Evers to hold discussion on justice reform, marijuana legalization

Metro Wire Staff

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday will host the fifth of six virtual Badger Bounceback Live Sessions to discuss his 2021-23 budget proposal.

The listening session will cover topics such as “addressing racial disparities in our justice system,” legalizing marijuana, and “investing in treatment, rehabilitation, and other alternatives to incarceration,” according to a news release from Evers’ office.

The listening session will be held Wednesday, April 14, at 6 p.m. Wisconsin residents can register to attend here.

The live session will also be live-streamed and available to watch any time on the governor’s YouTube channel.

“Our justice system has put a strain on our state, on our communities, and on our families,” Evers said in his press release. “If we want to ensure our families, our communities, and our state can bounce back from this pandemic, we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them—we have to change it. It’s time we invest in people, not prisons, and that starts by making substance abuse treatment more accessible, expanding alternatives to incarceration, and giving folks reentering our communities the tools and resources they need to be successful.”

Evers has proposed the following under his Badger Bounceback budget proposal:

  • Expanding the earned release program to include educational, vocational, treatment, or other qualifying training programs that are evidence-based to help folks work towards release earlier and reduce recidivism
  • Clarifying that the earned release program can reduce a term of confinement below a mandatory minimum
  • More than doubling the funding for the treatment alternatives and diversion (TAD) program by providing an additional $15 million over the biennium to greatly expand the program;
  • Creating an earned compliance credit that would equal the amount of time served on extended supervision or parole without violating any conditions or rules of extended supervision or parole
  • Investing more than $3 million to expand the number of community, as opposed to institution, Alternative to Revocation beds available to provide an opportunity for offenders to demonstrate behavioral changes to show they are suitable to return to community supervision status
  • Restoring immunity from revocation or probation, parole, or extended supervision for certain controlled substance offenses
  • Modifying the process by which the Department of Corrections may revoke the extended supervision, probation, or parole of a person
  • Eliminating the felony penalty for bail jumping and allowing for a misdemeanor penalty regardless of the original charge
  • Establishing a Sentencing Review Council to study and make evidence-based recommendations for a wholesale rewrite of Wisconsin’s criminal code
  • Regarding “justice-involved youth,” the governor remains committed to closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake and is proposing a practical way forward to accomplish that goal by creating smaller, community-based facilities in the face of legislative deferral to transform our outdated juvenile justice system and reduce the number of youth requiring secure placement. This plan would eliminate Type 1 facilities and would shift youth to more community-based services and settings. The plan also returns 17-year-olds to the juvenile justice system.

The Badger Bounceback agenda also proposes legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin. Legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana—much like the state already does with alcohol—would ensure a controlled market, safe product, and would generate an estimated $165 million in new tax revenue starting in 2022, Evers said.

“That would allow the state to reinvest some of that generated revenue into communities through the Community Reinvestment Fund with the explicit goal of helping communities that have long been disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement,” he said. “Additionally, this proposal would modify criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes to align with legalization and creates a process for individuals serving sentences or previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have an opportunity to repeal or reduce their sentences for nonviolent minor offenses.”

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