By Jessica Chasmar, Fox News
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, has repeatedly advocated for cutting the state’s prison population in half, eliminating cash bail and other progressive criminal justice reforms.
Before entering public office, Barnes previously worked as an organizer for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, a Milwaukee-based social justice group, when he teamed up with another organization, Wisdom, to launch a 2012 initiative aimed at cutting Wisconsin’s prison population in half.
The 11×15 campaign sought to reduce the state’s prison population to 11,000 inmates by 2015, Barnes told local media at the time.
Barnes later served two terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly before he was chosen as the running mate to now-Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
During their campaign in 2018, Evers signed onto Barnes’ idea of halving the state’s prison population. Evers, who at the time was the state schools superintendent, said he wanted to do that by allowing inmates to be released for good behavior, creating or expanding court diversion programs and treating 17-year-old offenders as juveniles instead of adults, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time.
Evers did not put a time frame on halving the prison population, but he called it a “goal” and said he would not release violent offenders.
Months before the election in July 2018, Barnes celebrated Evers and other Democratic gubernatorial candidates for supporting his initiative.
“6 years ago when we kicked off the 11×15 campaign to cut the prison population in half, we could hardly find elected leaders or candidates to get onboard,” Barnes tweeted. “To see it embraced at a gubernatorial candidate forum makes me proud to have worked with such visionary organizers/activists.”
6 years ago when we kicked off the 11×15 campaign to cut the prison population in half, we could hardly find elected leaders or candidates to get onboard.
To see it embraced at a gubernatorial candidate forum makes me proud to have worked with such visionary organizers/activists
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) July 12, 2018
After Evers and Barnes won the election in November 2018, narrowly defeating incumbent Republicans Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Barnes continued supporting the prison initiative, tweeting in October 2019, “Cool, let’s cut our prison population in half.”
Oh so now you want to do Minnesota stuff?
· Cut our prison population in half
· Expand Medicaid
· Raise the minimum wage
· At least legalize medical marijuana https://t.co/qMZXNcA00J
— Mandela Barnes (@TheOtherMandela) October 21, 2019
Since Evers and Barnes entered office, Wisconsin’s prison population has been reduced by about 15%. In 2019, the population was 23,777, compared to 20,123 today, according to 2022 statistics from the state Department of Corrections.
The vast majority of those currently incarcerated — 68% — are classified as “violent” offenders, meaning it would be impossible to cut the population in “half” without releasing at least some of those violent offenders.
Read more at Fox News
Empower Wisconsin | Sept. 9, 2022