Oct. 13, 2014 – The State Bar of Wisconsin is pleased to announce that Rep. Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) are the 2013-2014 recipients of the Scales of Justice award for their outstanding efforts toward increasing citizens' access to justice and improving the administration of Wisconsin's judicial system.
The State Bar's Legislative Oversight Committee and Government Relations team created the Scales of Justice award to formally recognize legislators for partnering with the State Bar to foster and maintain high standards for the judicial system and the legal profession.
"The State Bar's mission to improve the administration of justice for all Wisconsin citizens could not be accomplished without dedicated legislators like Representative Bies and Senator Petrowski. Both legislators worked tirelessly on issues of importance to our community, including the Second Chance Bill, which would have returned first-time, nonviolent 17-year-old offenders to juvenile court jurisdiction," said State Bar President Robert R. Gagan.
The State Bar identified Rep. Bies and Sen. Petrowski as partners in seeking justice for their role in authoring the Second Chance Bill (Assembly Bill 387/Senate Bill 308) and working to gain bipartisan support for the bill in the Legislature. Both legislators recognized that the juvenile system, which has treatment and programming specifically tailored to youth, is much more effective in dealing with 17-year-olds and preventing them from reoffending than the adult prison system.
In 2004, Rep. Bies also introduced legislation that created the Treatment and Diversion (TAD) grant program. TAD provides grants to counties, which enables them to operate programs that provide alternatives to prosecution and incarceration for nonviolent criminal offenders who struggle with alcohol and other drugs. As of the most recent legislative session, TAD projects had averted 231,533 incarceration days, resulting in a savings of over $15 million. Because of these results, the Legislature increased funding for the program so more counties could participate and establish a TAD program.
In addition the his work on the Second Chance Bill, Sen. Petrowski co-authored Assembly 818, which would create more flexibility for the justice system and those it serves. Under current law, if a person commits a crime that has a maximum term of imprisonment of six years or less before he or she reaches the age of 25, a court may at the time of sentencing order that the court's record of the crime and conviction be expunged when the person successfully completes his or her sentence, if the court finds that expunging the record will benefit the person and will not harm society. Assembly 818 would allow the court to expunge the record after the person completes his or her sentence, instead of just at sentencing.
Efforts continue to pass both of these important initiatives.
"On behalf of our attorney members and the individuals we serve, the State Bar thanks Representative Bies and Senator Petrowski for working to help young offenders get the assistance they need to rehabilitate and make positive contributions to our communities,” said Gagan.