Gov. Walker: ‘No value’ to me visiting Wisconsin prisons

Scott Walker

MILWAUKEE -- Gov. Scott Walker says he's yet to visit a prison in Wisconsin and he doesn't plan to if he's re-elected because "there's no value" in him doing so.

The Republican governor made the comments Tuesday, Aug. 7 during a news conference to criticize Democratic gubernatorial candidates who say they want to reduce the state's prison population by releasing some inmates early.

Walker joined the head of Milwaukee's police union to call his Democratic challengers' prison plans "dangerous and frightening." He also said he would not visit any Wisconsin prisons -- a system that costs the state a billion dollars a year.

"To me, there's no value to me visiting," Walker told reporters. "There's people we hire to run the corrections system, and we'll allow them to do their job."

His Democratic challengers jumped on the comments. They pointing out that under Walker, the state's Lincoln Hills youth prison was the site of chaos that led to lawsuits and settlements.

"At least he's been consistent. He hasn't been to any of them and he's not going to do it in the future. It didn't work out real well at Lincoln Hills, obviously," said Tony Evers, state schools superintendent and Democratic candidate for governor.

Kelda Roys

"Not only did he refuse to visit prisons, he didn't even visit Lincoln Hills when there were allegations of child abuse happening there," said Kelda Roys, Democratic candidate for governor.

Walker criticized four of his Democratic challengers for wanting to cut the prison population by half. He said two-thirds of criminals in Wisconsin prisons are violent, and said the Democrats would have to release nearly 4,000 violent offenders to reach their goal.

He made the point while standing next to three mugshots.

"I think what they're proposing is dangerously liberal," Walker said. "This is a frightful (proposal). this is something that people should be concerned about."

Evers, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary polls, said he will not release violent criminals.

Tony Evers

"That's just baloney," said Evers. "The fact that he’s taking this approach is puzzling to me. Having a goal to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, I think that’s an appropriate thing to do."

Evers called it a "goal" to reduce the prison population by half, but he wasn't focused on a specific percentage.

Roys has proposed legalizing marijuana, reducing parole revocations, and releasing some nonviolent offenders early. She has specifically said she wanted to cut the prison population in half over her first term.

"I’m a mom and a stepmom of four girls. so the idea that I’m going to do anything to make them less safe, or any kid in this state less safe, is ridiculous," she said.

Several Democratic candidates have proposed legalizing marijuana, though Evers has said he prefers a referendum first.

Walker called it "a myth" that prisons are full of people convicted of marijuana possession. He said only 11 percent of offenders are locked up because of a drug-related offense.

"It doesn't match with reality," he said.

The Democratic primary is Aug. 14. Eight Democrats are in the race, vying to take on Walker this fall.