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Gov. Tony Evers, Democrats push bills to cut prison population

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and fellow Democratic lawmakers have introduced a series of proposals designed to reduce overcrowded prisons, but without support from Republican leaders they are unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Evers told the Wisconsin State Journal in an interview published Thursday that he hoped the bills would spur a bipartisan discussion on the need to address the state’s rising prison population, which is expected to reach 25,000 inmates by 2021. Evers campaigned on the pledge to cut the state’s prison population in half.

“At the end of the day, this has to be something that is embraced by both parties,” Evers said. “This is an issue that I think transcends Republicans and Democrats. … If we don’t take this first step we could be the last state that embraces criminal justice reform, and I just can’t imagine why we want to be in that position.”

The bills would set incarceration limits for non-criminal supervision violations, extend earned release eligibility to include vocational or educational programs and expand on a compliance credit to allow for shortened community supervision options. The measures, introduced by Rep. Evan Goyke and Sen. Lena Taylor, both of Milwaukee, applies only to nonviolent offenders.

While no Republicans co-authored the bills, Goyke said the proposals were crafted following months of bipartisan collaboration.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have majority party leaders on these bills, but I think as we go through the halls and knock on their doors we’re going to get a lot more Republican support than we had in previous sessions,” Goyke said.

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