This is part of an ongoing series where we attend the monthly staff meeting of the parole commission and make notes available to the public and to captives held under the old law (sentenced before 2000).
September’s meeting was on Wednesday the 1st. It was attended by commission chair, John Tate II, all three commissioners, and two records associates. The public portion was about 20 minutes long, and there was a “no action” case they discussed in closed session afterward.
Tate started the meeting similarly to the last few meetings, bringing up a few tweaks that suggest he is making gradual changes to the parole commission process. First, he indicated that parole commissioners should use third person rather than first person language when describing their choices. So, rather than saying for example, “I recommend a two month defer” they should say “the commissioner recommends a two month defer.” Tate said this “better indicates that these are the agency’s choices, not individuals.”
At last month’s Parole Commission staff meeting, the Chair, John Tate II made an interesting statement about the number of people the commission had granted releases to in the last year. Last Saturday, April 3, was the National Freedom Movement’s ParoleWatch2021 event, and the commission’s next monthly meeting is Wednesday morning (you can attend at 10 am via zoom here). so this seems like a good time to go in-depth about Tate’s work on the commission.
John Tate II came into his role as a reformer. He is a very diplomatic man and he’s in a delicate situation. Some who know and trust him believe he is doing the best he can in that situation, but anyone who is suffering, or knows and loves someone suffering in prison under the old law, knows that John Tate’s best has not been good enough.
If justice, fairness, reason, or any higher minded values held sway in Wisconsin, everyone serving under the old law, all 2800 of them, would be released by now. Organizers with FFUP, WISDOM, and the ACLU have been fighting to release people sentenced under the old law for years. The 53206 documentary featured the intransigent corruption of the parole commission in regards to one family: Baron and Beverly Walker. The commission and two-faced Milwaukee DA John Chisolm caved to pressure in Baron’s case, but they were very careful to ensure that his release would not create a precedent for the thousands of others in his same circumstances.