Repeat Offenders Get Warning, Offer Of Help

Ten of Madison’s most violent repeat offenders were ordered to attend a presentation by Madison police and various community partners, where they were warned about committing future offenses and then offered a helping hand.

It’s a model that has worked in dozens of other cities across the country, police said.

At the first “Community Against Violence Focused Deterrence Call-In” on Tuesday night, police and community partners delivered the message that they are there to help. But police warned that if the attendees committed more crimes, officers would be coming at them hard.

The Madison Police Department’s special investigations unit recently broke down the criminal past of those ordered to attend. Among 12 people, there are 413 charged offenses with 96 felony convictions. One offender has racked up 75 charges alone, police said.

“Your violence will no longer be tolerated in this community. Our kids are getting caught up in the violence and drug trade on the streets, and you’re responsible,” Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said to the offenders.

Law enforcement officials from several agencies attended the meeting, and they said their warnings aren’t idle threats.

“If you have three or more felony convictions, and many of you do, you commit a violent crime using a gun, it’s mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison, with no parole,” said Diane Pospyhalia, of the ATF.

As the presentation at the United Way of Dane County’s office on Atwood Avenue went on, some offenders sat up and paid attention, while others hung their heads in their hands, WISC-TV reported.

The lecture is designed as a lesson that the offenses must stop and the healing begin.

“It’s going to take diligence, and it’s not going to be easy,” said Jerome Dillard, of Voices Beyond Bars.

Dillard said he knows firsthand about the difficulties, having served time in prison himself. He said that for these offenders to truly change, they must address traumas in their past — not just to be better people, but even to hold onto a job.

“How long is that going to last, before you curse someone out or hit someone in the mouth, acting out on something that may be buried down inside of you?” Dillard said at the meeting.

A lineup of community partners committed to changing lives was at the meeting to offer support.

As the presentation ended, two offenders immediately left without meeting with the community resources. The police chief said his officers will be in touch with them Wednesday.