Freedom’s Cause # 10 – Feb. 10, 2020


This message from Dodge CI: ‘Here at Dodge I have not heard ANY rumors about the DOC lowering inmates pay. They do conduct periodic audits or reviews of the inmates jobs–Usually yearly. They try to determine if any departments have any workers that they don’t really need. Most departments justify having all of their workers. Staff knows that the more workers they have the less work they have to do themselves! In the rare instance they determine that a department has unnecessary positions they don’t just eliminate the position and fire the workers. They allow the workers to complete their two years and then they just don’t rehire for that position. I have only seen 2 job positions eliminated in the 10 years I’ve been here. They eliminated two unnecessary swamper positions and by doing so created two positions in other areas.’


Inside members were not too impressed by Makda Fessahaye’s response to a recent IWOC phone- and email zap. One person wrote: ‘At least as of Oct 16, 2019 there were no restrictions on phone usage at Racine CI. Also note, JCI currently limits people to 3 personal calls, and 2 canteen calls each day. At least that is the policy. The phone system allows 5 outgoing calls; however, if an inmate is caught using the 2 other calls (4 & 5), they can and usually do, receive an Adult Conduct Report. As far as rate reductions, that was something that should have happened a long time ago. Same goes for debit calling.  Ms. Fessahaye makes it sound as if lowering the cost justifies placing restrictions on phone usage. It does not, period.’


Milwaukee IWOC held a strategy retreat on February 9. Topics included the current strengths and weaknesses of the chapter, ideas for building the organization and improving the distribution of tasks, and strategic priorities going forward. The last year has seen a huge increase in the number of IWOC’s inside contacts, and facilitating communication within and between prisons and with outside supporters remains a top priority. In addition to newsletters (Voices, Grapevine, and Freedom’s Cause), the chapter will share meeting notes and after-action reports with inside members for feedback.   


-As Wisconsin lawmakers struggle to end the legislative session in the next few weeks, the most divisive issue will be a package of criminal justice bills. Assembly Republicans, led by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo of New Berlin, are reportedly considering mandatory sentencing provisions for third-time shoplifting and vehicle theft. Money would also be set aside for hiring officers to target carjacking, vehicle theft, and related offenses, and to build a new state prison. Milwaukee’s Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke responded: ‘Republicans never once offered any evidence, example, or peer state that proves the contention that the “tougher on crime” legislation will in fact reduce crime and if so, by how much.’ (Source: Urban Milwaukee)

-Another Mississippi inmate, James Allen Brown, died Monday (February 10), the same day the governor extended an emergency order allowing the state to quickly spend money to try to resolve problems in a prison system beset by violence and poor living conditions.The two developments were announced separately, and there was no indication that Gov. Tate Reeves’ extension of the emergency order was in response to the latest death.The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Mississippi prisons after a string of inmate deaths—at least 16 since late December. Health inspections have found recurring problems, including clogged toilets and moldy showers. Most of the inmate deaths have occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, many of them during violent clashes. (Source: AP)

-Once again, families of inmates living at the Douglas, Arizona, prison say their loved ones are reporting drinking water that smells and tastes like diesel fuel. In October 2019, after inmates in the Douglas prison made similar complaints of brown, foul-smelling water, the Arizona Department of Corrections confirmed water at the prison had a ‘noticeable petroleum odor and taste.’ Spokesman Andrew Wilder said the complex was forced to change water sources. (Source: KJZZ, Phoenix, AZ)

-A scathing state audit released on Friday (January 10) found that CoreCivic prisons across the state of Tennessee are still running at minimal staffing levels, in many cases meaning inmates suffering mental health issues aren’t getting the help they need and creating questions surrounding the nearly 200 inmates who have died in state custody since 2017. In many cases CoreCivic officials were also blasted for not property reporting vital data related to inmate deaths, inmate assaults, correction officer’s use of force and facility lockdowns. (Source: Truthout)