Governor Tony Evers is behind the release of violent criminals in Wisconsin, and almost no one in the national media is talking about it. According to Wisconsinrightnow.com (WRN) reporting, Evers' Parole Commission "has released at least 884 convicted criminals, freeing them early on parole mostly into Wisconsin communities, including more than 270 murderers and attempted murderers, and more than 44 child rapists." All of the paroles have been discretionary. "Many were serving life sentences, which don't qualify for mandatory release."
WRN is now tracking paroles through public records requests of the state Department of Corrections database and is posting a series on the details of the crimes committed by the felons on Twitter. To search the database, enter the felon's name into the form and click on the "movement" tab.
Communities Endangered, Victims' Needs Ignored
On May 6, violent killer Douglas Balsewicz was slated for release "decades early," even though the presiding judge in the case told the "parole commission at the time that the case was not appropriate for early release." Balsewicz was convicted in 1997 of brutally stabbing his wife Johanna to death in front of their two children. The murderer had only served 25 years of his 80-year sentence.
WI Parole Commission Chair John Tate II/https://abolishmke.com/2021/04/06/john-tates-miserly-two-hundred/
Pressure from Johanna's family, gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, and public outrage pressured Evers to ask Chair of the Parole Commission, John Tate, to rescind Balsewiscz's parole. The family launched a petition to have the order rescinded. Evers does not have the authority to rescind parole. However, Evers met with the family and, afterward, wrote a letter on May 13 to Tate asking him to reconsider his decision to parole Balsewiscz:
Evers' Letter to Tate
Douglas Balsewicz's release was ultimately rescinded, but community outcry from other victims led to Tate's resignation in June. According to abolishmke.com, Tate's grants peaked in July 2020 but went down as the pandemic continued. Tate's grant rate was—at the time of the graph posting—"5% higher than his predecessor's average."
Tate's resignation has not stopped the liberal parole policy. On the contrary, parole releases like Balsewicz's are becoming the norm in Wisconsin, and citizens are both outraged and scared. According to WRN, Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes' 50% of prison reduction policies are responsible for releasing the most heinous criminals into communities. In some cases, families were not notified. WRN's long list of horrific crimes committed by the paroled inmates includes but is not limited to the following:
"The released criminals include multiple cop killers; men who stabbed, strangled, [decapitated], and asphyxiated their wives and girlfriends; a man who shot a teenage gas station clerk in the head for $5 on the clerk's first day alone on the job after shooting two other clerks in the head; and people who murdered and bludgeoned and raped elderly women, including a killer who used a wheelbarrow to dump the body of a murdered 86-year-old woman in the woods.
They include a killer who blew his parents' heads off with a rifle and then went out to party, telling people his mom and dad were "laying around the house. A sniper who hid in the woods and randomly shot an elderly woman who was walking a dog along the Menomonee River Parkway because he wanted to kill someone.
A woman who stabbed an elderly Richland County grocer 63 times for $54; a man who strangled a baby, either with a cord from behind or by suspending the infant. A biker who slashed a woman's throat so severely he almost decapitated her after participating in a violent gang rape and then threw her in a manure pit."
WRN also reports there were about "19,900 adult inmates in Wisconsin prisons on May 13, and an estimated 2,000 of them—or about one in 10—were sentenced before Dec. 31, 1999." As of May 13, Evers had "announced 49 more pardons, bringing his total since taking office to 498. Walker issued no pardons" while in office.
Elections are Consequential
During the 2018 gubernatorial race, incumbent Scott Walker warned of Ever's plans to release dangerous criminals into communities across the state. At the time, Evers promised not to release violent criminals. During his campaign, Evers stated Walker was "lying" and "fear-mongering." Evers was, however, persistent in his plan to reduce Wisconsin's prison population, favoring rehabilitation for offenders. Evers, a life-long educator and former Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said during his campaign that he believed in "redemption" and "second chances."
Wisconsin prisons were indeed overcrowded. A 2019 column from the Cap Times wrote that Wisconsin's prison system was "33 percent above capacity, with 18 of the 20 adult prisons listed as overcrowded." Whereas 31 other states decreased their prison populations from 2017 to 2018.
Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing (TIS) law allows for discretionary paroles offenders not sentenced to life in prison who committed a felony before Dec. 31, 1999. Parole means the prisoner is allowed to be released before their sentence is complete. The law became effective in 1999. However, according to Wisconsin Code, the parole board should document and verify the "extraordinary circumstances affecting an inmate" prior to their decision to release. Under TIS, victims of rape have a right to be informed of the whereabouts of their perpetrators.
TIS Victim's Rights
While the governor can pardon criminals, he "does not control paroles. That is done by the four-member parole commission, which is given independent authority under state law to determine whether an inmate is eligible after serving a certain portion of their sentence. The governor appoints the chair of the commission, who is subject to confirmation by the state Senate." Parole decisions should include, according to wisconsinrightnow.com:
- Depreciation of the seriousness of the offense resulting from early release.
- Risk to the community.
- Reasonable certainty of a crime-free reintegration of the inmate into society.
Calls for Suspension of Parole Releases
Michels and others are now calling for the suspension of the dangerous parole releases. He wrote a letter on Monday imploring Evers to call an "immediate halt to the reckless efforts of the Wisconsin Parole Commission as well as a suspension of the work of your Pardon Advisory Board." Evers has allegedly already granted an "astounding 600 pardons," according to Michels.
Racine County Board Supervisor Taylor Wishau also wrote a letter to Evers about the paroles, specifically criticizing him for failing "to follow State Law and make any reasonable attempts to notify the victims' families of the violent offender's release back into our society."