K.S. 10/24/2020 10:15:33 PM
According to the DOC website the number of positive COVID-19 cases system wide went from 2274 to 3270 in less than a week, between 10/9 and 10/14/20. It reflects the surges State and Nation wide.
Fox Lake has had 19 staff tested positive. At least 2 active cases tested positive last week. They have their temperatures taken before entering but that certainly isn’t a fool proof precaution.
While the Dodge County Medical Examiner confirms 2 Prisoners from Dodge and Waupun Correctional have died from COVID-19. The DOC does not report confirmed deaths from COVID-19 citing privacy concerns. Numbers do not reveal any private information. Statistically the number is likely in the 30s.
So “Why in God’s name is the DOC transferring people in from Dodge and elsewhere when they are reporting 1,000 active positive cases of COVID-19 system wide?”
That was the question many of us were asking when we learned on October 11, 2020, that two prisoners who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred in from Winnebago to Fox Lake. Fox Lake’s first two verified cases.*
The accounts of how this all happened are murky. One Sgt. said they tested negative before they were transferred. But they were cleared on October 20, 2020. 9 days later. They almost had to have been positive before they were transferred. Whatever the case, “They really dropped the (expletive) ball on that one,” was the wrap up from the Sgt.
According to staff they went straight to Segregation; Unit 8 south which has 8 cells and is separated from the rest of seg. by a span of about 30 ft. give or take.
We were lucky they went to segregation. Normally men who are transferred in, are waiting to leave or have returned from court or the hospital after being gone more than 24 hrs. go to one of the 48 cells on the unit 4 quarantine wings for 14 days as a precaution. B wing is for transfers. It has a communal bathroom and a shower so they would have been exposed and we’d likely have a mess on our hands as those men are sent to population on different schedules 14 days from when they arrived.
BLUEPRINTS FOR AN OUTBREAK
Apparently no one took heed of that brush with an outbreak because within a day another positive case was transferred in with 11 other men from Dodge which has over 200 positive cases. He was cleared to leave Unit 8 south with the other two on October 20, 2020.
Then on the morning of Thursday, October 21, 2020, they transferred 22 men into FLCI [from DCI, WCI and the Wisconsin Resource Center. All of which have major COVID-19 outbreaks. They were swabbed and sent to unit 4 quarantine before the test results were known.
“We just cleared 3 cases on the 20th and they sent us in another case the very next day,” said a Unit 8 Sgt.. He did not know where the new COVID-19 patient came from but the 22 transfers on October 21, 2020 are the only transfers since October 12, 2020, according to those charged with checking in new arrivals. They all came in together on the same bus.
If any of the men sent to unit 4 are positive they will have already had contact with staff and prisoners for at least 3 days before tests come back.
On October 23, 2020, we learned that unit 3, used in part for men with serious medical issues, was locked down and one man sent to HSU quarantine. That is not necessarily for COVID-19. It may well be just a precaution.
But on October 23, 2020 the Administration circulated a memo with the procedures for locking down units. Plastic covers were placed over the keypad and handset on the phones.
“IT SEEMS LIKE THE DOC IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO CAUSE AN OUTBREAK.”
That was the most common reaction among prisoners and staff alike. Swearing was the second most common reaction. Others seem resigned, “It’s inevitable.”
Careless if not reckless is how I would describe the manner in which HSU and the DOC in general have conducted themselves during this pandemic. But it is nothing new at Fox Lake.
Aside from seeing nurses (and other staff) work with their masks hanging off their ear or having to be asked to change their gloves after they’ve touched a patient’s mouth; I watched a nurse rub a thermometer on my forehead, check my blood pressure, and pulse. Then return those devices to their holsters without even pretending to sanitize them before using them on the next patient. Patients from quarantine come to the same HSU.
Last week as I read some “COVID-19 literature” posted in the HSU waiting room it became apparent that the author and whoever posted it were trying to imply that COVID-19 is no more serious than the flu and the precautions were overblown if necessary at all. It compared the mortality rate of people who contract COVID-19 to illnesses like cancer and heart disease and even auto accidents which are much higher. There was no attribution or website on it.
It failed to point out that there are large scale campaigns to minimize deaths from all those other causes. Or that as of October, 2020, more people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. than have died of the flu in the past five years combined. And we are on our way to doubling that.
The propaganda in the HSU waiting room was finally taken down the day after we learned that these men tested positive.
Many of us have received notices from the HSU Manager and Asst. Manager stating that COVID-19 requires them to curtail prisoners access to health care. The perpetual postponing of appointments. Taking medications sinu-cleanse used by asthmatics and devices like cpap machines “because of COVID-19” whose relation to COVID-19 is opaque if not completely contrived. And no one has actually been seen by their doctor to find alternatives for the “because of COVID-19” discontinuance of the treatments even while some men need them to breathe as they struggle even more having to breathe through a mask.
No memo however, has been posted by HSU since May, to inform prisoners to be especially vigilant because staff and prisoners at Fox Lake have recently tested positive.
On October, 21, 2020, the day of the latest transfers, Kevin Carr issued a long memo asserting that they are doing all they can which he describes nearly exclusively as, “Screening all staff” before they enter any facility. He adds, “We understand being placed in… quarantine is a hardship but it is not meant to be punishment.” (Men who are quarantined in segregation for 14 days, as precaution before going out for surgery are inexplicably denied any of their property).
Prohibiting the transfer of prisoners from prisons with outbreaks to prisons without is not among those precautions.
And while Carr and Governor Evers claim they are doing all they can, and that others are preventing Evers from implementing policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19, neither he nor Carr will use their authority under the emergency rule to release anywhere near the amount of prisoners needed to reduce overcrowding so that they can socially distance and return to one occupant per cell instead of two or more in cells designed for a single occupant. Another way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
(The horrible outbreak at Kettle Moraine has plainly been exacerbated, considerably, by overcrowding. Locked down 23 hours per day in a cell with other prisoners.)
POLITICS OVER HUMAN LIVES?
Governor Evers promised to reduce the prison population by 50%. His failure to keep that promise is his choice.
I can’t help but imagine his resistance has a lot to do with the certainty that Republicans will run political ads claiming he released dangerous criminals if he does that. But that is where men of conscience and integrity put human lives above their self and political interests and both act and argue the merits of doing the right thing.
At almost 10,000 our neighboring state of Minnesota, has less than half of Wisconsin’s 21,000 prison population. With the same state population and almost the same recidivism rate 31.3% to Minnesota’s 35-37% if Wisconsin’s calculations are correct. (By contrast Alaska, Delaware and Arkansas average 60%)
Most of the people convicted of relatively low level non-violent crimes in Minnesota are in community corrections where they can work and pay taxes, support their children and receive the education and treatment they need to change their lives. That makes everyone safer.
In Wisconsin people convicted of those same low level crimes are in prison; unable to support their families and in jeopardy of losing their lives.
They are human beings; our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. And now their lives are threatened in over crowded prisons with no demonstrable public interest in keeping them there. Minnesota, incidentally, has a total of 169 cases of COVID-19. Wisconsin has almost 4000.
There is no real reason Wisconsin should risk lives and public safety for political reasons. In fact it looks a lot like what Evers is criticizing his opponents for doing.
I’d proffer that perhaps if politicians tried actually making the case for sane correctional policy instead of calculating the cost of human lives against their own political interests they could save lives, save taxpayers a lot of money and help themselves politically. Now when you can save lives, might be a good time to start.
I urge those who are concerned to ask friends and family to start calling their State representatives, Kevin Carr and the Governor’s office. You can help save lives.
*There are unverified reports that we had at least one positive case transferred in three to four weeks ago.
10/24/2020 10:15:33 PM
So the story is that there is about to be an outbreak here. It almost seems as if they are trying to cause one. The situation is changing almost by the hour. Example two ambulances were called to the quarantine wings of Unit 4 tonight. I don’t know if it was the transfer wing or the medical and court date quarantines. I can likely find out tomorrow.