Freedom’s Cause # 15 – Apr. 26, 2020


As of Friday (4/24), WI DOC reports that 14 incarcerated people have tested positive for the corona virus (8 at OSCI, 4 at MSDF, and 2 at CCI). This is out of a total number of 126 completed tests. They also report that 23 persons are in isolation and 173 in quarantine. Among staff members, there are 13 confirmed cases: 6 at MSDF, 4 at CCI, 2 at Felmers O. Chaney CI, and 1 at Waupun CI. There are also 4 confirmed cases at Community Corrections Region 3, Milwaukee.  (Source: DOC official site)

On Friday (4/24), the DOC made the following announcement: ‘Effective April 20, 2020, each person in our care will receive a free pre-embossed stamped envelope on a bi-weekly basis. Those with an Assessment & Evaluation (A&E) reception status will receive two pre-embossed stamped envelopes on a bi-weekly basis. Effective April 26, 2020, persons in our care with an active Kiosk/Corrlinks account will receive a $.50 credit on their account on a weekly basis. This allows persons in our care to send up to 5 free messages to loved ones per week, for a total of 20 free messages each month. The expanded methods of communication are in addition to the two free 15 minute phone calls per week that were provided to persons in our care beginning March 16, 2020.’

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday (4/24) declined to appoint a special master to expedite the release of state prisoners most at risk for contracting COVID-19. On April 10, the ACLU, the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and two inmates filed an emergency petition with the court asking for the intervention, to protect the most vulnerable among the state’s roughly 22,000 inmates. The court said that it was satisfied by ‘current efforts being taken to mitigate the risks and harms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic’, and that it was was not persuaded it had the authority to grant the requested relief, given the many factual determinations involved in deciding which inmates should be released. Gov. Tony Evers, Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin A. Carr, and Parole Commission Chairman John Tate II all opposed the petition. (Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Twenty-nine staff members at the Milwaukee County House of Correction are quarantined at home, Superintendent Michael Hafemann said Thursday (4/23). Seven have tested positive, nine are presumed positive by their health care providers and three are in “direct contact quarantine,” Hafemann said, meaning they recently had contact with someone who just tested positive. He said 426 staff members were tested on Monday and Tuesday, and results for about 300 have come back. More than 600 incarcerated persons were tested over the weekend, and 50 tests are pending, he said. So far, 105 have tested positive, 104 of whom are male. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


From GBCI: ‘On full lockdown as of 4:30 PM 4/24/2020 due to GBCI INMATE TESTING POSITIVE FOR COVID-19. No phone calls. Staff/administration are not communicating anything to us about it, not even making an official announcement.’

A contact in WCI reported on Friday (April 24) that prisoners there had finally received masks, but social distancing was not being practiced. We have also received a report that prisoners are not receiving their property, such as old fans and televisions; these are being held by a staff member for his/her own use. 

We have received reports from MSDF and the John Burke Center that incarcerated people who are observing Ramadan are not receiving adequate or timely meals. Please let us know if you have more information. 

From a contact in NLCI (April 23): ‘Apparently, when prisoners are taken on a medical trip to see health professionals outside of this prison, when prisoners are brought back, they are placed into isolation for a 14 easy safeguard against picking up COVID-19 and spreading it to others within the Institution. Sound practice one could assume, huh?  Nope! The escorting staff has equal exposure to others outside of the Institution when compared to the prisoner they are escorting.’ 

From RCI (April 23): ‘Both the Rock (the large barracks unit) and Green Units (the intake and transitional unit) are on full lockdown due to at least three inmates having active COVID-19 on them. Rumor here is that, some time early next week, all RCI will be on full lockdown. Since there is no social distancing here, no PPG for inmates, and no alcohol based sanitizer here, the fear is that it will now spread to the entire inmate population like wildfire. Please pray for us? ’

Also from RCI (April 23): ‘As of lately a few of us have been writing to Secretary Carr requesting that they  install the Gallery App back on our Tablets so that we too can receive Picture/Video Messaging from our Loves Ones during these times. We all are in this together regardless to our geographic.’

From an inside contact (April 17): ‘Under the provisions of Certain Earned Releases (CER), the department can release to extended supervision inmates who are serving confinement portion of their bifurcated sentence. Prisoners must meet a number of criteria, chief of which is that your sentence must be either a misdemeanor or a Class F to Class I felony that is NON VIOLENT…. I would advise all prisoners go to their law libraries and research the criteria contained in s. 302.35 and 302.113, Wis. Stats., to see if you qualify for CER, then obtain an application from your social worker. Finally, I would suggest that every prisoner who can, have their family contact their representative (including Secretary Kevin Carr, and Governor Tony Evers) and ask them what are they going to do about vulnerable prisoners.’

From a contact in OSCI (April 21): ‘The courts are not closed but on limited operations. The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Order switched methods of holding hearings to phone and video. They also issued specific guidelines for proceedings requiring things like jury trials. Motion and brief practice is pretty much in full swing…. (Information is) available on and thru the WestLaw system. I highly recommend that anyone that has underlying health conditions file for Sentence Adjustment based on geriatric/medical conditions, especially in those prisons with confirmed cases. Just make sure all papers sent to the courts are marked urgent/time sensitive and deal with the pandemic.’

This suggestion from Jackson CI (April 20): ‘Although the DOC has statutory authority to contract for outside services, i.e., the “canteen catalogs” and canteen, what about contacting the Better Business Bureau concerning their practices–items consistently out of stock, shoddy merchandise, etc.? Perhaps you could provide an address (or addresses) in an upcoming newsletter. There is the old axiom that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that.’ The address of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is 10019 W. Greenfield Ave.

Milwaukee, WI 53214. 


In response to growing demand, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a state-produced hand sanitizer called ‘NYS Clean’. Gov. Cuomo was able to mobilize such vast manufacturing of sanitizer by tapping into prison labor. ‘State and federal governments exploit incarcerated labor, paying a pittance and preventing prisoners from using the very products they have created, wrote Rachel Ellis, an Assistant Professor of Criminology at U.Missouri-St. Louis. ‘However, the proper solution is not to withhold the opportunity to work for months, years, or even decades….We must start treating incarcerated workers as workers—without any caveats.’ (Source:

Over the past few weeks, thanks in part to the tireless advocacy of the state’s anti-prison movement and broad concern about coronavirus ‘spread[ing] like wildfire,’ the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) has released more than seven hundred people, primarily non-violent offenders and elderly detentioners. Jails in Metro Detroit and Chicago’s Cook County have also made releases. In Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Jail released hundreds of imprisoned people—again, comprised largely of ‘low-level offenders.’ The county executive, Armond Budish, said in a public statement: ‘They’re not going to put the county at risk. That is absolute.’ An admission that, for many, calls into the question the need to detain these particular individuals in the first place. (Source: Belt Magazine)

A forthcoming study in Notre Dame Law Review found that releasing prisoners convicted of violent crimes is less dangerous than many people think. According to the study, about one of every 10 releasees was sent back to prison for any new crime within the next three years. Only one of every 20 had another violent crime in three years. In fact, re-offense rates have been consistently shown to be lower for people released after serving sentences for violent crimes than those released for nonviolent crimes. Crime rates are even lower if one looks at older prisoners—the ones most seriously threatened by COVID-19. The study looked at more than 7,000 individuals over age 55 who had served at least five years in state prisons for a violent offense. Fewer than 1 percent of such individuals were re-incarcerated for any new crime in the three years after release, and fewer than 0.5 percent for another violent crime. (Source: Slate Magazine)


If you would like to assist our work in cataloguing information as we write up timelines for each prison, please send an email that says in the subject line (Timeline Volunteer).