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Very few inmates released by parole board; Governor Walker denies interference

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  Governor Scott Walker's office denies telling the state Parole Commission to reduce the number of prisoners being released early. The Wisconsin State Journal said only 6-percent of parole requests were approved last year. That's down dramatically from the 13-percent of parole requests approved in 2010, the year before the Republican Walker replaced Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

The state ended parole for new inmates in 2000, after the truth-in-sentencing law took effect. But almost 2,900 people who were sent to prison before then remain eligible for early releases. Many were given long sentences with a chance for parole, in some cases after only a quarter of their terms.

Madison priest Jerry Hancock of the Prison Ministry Project says the Parole Commission has essentially ended parole -- and it was not the intent of the judges who sent the affected inmates behind bars. The governor appoints the Parole Commissioners, but Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said his office never gave a directive to reduce the early releases. The Parole Commission has not commented.

The corrections department has previously said 95-percent of those eligible for parole had committed violent crimes like murder and sexual assault.