Freedom’s Cause # 12 – Mar. 9, 2020


A contact in GBCI sent us this: ‘Staff in this institution and all institutions in the DOC are especially inconsiderate of us inmates. How? They repeatedly do not take sick days when they are ill and showing all the relevant symptoms. The flu is bad enough, causing us to be on lockdown, but you will still see the staff walking around, coughing, sneezing, red nosed and spreading their sickness among us. The administrations of each institution does not enforce sick days nor screens staff during flu seasons or mandatory quarantines….The cruise ship, Diamond Princess, for the second time has broken out in several cases of Coronavirus. That is bad enough, but imagine it being introduced into any prison system. It will spread like wildfire.’


A contact in wrote: ‘Concerning the woman at TCI who has been forced to cell up with someone who assaulted her on what sounds like more than one occasion. I assume that these assaults were documented by staff. This woman should concisely explain what has happened in a note to her social worker and to the security director of the institution. She should ask them to place an “SPN”

(Special Placement Need) to keep her and the other individual separated because of the previous assaults. This would prevent them from ever being celled up with each other. But beware. . .because it would also keep them from ANY contact with each other. They couldn’t live on the same unit, couldn’t go to rec, library, or school together and so on and so forth. This might cause problems if TCI is too small of a place. If the previous assaults were of a sexual nature, she could also utilize the PREA hotline and explain the situation to them. Living with the person who assaulted her would be viewed as re-victimization and the powers that be would do their best to prevent that. I could also see a lawsuit coming out of a situation where staff knowingly forced someone to cell up with someone who assaulted them in the past and then it happened again.’


A contact in WCI has filed two lawsuits against prison staff. In one suit, he states that the former security director unjustifiably charged him with lying about staff in a PREA complaint. In the other, he is suing WCI staff and the former warden of doing a ’staff-assisted strip search’ although he was calm and willing to cooperate with a regular search. He asks that anyone who has had similar experiences to come forward with evidence; he will respect requests for privacy. IWOC can provide contact information. 


Members of IWOC from Milwaukee and Madison attended the quarterly meeting of the Committee on Inmate and Youth Deaths at the DOC headquarters in Madison on March 5. They brought testimonies of several recent fatalities, including the suicide or a disabled prisoner in CCI and the deaths of two others (in WSPF and NLCI) who had presented to HSU with chest pains. The committee refused to comment on the mounting evidence of neglect and indifference on the part of prison staff to the health concerns of incarcerated people. IWOC plans to return to Madison in June, when the committee will hold its next meeting.  


Members of Milwaukee IWOC met on Sunday, March 8, for a workshop to improve our outreach through the Corrlinks system. The workshop included training on how to respond to emails, gathering critical updates from inside, and catching up with unanswered mail. IWOC has over 3300 inside contacts. 


-A debate has ensued for months in the state Legislature over who goes to prison and how to pay for it.  A bill proposed by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) would have changed the rules around revocations, making it mandatory for those under supervised release to be re-incarcerated if they were accused of committing a new crime while they were on supervised release. Rep. Evan Goyke’s (D-Milwaukee) bill intends to address the root causes of revocation and make it more difficult to revoke those who don’t commit a new crime, but who may have violated the terms of the inmate’s release from a prior conviction….The issue is at an impasse. Governor Tony Evers vetoed Sanfelippo’s bill last week. Goyke’s bill hasn’t been taken up for a vote. Still, revocation-only prison admissions are a growing problem. With an overcrowded prison system that operates at 133 percent of capacity, revocation-only admissions make up about 40 percent of those admissions, costing taxpayers $1.3 billion a year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. (Source: Racine County Eye)

-As of March 6, COVID-19 (popularly known as Coronavirus) has sickened more than 97,000 people world-wide; more than 3300 have died. There are no reported cases in US prisons, although experts say it’s just a matter of time. To minimize further spread, the CDC has recommended things like avoiding people who are sick, covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, disinfecting frequently-used surfaces and washing your hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. But these recommendations run up against the reality of life in jails and prisons, where access to toilet paper is often limited, hand-sanitizer is often treated as contraband, and covering your mouth can be impossible if you’re handcuffed. Prisons often respond to outbreaks by shutting down visitation or instituting partial lockdowns. This time, however, some public health officials are proposing a different solution: large-scale releases, like those already underway in Iran. Advocates in Indiana on Thursday (March 5) called on the governor to consider releasing large numbers of sick and elderly prisoners, who are at highest risk for complication from coronavirus. (Source: The Marshall Project)

-Relatives of four inmates who killed themselves inside Alabama prisons are suing the state over the men’s suicides, adding to the legal problems for an agency already in court over its treatment of prisoners. The lawsuit claims corrections officials didn’t provide proper care for the men despite knowing they had severe mental illnesses and would sometimes harm themselves. A lawyer for the families says they want to hold state officials accountable. ‘The defendants can no longer rely on excuses such as staffing shortages and poor administrative discipline. They must now be held accountable for the deaths of humans who suffered so greatly from the state’s failure to provide adequate mental health care, that suicide appeared to them to be the only option,’ said Mitch McGuire, a lawyer for the families. The department declined comment Thursday (Feb. 27) on the lawsuit, which McGuire said was filed in federal court in Montgomery on Monday. (Source: Alabama Now)

-In an op-ed piece in USA Today (dated June, 2019), Kevin Sharp and Kevin Ring argued for ‘second-look’ sentencing laws. ‘We know that implementing second-look laws, which would allow judges to review every offender’s sentence after a certain period — say 10 or 15 years — could reform our criminal justice system in a way that would recognize the capacity for rehabilitation, ensure public safety and reduce excessive sentences. Second-look laws would give any individual hoping for a second chance more than enough time to show that he or she has earned it. Knowing that an opportunity for re-sentencing exists would very likely improve morale and behavior inside prisons, benefiting prisoners and corrections officers alike.’ (Source: USA Today)