MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The number of inmates being granted release from prison by the Wisconsin Parole Commission has plummeted under Gov. Scott Walker, according to a report published Sunday.
The commission has severely curtailed parole for more than 2,800 inmates who committed crimes before the state's "truth-in-sentencing" law took effect in 2000, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Many of those prisoners got lengthy sentences under previous laws that allowed for the possibility of early release, as little as one-fourth to no more than two-thirds of their sentences. But only a small percentage of those inmates now get paroled, and the proportion dropped sharply after the Republican governor took office in 2011.
Under Walker's administration, 6 percent of parole requests were granted in 2013 and 5.3 percent in 2012. That compares with 14.5 percent in 2009 and 13 percent in 2010, the final year of the administration of Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle.
The State Journal obtained the figures under the state's open records law.
Walker authored the "truth-in-sentencing" law when he was in the state Assembly. Under the law, a judge hands down a specific sentence that includes some incarceration and some time on supervision. There is no parole for people committing crimes after Jan. 1, 2000.
But thousands of state prisoners remain in the system under "old law" sentences, including 2,887 currently eligible for parole.
"What has happened is that the Parole Commission has essentially ended parole - which was not the intention of the sentencing judges," said the Rev. Jerry Hancock, of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Madison and a former prosecutor who runs the Prison Ministry Project.
But a Walker spokesman denied that the governor, who appoints the Parole Commission, directed the group to curtail releases.
"No, this is not a policy decision and is not handled by the governor's office," spokesman Tom Evenson said. "I will refer you to the Department of Corrections on this."
The Parole Commission, through a DOC spokeswoman, did not respond to the newspaper's requests for an interview with a representative. But the department, which handles administrative tasks for the commission, said 95 percent of those eligible for parole committed violent offenses including murder and rape.