Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

When innies become outies


Over at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, Jessica McBride introduces us to our new neighbors. They are just a colorful sampling of humanity:

The state Department of Corrections announced the early release of twenty-two inmates last week– the first Wisconsin prisoners let out under 2009’s sweeping sentencing modifications. In 15 of those cases, or nearly 70 percent of cases, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has found elected judges had previously denied the inmates’ early release.

But the sentencing changes approved by the state Legislature now mean judges don’t always get to decide anymore – the Department of Corrections can release some felons on its own. And the WPRI review shows that, in most of the cases of the first inmates released under the changes, elected judges would have kept them behind bars.

In several cases, prosecutors also had objected to the inmates’ release. In the remaining cases, judges were never petitioned by the inmates for release, and in one case the judge simply said the sentencing court no longer had authority to decide.

The first inmate released was convicted of homicide in Milwaukee County and released for health reasons. Others released include a fifth offense drunk driver, a repeat burglar, a cocaine dealer, and thieves.

In 13 of the 15 cases where judges had previously denied the inmates’ petitions for early release, they did so by specifically stating the early release was “not in the public interest,” court records say. In the other two cases, the records just say the judges denied the release or denied it because of prosecutorial objection.

In one case, the felon’s request for early release was denied three previous times by judges. In other cases, the felons were released just a few weeks after judges denied their petitions for sentence adjustment. For example, Corrections freed Brian Boje, a fifth offense drunk driver from Outagamie County, 25 days after a judge ruled his early release was not in the public interest.

Now that the decision to release prisoners has been taken out of the hands of judges, let’s take a look at the new neighbors:

The inmates are no strangers to the criminal justice system. Together, the twenty-two inmates have been convicted of a total of more than 150 crimes over the years – at least 74 felonies and 79 misdemeanors. Take Derrick Parnell, 39, of Milwaukee. He is a twelve-time convicted felon. Sentenced most recently for burglary, his sentence was modified in 2005 after he completed a special Corrections program, but his supervision was revoked, and he was re-confined. In 2009, he asked to get out again, but a judge ruled that his early release was not in the public interest. Corrections agreed that he should not be released but reversed itself in November 2009, according to court records.

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