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Republicans Unveil Plan To Increase Public Defenders, Asst. DA's


WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- Four Central Wisconsin lawmakers announced plans for increased criminal justice funding they would like to see included in the upcoming state budget Monday at the Marathon County Courthouse.

Representative John Spiros of Marshfield, Chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee, says the proposal is yet another olive branch to Governor Tony Evers to help him fulfill a campaign promise.

The plan calls for added funding to staff extra positions in District Attorney's offices statewide while also increasing the manpower in public defenders offices.

Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon spoke at Monday's event, saying her office alone needs more than nine prosecutors to handle its current workload. Marathon County currently employs 2.5 prosecutors in its DA's office. "What it comes down to is, you have to work on it from the front end and the back end," said Spiros. "From the front end, that means getting enough people there so that people have that fair, partial, and speedy trial."

Funding would also be used to increase salaries for public defenders. Both Wetzsteon and State Public Defender Regional Attorney Manager Suzanne O’ Neill shared stories of trials that were delayed because more than 100 calls had to be made before a public defender was found to take the case. In addition to funding salaries for positions in the District Attorney and Public Defender offices, the money would also be used for added training to ensure that when a convicted criminal is released from jail, they can re-enter the workforce. "They can go back out there, get the help that they need, and get back into society," said Spiros. Other lawmakers on hand included Pat Snyder of Schofield and Scott Krug of Nekoosa.

Spiros says the state Assembly tried to pass a similar measure in 2018, but it failed in the Senate. They're hoping the measure can be included in the state budget this time around. Evers is set to release his budget proposal on February 28th.

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