Wisconsin Examiner: Family law bills puts too much power in the hands of prosecutors, advocates say.
“This is a pretty clear violation of parents’ constitutional rights,” says Mike Bare, research and program coordinator for Community Advocates, a Milwaukee-based social services organization. “The 14th Amendment guarantees due process. It would be impossible for them to meet this condition to keep their child. There wouldn’t be some process there to make that determination. Basing a TPR on someone’s incarceration status would be a punishment above and beyond the sentence of the crime for which they’re incarcerated. If you were sentenced for something simple, a drug sale, you may not realize your sentence could also result in a termination of parental rights.”
The provision would also give a significant amount of power to prosecutors, according to Adam Plotkin, legislative liaison for the Wisconsin State Public Defender. If a person is accused of a crime that comes with a 3-5 year possible sentence, the prosecutor will be able to push people toward taking a plea deal with a three year sentence in order to avoid losing their children.
“The biggest concern, especially with the amendment, [is] we’ve created a direct connection between criminal cases and family law cases,” Plotkin says. “If you’re a defendant with a potential sentence between 3-5 years, it puts a tremendous amount of power in the hands of prosecutors. You’ve made the loss of your kids a condition of a criminal conviction. What parent isn’t going to fight to keep the legal right to their own children? Again it’s that coercive aspect of that that puts all the power of the family law system in the hands of the criminal prosecutor.”
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The advocates say they're happy to give credit where it's due. They praised the Justice Department for rescinding a Trump-era memo that directed prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges they could for any crime. And they're happy the DOJ has launched four big civil rights investigations of police departments.
But they've also taken note of this fact: the federal prison population has increased by some 5,000 people during Biden's tenure, according to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a researcher at the Sentencing Project.
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The city’s chief administrative officer, Mark Johnson, also chose not to comment on the suit, saying it was being assessed by the city attorney’s office, but he briefly addressed the issue in general.
“We have some great concerns policy-wise with public safety individuals taking any form of controlled substances,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s a lot muddier than it’s being made out to be.”
The suit said Coleman knew he probably would be put on leave, but he decided to keep his card and challenge the policy.
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