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Walker: ‘There’s No Value’ To Visiting Wisconsin Prisons

Gov. Scott Walker Has Yet To Visit A Prison In Wisconsin

Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Milwaukee Police Association headquarters Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. Ximena Conde/WPR

Gov. Scott Walker said he’s yet to visit a prison in Wisconsin and he doesn’t plan to if he’s re-elected.

The Republican governor made the comments Tuesday during a news conference to criticize Democratic gubernatorial candidates who say they want to reduce the state’s prison population by releasing some inmates early.

“To me there’s no value to me visiting,” Walker said. “I’ve talked to plenty of folks who’ve been involved in the programs. So I have talked to offenders that have been involved in some of the programs that we provide in terms of employment.”

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Walker said he wants to let staff hired to run the corrections system do their jobs and that adding inmate job training is a better alternative to reforming the correctional system than releasing offenders early.

At Milwaukee Police Association headquarters Tuesday, Walker used a poster to quote some Democratic gubernatorial candidates — including political activist Mike McCabe, former state representative Kelda Roys, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and state Superintendent of Public Schools Tony Evers — expressing their support of cutting Wisconsin’s prison population in half.

Walker pointed to the state’s most current inmate profile report. It shows 67 percent of inmates are violent offenders. He argued about 4,000 violent offenders would have to be released in order to achieve a 50 percent cut in the prison population.

“There’s this incredible myth out there by some on the far, far left in this state and in this nation that our prisons are somehow just filled with people who have a mere possession of marijuana — that’s just not the case,” Walker said.

Walker said “there cannot be a starker contrast” between himself and his potential opponents because he wants to keep convicts “in for their entire sentence.” He called the Democrats’ proposals “dangerous.”

Still, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and some of his Democratic challengers condemned Walker’s remarks regarding the value of prison visits. Some pointing to a federal investigation into abuse and neglect at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools, the state’s juvenile prisons.

Even before Walker spoke to reporters, liberal group One Wisconsin Now had already released a statement condemning Walker for “doing nothing” to address problems at the juvenile prisons.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, with additional reporting by WPR.