Republican controlled state legislature and signed by Walker.
Evers asked for the resignation of controversial parole board head John Tate after the official decided to parole Balsewicz, who murdered his wife by stabbing her 42 times in front of the couple’s young children.
Just two years before, Evers had announced Tate’s appointment to the parole board touting him as someone who would make the criminal justice system fair and “improve public safety.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels has made crime a major component of his campaign, promising to promote law and order and accused Evers of being soft on crime.
The construction executive said on Wednesday that Evers “never accepts responsibility for the actions of the people under his command as his tired, old catch-and-release approach to crime has freed rapists and murderers and made our communities less safe.”
The two are locked in a tight race with a recent poll showing Michels with a three point edge over the incumbent.