Freedom’s Cause # 1 – Sept. 30, 2019

WELCOME TO ‘FREEDOM’S CAUSE’!

‘Freedom’s Cause’ is an informational bulletin of the Milwaukee chapter of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee (IWOC). Here you will find updates on actions and projects of IWOC, as well as news about the DOC and prison-related activism on the outside. The bulletin will be published twice per month. Please share this information with your contacts and send us feedback and ideas. 

The title comes from an anthem in the IWW’s Little Red Songbook, entitled ‘Hold the Fort’: ‘We meet today in freedom’s cause/And raise our voices high./ We’ll join our hands in union strong/ To battle or to die.’ 

LAWSUIT AND RETALIATION AT PDCCI

Ten prisoners at Prairie du Chien CI have filed a lawsuit in the US District Court, alleging numerous safety code violations at that aging facility. The suit claims that prisoners were exposed to asbestos, black mold, and contaminated water, as well as extreme heat due to poor air conditioning. It also claims that prisoners were denied proper medical care in PDCI’s Health Services Unit.  

Nicasio Quiles, who filed the lawsuit, reports that prison staff have retaliated against him by forcing him out of his institution job. They have also threatened to alter prisoners’ security levels, deny transfers or work-release opportunities, or remove them from their jobs. 

Nicasio has asked IWOC for publicity in the form of e-mails, mass mailings, social media, and press releases. A phone zap to PDCI began on Wednesday, September 24. A mass mailing is also being planned.  

PHONE POLICY CHANGES AT COLUMBIA AND OSHKOSH

Our contacts at Columbia CI report that prisoners have recently been restricted to four phone calls per week with a limited time frame. It now appears that a similar policy is being implemented in Oshkosh CI, and that the price of phone calls is rising due to random surcharges by a new carrier, IC Solutions. IWOC has also learned that ICS is the subject of 49 complaints to the Better Business Bureau. With only 62 employees and a vast array of clients in the prison industry, ICS does not appear to be a customer-oriented company.  

IWOC will follow up on its previous phone/email zap to Columbia with a new round of pressure, scheduled for the week of October 7. 

IWOC CALLS FOR TRANSPARENCY AT THE DOC

Members and supporters of IWOC called for greater transparency the September 5 meeting of the Committee on Inmate and Youth Deaths of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.  

The COIYD meets four times per year to investigate deaths in Wisconsin prisons. In spite of repeated requests from IWOC, the Committee has refused to make its recommendations public, claiming that this is prohibited by law. IWOC pressed the Committee to show what, if anything, it is doing to improve potentially lethal conditions in prison. 

Talib Akbar, an ex-incarcerated person, gave a moving account of his attempt to revive a dying prisoner. IWOC members also read testimonies from current prisoners about dangerously inadequate health care, poor nutrition, and arbitrary confinement in a number of Wisconsin prisons. 

IWOC members will attend the next meeting of the COIYD on December 5 at 10 am at the DOC headquarters in Madison.  

VOICES 7 IS OUT

The seventh issue of Wisconsin Prison Voices is now in print and over one thousand copies have been mailed out, with help from Kansas City IWOC. The new editor, Maddie Nyman, and the editorial team are at work on issue 8.  

GOVERNOR’S COMMITTEE EXCLUDES DIRECTLY IMPACTED PEOPLE

The #CLOSEmsdf campaign, a coalition of organizations including IWOC, joined in denouncing Governor Evers for failing to name any incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which he formed this month. 

Jasmine Gonzalez, the Milwaukee campaign administrator for JustLeadershipUSA, issued the following statement in response: ‘Gov. Evers’s failure to appoint people directly impacted by the justice system signals his lack of empathy for the tens of thousands of Wisconsinites harmed by this system. Equally appalling is his use of dehumanizing language such as the word “offender” in his recent announcement…. JLUSA demands that Gov. Evers appoint directly impacted people to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and begin taking authentic steps towards ending Wisconsin’s harmful corrections and supervision system.’

OPPS DAY, SEPTEMBER 13

#CLOSEmsdf and other groups marked the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Crime Bill with a press conference and light show across the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, better known as ‘the Dungeon’. The bill, which was drafted by former Senator Joe Biden, introduced truth-in- sentencing laws and other measures that have devastated whole communities. During the light show, demonstrators projected messages on the facility, including ’Tony Evers CAN close MSDF’. 

FROM THE MEDIA

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran a piece on probation and parole holds in its August 20 issue. The holds allow probation and parole agents to lock up people while the agents investigate allegations that they committed new crimes or violated the rules of their release. Last year, agents ordered nearly 45,000 holds; more than one third were for rules violations. The article featured local activist Mark Rice, who was detained for 168 days after being charged with  disorderly conduct. During that time he lost his job, his apartment, and his college scholarship. ‘Holds can make communities even less safe, because it creates instability in people’s lives’, Rice said.