Evers names criminal justice council, Portage Co. District Attorney among the 30

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) -- Thirty people have signed on to help democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and his administration manage the state's public safety and criminal justice systems. Portage County's district attorney is one of them.

Evers announced the make-up of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Policy Advisory Council Monday.

In the release, Evers said “We have to start prioritizing people, not prisons. In Wisconsin, African Americans are ten times more likely to be imprisoned than white people, and we spend more on corrections than on our entire UW System. Red states like Texas have passed comprehensive criminal justice reform, and I know Republicans and Democrats can work together to get it done here in Wisconsin."

He continued saying the council will bring "people together from all sides of the criminal justice system to work toward a solution that works for us.”

The members of the council are listed below and all have a history of working towards criminal justice and public safety reform.

The list includes former supreme court justice members, judges, sheriffs, district attorneys, correction leaders, defense attorneys, the police union, victim rights advocates, advocates for black communities, Hispanic communities, Native American tribes, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, and even the defense attorney for Steven Avery, Dean Strang, who was made famous in the Neflix series 'Making A Murderer, is part of the council.

There are members who lean republican and democratic, with former Governor Tommy Thompson's daughter, Kelli Thompson, who is part of the state's public defender's office, making the list as well.

Louis Molepske is the Portage County District Attorney and the current president of the State District Attorneys Association. He also served in the state Assembly. He said the meth and opioid-related offenses are the biggest issues he has seen in the criminal justice system today.

"We have a lot of property crimes because of it, violent felonies including homicide throughout our state and the public is looking for answers," he said. "And we know that there is some lack of follow-through on drug-dependent persons entering our system and getting proper treatment so that when they get out of the criminal justice system, they don't just re-offend because they continue to be hooked throughout prison."

"As the Gov.-elect Evers is saying, prioritize people. Well, I think that we could look at saying let's make sure anybody entering the system gets proper drug screening," he continued. "If they're addicted, that they have the proper rehabilitation. We can't just say it, we have to do it and I think that is a nonpartisan issue. Republicans and democrats, we all support the idea that if people are addicted, they have proper treatment and resources so that they can be fully employed and provide for their families and themselves and they don't have to resort to criminal conduct."

He also talked about the council looking at possibly increasing TAD money, or money allocated for pre-trial diversion or adult drug courts, investigating if it is being used properly, or if there are any changes that need to happen.

Portage County has a TAD funded court that he said is not fully staffed with offenders. He said he wonders if there is something in the current law that is preventing more offenders from having the opportunity to go through that court.

Evers has said he wants to cut Wisconsin's prison population in half, end solitary confinement and give ex-convicts more help. He also plans on visiting the youth prison, Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools in his first week as governor.

• Denita Ball, Milwaukee County Chief Deputy Sheriff
• Michelle Bryant, Courier Communications
• Louis Butler, Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice; DeWitt Ross & Stevens
• Sean Daley, AFSCME Council 32
• Walter Dickey, University of Wisconsin Law School; Former Department of Corrections Secretary
• Sarah Diedrick-Kasdorf, Wisconsin Counties Association
• Matt Frank, Murphy Desmond; Former Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary; Former Assistant Attorney General
• Sarah Ferber, Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO); WISDOM
• Janine Geske, Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice
• Kit Kerschensteiner, Disability Rights Wisconsin
• Gary King, Eau Claire County District Attorney
• Vince Kurta, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians
• Angela Lang, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities
• Edgar Lin, Lowenberg & Lin; Formerly of the Wisconsin State Public Defender's Office
• David Liners, WISDOM
• Dave Mahoney, Dane County Sheriff
• John Manydeeds, Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge
• Craig Mastantuono, Mastantuono & Coffee; Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association
• Louis Molepske, Portage County District Attorney
• The Honorable Derek Mosley, Milwaukee Municipal Judge
• Ali Muldrow, GSAFE
• Jim Palmer, Wisconsin Professional Police Association
• Rick Raemisch, Former Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary; Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director; Former Dane County Sheriff
• Jonathan Scharrer, Restorative Justice Project, University of Wisconsin Law School
• The Honorable James Schlender, Jr., Lac Courte Oreille Tribal Court; Sawyer County Court Commission and Board of Supervisors
• Tammy Sternard, Door County Sheriff
• Dean Strang, Strang Bradley
• Kelli Thompson, Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office
• The Honorable Mary Triggiano, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge
• The Honorable Donald Zuidmulder, Brown County Circuit Court Judge; Former Brown County District Attorney

A communications member with Evers' transition team said there are no meeting dates scheduled yet for the council and the council will likely be sought for council long after the transition is over. She said some members of the council volunteered themselves, while others were approached after being recommended by Evers' staff.

The council is similar to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Gov. Scott Walker created a few months after being sworn into office in 2012. Evers' communication representative said she was unfamiliar with that council, but Evers' council is not in replacement of Walker's or related to it.

Associated Press contributed to this report.