Evers’ Parole Commission Holds 13-Minute Zoom Meeting, Afraid to Allow Public Comment
October 4, 2022

Tamira Musgrave



  • The parole Commission sets aside a measly 13 minutes to address concerned citizens regarding releasing 884+ violent inmates.
  • They refused public comment but acknowledged some questions sent to the Parole Commission’s email address.
  • One woman who sent in a question regarding the release of a man who murdered a toddler told Wisconsin Right Now that she believed the questions were only “half-answered,” and she referred to the entire meeting as a joke.
  • We keep hearing the term “mandatory release” from Evers’ and his administration, but there were zero mandatory releases on the record we’ve seen that list 884 paroles.
  • Evers has authority over the Parole Commission and the Dept. of Corrections, both of which are directly linked to the release of violent offenders via parole. 

Gov. Evers Parole Commission has refused public comment in a 13-minute meeting on September 28 intended to address the paroles and pardons of various high-risk murderers and rapists. The meeting was a zoom call; the reason for going virtual was COVID-19

Christopher Blythe, Governor Evers’s newly appointed commission chair, stated, “There will not be an opportunity for public comment at this meeting. I will take it under advisement as to whether to have such comment at future meetings.” Ultimately the commission believed it was appropriate to set aside a meager 13 minutes to address an issue sparking frustration and concern across the state. Public comment wasn’t allowed, either.  

Blythe briefly discussed a few written questions. Attendants of the meeting could submit questions and concerns to “[email protected]” before the meeting. However, submitting questions to the Parole Commission’s email did not guarantee the commission would answer them. 

He shot down one important letter that included deep concern from one citizen who questioned the discretionary parole of Donell McKennie, the man who murdered an innocent toddler. 

Blythe Tip-Toes Around Questions & Concerns 

Christopher Blythe soaked up the first half of the meeting talking about himself and gave a history of the Parole Commission and what it does. Once that was out of the way, he had to answer a few tough questions. Unfortunately, his short, almost automated answers left many who attended unsatisfied and displeased. 

The woman who sent in the question regarding McKennie’s release told Wisconsin Right Now that she believed the questions were “half-answered,” and she referred to the entire meeting as a joke. Blythe made a comment referring to the inquiry submitted about McKennie, “We are not going to comment on specifics of any individual’s case. The question about this specific individual, as to why he was released, we are not going to discuss those kinds of decisions in this setting.”

Another written comment asked the Parole Commission for their plan to address victims’ concerns about the hundreds of violent inmates released. Blythe gave out the 1-800 number for the Department of Corrections Office of Victims’ Services instead of providing a legitimate answer or plan.

Another comment asked whether mandatory releases (MR) are “considered discretionary parole grants.” Blythe said no but with a few exceptions. MR was an old law provision that mandated release once an inmate completed 2/3rds of their sentence. 

According to Wisconsin Right Now, The Parole Commission confirmed via email that the parole records they provided, which included 884 cases, did not list any mandatory releases. 

The Wisconsin Parole Commission also labeled earned release and challenge incarceration program releases in their records as “parole grants,” while Corrections marks them “paroles.” In addition, they are all under a column labeled “ParoleCommissionAction.” 

(Parole Commission Screenshot Revealed by Wisconsin Right Now)

Around half of the 884 paroles in the record were labeled as “non-discretionary” to suggest Evers’ administration had no connection to them. In addition, the Parole Commission made it challenging to identify earned releases under new laws as opposed to standard paroles under old laws.

The Parole Commission labeled 461 of the 884 paroles as “non-discretionary.” The Journal Sentinel indicated that 593 of those paroled committed violent offenses, including murder, rape, and armed robbery. Even though the law suggests earned release parole grants aren’t intended for violent offenders.

Concerning the CIP, a Corrections document states clearly on page 4 of 14, “Suitability for program enrollment is discretionary and determined by the DOC.” Still, the media continues to use terms like “mandatory” and “non-discretionary” to imply that Evers’ and his administration played no part in releasing these criminals. 

Gov. Evers’ Continues to Misguide Wisconsin 

Remember in his 2018 campaign when Evers said he wouldn’t release violent criminals into Wisconsin? A few of the discretionary paroles under Evers’ administration include a man who beheaded his wife and then burnt it inside of a stove, another who brutally beat an innocent child to death, and one who cut a woman’s throat and tossed her body into a manure pit after gang raping her, plus plenty more.

Gov. Evers appointed Blythe to the chair of the Parole Commission in August, and he will serve through March. Blythe was the only person who spoke at this 13-minute, 27-second meeting. They canceled the July meeting, and no meeting was held in August. Unfortunately, the concerns and safety of Wisconsinites were not high on their priority list. 

When Blythe had to answer about the victims’ families who weren’t notified of these paroles, he harshly blamed the victims’ families for not signing up for a state notification system. Yet, oddly enough, one of the family members of a decapitated woman said she had been receiving notices consistently for years when one day, they suddenly stopped. In addition, multiple victims’ family members did not know these killers were released.

Blythe revealed at the meeting held in September that many of the inmates still in prison, including killers and rapists who were sentenced under outdated laws, “are being considered each year” for potential parole as long as they request it. 

In addition to old-law inmates, including multiple rapists and killers, some on the parole list were released through the earned release (ERP) and challenge incarceration programs (CIP). Killers legally should not qualify for MR, ERP, or CIP, which means murderers were released via discretionary paroles. Unfortunately, these programs also have an exceptionally high recidivism rate. 

Around 40% of inmates released under these programs are arrested within two years. This information is provided by the Dept. of Corrections itself. Regardless of the data displaying that these programs are ineffective and dangerous, Evers still opted to expand the earned release program within his first term. 

Evers was not being forthright when he implied that other parole grants earned through the earned release and challenge incarceration programs are “mandatory” releases. He also wasn’t being transparent when he suggested that he had nothing to do with these paroles. 

The Dept. of Corrections is under Gov. Evers’ authority, and they possess the power to make discretionary judgments about whether or not inmates are released through these programs. 

An internal policy document regarding earned release program also stated, “Suitability for program enrollment is discretionary and determined by the DOC.” Therefore, placing anyone in the early release program is not required or mandatory.

The Dept. of Corrections determines suitability based on vague factors, like “inmate needs” or “department resources.” The Dept. of Corrections, which an Evers’ cabinet appointee runs, has authority over deciding inmates’ suitability once judges determine their eligibility, concerning when the crime initially occurred. 

While it may not be Evers physically walking up and down unlocking the doors to prison cells, he has authority over the Parole Commission and the Dept. of Corrections; both of which are directly linked to the release of violent offenders via parole. 

Evers’ expanded the earned release program and played a role in which criminals are “suitable,” yet we are still hearing that Evers’ hands are clean because they are legally forced to release these inmates. “Mandatory releases” is a term Governor Evers’ has been using to throw people off; as we already heard from the horse’s mouth, the record of 884 parolees contained ZERO mandatory releases. 

Department of Corrections Cracks Under Pressure 

With the overwhelmingly negative responses from WI law enforcement, lawmakers, victims’ families, and citizens, the plan to cut the prison population isn’t going as Evers hoped. The Parole Commission has refused to provide the most recent parole records despite open records laws. Fortunately, the growing pressure of lawsuits has finally caused the Department of Corrections to comment on the matter after months of being silent. 

Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine tweeted on September 26, 2022, “UPDATE- the Department of Corrections has responded for the first time in 4.5 months and expects to turn over the records by Friday. If not, expect me to take legal action to force their hand!”

Wisconsin Deserves Better

With so much stacked against Gov. Tony Evers’, his administration and Parole Commission, and the WI Dept. of Corrections, it’s pretty apparent why the commission only provided a 13-minute meeting and refused to allow public comments. It also explains the preprogrammed and unsympathetic responses from Christopher Blythe.

The citizens of Wisconsin have the right to feel safe in their communities, which is the bottom line. But unfortunately, Tony Evers is doing a great job making state residents uncomfortable, uneasy, frustrated, and unsafe because of his decisions to free murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals from prison. 

The latest news that just broke out was highly unsettling. Charles Shaw, a freed inmate who raped, stabbed, and killed a nurse, was placed in a home functioning as an unregistered daycare. The Dept. of Corrections was quickly confronted with this unsettling information. Once exposed for their carelessness, they promptly moved him to a hotel in La Crosse. 

They allowed him to stay for months in a home functioning as a daycare. Then, as if that is not chilling and careless enough, this man was captured scoping the home of yet another med tech in Onalaska. He came prepared with meat hooks that he used to scale the side of her house and wore rubber boots, although it was dry outside. The woman thankfully managed to call 911, and they apprehended Shaw before he harmed her. Still, they decided to place him in a home where children and women frequently came and went. 

This kind of oversight could be deadly. Likewise, the decisions Evers’ Parole Commission and the Dept. of Corrections have made to free violent and dangerous inmates put Wisconsinites in grave danger.

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