- Jermaine Reed has resigned from the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
- Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul announced that he would funnel $8 million to the Office of Violence Prevention.
- Reed stated, “Fundamentally, something is terribly wrong with this, and I cannot stand for this. The safety of women and children needs to be a priority.”
- The criminal complaint stated Ashanti Hamilton hit his daughter with the plastic hanger at least eight times, which resulted in visible whip marks on her arms and legs in 2009.
Jermaine Reed has resigned from the Milwaukee Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The family advocate decided to make this move to protest Mayor Cavalier Johnson’s decision to appoint an official with a history of child abuse to lead the Office of Violence Prevention. This program has received millions recently from Governor Tony Evers.
Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul announced that he would funnel $8 million to the Office of Violence Prevention since homicide rates have risen, funding it through Wisconsin’s American Rescue Plan Act. Evers touted keeping children safe in the press release regarding these funds going to OVP.
Wisconsin Right Now attempted to reach out to both Gov. Tony Evers and A.G. Josh Kaul. They wanted to see if the two thought it was right to have a man with a past involving child abuse running the Office of Violence Prevention program, and unfortunately, they never received a response.
However, Mayor Johnson’s office released a statement to Fox 6. It read, “Ashanti Hamilton addressed this issue during the news conference announcing his appointment. He talked about how he successfully learned and changed following the incident 14 years ago. He brings valuable insight to violence prevention because he understands, with respect to violence, how we lead change throughout Milwaukee.”
The statement continues, “His (Ashanti Hamilton’s) past experience exemplifies the redemptive nature of prevention work. People who have made a mistake recognized it and corrected their behavior have become the most credible messengers of the possibility of change in our community. It is a core principle of the OVP.”
Jermain Reed has greatly opposed the decision to appoint Hamilton, stating, “Fundamentally, something is terribly wrong with this, and I cannot stand for this. The safety of women and children needs to be a priority.”
Mayor Johnson’s appointee, Ashanti Hamilton, pleaded no contest to felony child abuse in 2009. Hamilton was accused of striking his 6-year-old daughter with a plastic hanger so hard it left marks. No contest is a plea typically made when the defendant doesn’t want to admit guilt but does not dispute the charges.
The charge was dropped after he stayed out of trouble due to a deferred prosecution agreement. However, he entered a no-contest plea as a part of it. At his hearing, Ashanti Hamilton referred to his actions as “not wise” when he already said he did not believe they amounted to abuse before his sentencing hearing.
According to an article from 2009, the criminal complaint stated Ashanti Hamilton hit his daughter with the plastic hanger at least eight times, which resulted in visible whip marks on her arms and legs. The complaint added that the 6-year-old child was “crying and screaming, her leg was bleeding, and the hanger was broken by the time the beating ended.”
Family advocate Jermaine Reed said his conscience demanded that he resign and speak out against the decision to appoint Ashanti Hamilton when interviewed. He said, “The question becomes, is the person heading OVP a child abuser? The evidence is that Hamilton said he did it by virtue of the no-contest plea. What message does it send to two populations, women and children in our community facing domestic violence every day? What message did the mayor say to them about their safety?”
Reed has said that he has been threatened since speaking out but also that it is easy to speak out when the safety of children is involved. Reed can see a direct conflict concerning what the work is trying to accomplish. Domestic violence and homicide have become increasingly pressing concerns in Milwaukee.
Jermaine Reed also acknowledges that people can change and redeem themselves, but it’s hard to see proof of that in Hamilton’s track record of working on family violence issues. Reed stated during an interview, “Which spaces have you shown up in over the last 14 years, championing causes of reducing family violence, battling domestic violence and child abuse? Where is the action?”
In a press conference addressing the child abuse case, Hamilton commented, “It was a reality that I had to go through. A learning experience that I had to grow through, and I think we bring life experiences to every position we take. I brought that experience to my representation of the first aldermanic district. I brought that growth to understanding how to help families, and I will bring that to this position.”
Reed also questioned Gov. Evers decision to dump so much money into OVP. He said he doesn’t believe “giving them a million-dollar budget is an issue. Programs were funded for years and years, and look at the outcome.” Domestic violence homicides are increasing in the city today. Reed adds that the solution must “begin at the family level,” noting that “plenty of organizations and individuals profit from violence, even as they provide services.”
Reed believes the community needs to focus on building a sense of community and respect for each other. He stated, “We must re-prioritize values around protecting women and children. No government programs can do that. It’s on a community level. We need to recommit ourselves to making children safe.”
Jermain Reed is a former inner-city radio host, and he owns the first independently owned black foster care agency in Wisconsin’s history.