DeForest Area Progressives
Meeting notes for December 7, 2015
Next meeting: Monday, December 21, 2015, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Ginny’s, 3922 Partridge Road, Windsor Hill neighborhood. Ginny has declared the meeting on Monday, December 21st, A PARTY MEETING! Bring an hors d'eouvre (sp?) or dessert to share. We'll have some pop, water, wine, and beer, unless you want to BYOB. Do you play an instrument? Bring it. Do you lead singalongs? Do it. (jug band, anyone?) Are you a storyteller? Tell it. Got a favorite party game? Play it. Of course, we'll rag on and on about the "regressives" and we'll brag on and on about our favorite candidates and whatever else we talk about. Bring any friends. It's going to be fun, fun, fun 'til our daddy takes the T-Bird away.
There were TEN PEOPLE at the December 7th meeting. Great turnout, thank you all for coming.
Our two guests for the meeting were Dane County Circuit Judges Rhonda Lanford and Ellen Berz. Thank you to John Stanley for arranging for them to be here. Judge Lanford currently presides over Branch 16, civil court. Judge Berz currently presides over Branch 11, criminal court. Judges in Dane County rotate from time to time to different courts for different purposes.
Judge Berz spoke first. According to her, Dane County courts have been sending fewer people to prison over the last two years. “Prison” means either physical confinement or supervision (formerly known as parole). Actually, more individuals are sent to prison from Dane County by the Department of Corrections as revocations of probation or parole than are sent to prison by Dane County judges. Most sentences to prison are for violent crimes. Drug crimes account for about 3-10 percent of sentences to prison. Drunk driving sentences to prison have increased 200 percent in recent years. The Wisconsin prison population comes mostly from Milwaukee County. Dane County sends the least numbers per capita to prison. The Dane County jail population averages around 800. Racial disparity is a fact in Dane County. The questions are why is there racial disparity and what can be done about it? The reasons have to do with, among other reasons, economic disadvantage, police focus on black neighborhoods, and prior criminal records of black defendants. Some recommendations for improvement in the Dane County criminal system come from three studies: alternative sentencing options like community service (although there is a problem with checking up on completion of community service), remodel jails to accommodate the large percentage of inmates who have mental health issues, and the further need for valid statistical studies providing useful data.
Judge Lanford talked about upcoming judicial elections. Judge Faust is retiring. Waunakee Municipal Judge Hyland is running with no opposition yet. Everett Mitchell is running unopposed. The Dane County bench is relatively young with not many years on the bench for many judges. The race for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice is the best known judicial race. State Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald both are running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Governor Walker has appointed appeals Judge Rebecca Bradley to hold the position in advance of the election next year, in which she’s already a candidate. Madison attorney Claude Covelli is also running.
A big thank you to judges Lanford and Berz and to John Stanley for inviting them.