Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers claims that a new ad from Governor Walker's campaign is dragging the race "into the gutter" with its suggestion that Evers' desire to reduce Wisconsin's prison population by half would release violent offenders onto the state's streets.
"That’s a lie. I never said that," Evers said. "We will not release violent criminals."
Yes he will. By logical necessity, he will. Nothing about Walker's ad is factually inaccurate. If Evers is indeed serious about his desire to reduce Wisconsin's prison population by half, then any move to do so would necessarily result in violent offenders being released.
Why? Because 67% of Wisconsin's prisoners are violent offenders. If Evers were to release 50% of the prison population, then a percentage of them would necessarily have committed violent crimes.
Evers did indeed say that he "absolutely" was in favor of a proposal to reduce Wisconsin's prison population.
"The multi-racial interfaith organization MICAH launched a campaign launched a campaign to cut the state prison population by half, from 22,000 to 11,000," moderator Mitch Teich asked during a Democratic primary debate in July. "It now sits at 23,000. Do you support that original goal and how would you balance reducing the prison population and protecting public safety?"
"Absolutely," Evers responded. "And that's a goal that's worth accomplishing."
Evers explained that this would entail ensuring that "those who haven't committed violent crimes are put into diversion programs," but this alone, MICAH notes, wouldn't reduce the prison population by the amount that it wants.
It openly advocates releasing inmates from the state prison system.
On its website, the organization indicates that it is working "to pass the Second Chance. This bipartisan legislation would return most 17-year-olds to the juvenile justice system." Additionally, MICAH wants "to realize parole release for those eligible who can be released safely, and compassionate release for elderly and/or very ill prisoners who are no longer a danger to society."
Evers endorsed this "compassionate release" policy during the debate.
While he claims that none of his criminal justice policies would result in violent offenders being released, this seems to be a logical impossibility. Reducing the prison population by 50% by relying solely on diversion programs and not early release would, by some estimates, take as long as a decade.
Evers' primary opponent, Kelda Helen Roys, promised to do it in four years. That wasn't an arbitrary number; it would be the length of a full gubernatorial term. She also said she would accomplish this by "granting more paroles"--quite literally letting inmates out of prison.
Would there be enough nonviolent ones to reduce the prison population by half in just four years? Of course not. Since two-thirds of the inmate pool from which parolees would be picked are violent, it logically follows that at least some of those would likely have committed violent offenses.
Moreover, since the current prison population indicates that two-thirds of felony offenses that result in prison sentences are violent, it may be presumed that roughly two-thirds of future felony offenses that result in prison sentences are violent.
If the goal is to reduce the future prison population by 50% and if 67% of offenders are violent, then it logically follows that a percentage of future offenders who would otherwise be sentenced to prison would instead receive diversion or probation under Evers' plan.
If the goal is to reduce the prison population, then policies enacted in furtherance of this goal would be geared toward keeping people out of prison. Would this include violent offenders? If not, then how could releasing nonviolent inmates and refusing to sentence nonviolent defendants to prison result in such a steep drop in the prison population so quickly?
Evers, of course, has not been asked this and was instead allowed to stridently claim that he's "not going to get into the gutter with Scott Walker," but until Evers explains how exactly he would cut the prison population in half without releasing inmates who should not be released early, it may be logically presumed that his plan would do exactly that.