Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat running against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, has repeatedly advocated for cutting the state’s prison population in half, eliminating cash bail and other progressive criminal justice reforms.
Before entering public office, Barnes previously worked as an organizer for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, a Milwaukee-based social justice group, when he teamed up with another organization, Wisdom, to launch a 2012 initiative aimed at cutting Wisconsin’s prison population in half.
The 11×15 campaign sought to reduce the state’s prison population to 11,000 inmates by 2015, Barnes told local media at the time.
The vast majority of those currently incarcerated — 68% — are classified as “violent” offenders, meaning it would be impossible to cut the population in “half” without releasing at least some of those violent offenders.
In 2016, when he was still a state legislator, Barnes sponsored a bill to end cash bail in Wisconsin. The measure, which did not make it out of committee, would have required a defendant to be released unless there was “clear and convincing evidence” that he or she was a flight risk or a danger to society, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
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