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Evers creates new Pardon Advisory Board, pardon policy

By Patrick Lynn

Gov. Tony Evers this week said he will resume the practice of granting gubernatorial pardons in some criminal cases.

Evers announced on Thursday that he signed Executive Order #30 creating a pardon process and Pardon Advisory Board. It’s a turnaround from the practices of Gov. Scott Walker, who refused to consider anyone’s request for a pardon.

A pardon is an official act of forgiveness allowed under the state constitution, one that restores some of the rights that are lost when someone is convicted of a felony, including the right to serve on a jury, hold public office, and hold certain professional licenses. It does not result in an expungement.

Evers said he will issue pardons and reduce prison sentences through commutations, based on the eight-member pardon board’s recommendations.

“I believe in forgiveness and the power of redemption,” Evers said in an email statement. “People who have taken responsibility for their mistakes and who have worked to improve their lives and communities deserve a second chance.”

Gov. Evers appointed eight people to the board, including one member nominated by Attorney General Josh Kaul.

The appointees follow:

-John Hancock is the Director of the Prison Ministry Project. He previously served as a public defender, deputy district attorney, and an administrator for the Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement Services.
-Nate Holton is the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Milwaukee County Transit System. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Milwaukee County Executive’s Office and the Director of the Milwaukee County Justice Council.
-Judge Jeffrey Kremers, Attorney General Josh Kaul’s nominee, served as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge for 26 years, serving as chief judge for seven of those years. He retired in 2018.
-Ryan Nilsestuen is Gov. Evers’ Chief Legal Counsel and will chair the Board. Nilsestuen previously served as an attorney and Chief Legal Counsel for the Department of Public Instruction.
-Cindy O’Donnell served as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Corrections under Govs. Thompson, McCallum, and Doyle. She also served as a Division Administrator under Attorneys General Lautenschlager and Van Hollen.
-Nadya Pérez-Reyes is the Legislative Advisor for the Department of Children and Families. She previously worked as a state public defender and as an attorney for Legal Action of Wisconsin.
-Myrna Warrington is a Director of Vocational Rehabilitation on the Menominee Indian Reservation. Warrington, a U.S. Army veteran, has been a member of the Menominee Tribal Legislature for 11 years.
-Noble Wray served with the Madison Police Department for almost 28 years, including as Chief of Police from 2004 to 2013. Wray led the U.S. Justice Department’s Policing Practices and Accountability Initiative and currently provides racial bias training for law enforcement agencies around the nation and world.

Under the new pardon process, individuals convicted of a Wisconsin felony may apply for a pardon if they completed their sentence at least five years ago and have not committed any new crimes. Individuals currently required to register on the sex offender registry are ineligible for a pardon.

A copy of the pardon application and instructions for applying are located on the governor’s website at www.evers.wi.gov/Pages/pardon-information.aspx.