Freedom’s Cause # 16 – May 10, 2020


As of Friday (May 8), the DOC reports that there are 7 active positive cases and 13 recovered positive cases among prisoners in Wisconsin. 159 persons have been tested; seven tests are still pending. The ratio of positive tests to total tests by prison: 8/26 at OSCI, 6/7 at Felmers O Chaney CC, 2/4 at CCI, and 4/4 at Marshall E Sherrer CC. The DOC also reports that 290 prisoners are in quarantine and 10 in isolation. Among employees, there are 17 self-reported cases at adult institutions (7 at MSDF, 4 at CCI, 2 at WCI, and 1 each at FO Chaney, GBCI, ME Sherrer, and OSCI), as well as 7 at Community Corrections, Region 3 (Milwaukee). Of the 24 confirmed staff cases, 15 have recovered and 9 are still out. (Source: DOC official site)

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections says it has released nearly 1,600 inmates since March to help reduce the possibility of spreading the coronavirus. Corrections spokeswoman Anna Neal said most of the inmates released since March 2 had been detained because they violated their probation, parole or extended supervision terms. The State Journal reported the inmates were released from either a county jail or DOC’s Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. Timothy Muth, American Civil Liberties Union attorney, called the releases ‘inconsequential’ because they are focused on DOC inmates in county jails and the Milwaukee detention facility and not prisons. (Source: Associated Press, dated May 8)

On April 30, the Kenosha County sheriff’s department revealed the results of recent coronavirus testing at the Kenosha County Jail and Detention Center. The sheriff’s department said that 250 employees and 420 inmates were tested for COVID-19. The testing found that 5 employees and 79 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. (Source: WTMJ-TV)

On the outside, there are 9,215 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. DHS reported on Thursday (May 7) that there were 12 COVID-19 patient deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s death toll to 374.The state also saw a large increase in the number of COVID-19 patients who are currently hospitalized, up to 405. More than 100 are in intensive care, and more than 300 are on ventilators. On the positive side, the state’s supply of mechanical ventilators is strong, with 314 in use out of almost 1,300 available. The percent of positive results has declined for four days in a row. (Source: WBAY-TV) 


A contact reported on 5/7: ‘RCI is now making inmates eat in their rooms and now are getting more restrictive. The reason for this is because the state is opening more and staff refuse to wear masks.’

Also from RCI (5/5): ‘Today work on the new health services unit resumed work on being built here at RCI by outside contractors. But the DOC and RCI isn’t allowing the sex offender treatment programs contract workers back in to treat sex offenders. And there is six open treatment specialist jobs open on Dane unit for earned release program. They now got rid of the 3 Months ERP program here at RCI as well.’

A contact in SCI reports that the prison staff have responded aggressively to the pandemic. On the positive side: they have given every inmate mask; they provide cleaning supplies that can kill the virus; entire wings are locked down to investigate suspected cases; there is a process to expedite the release of those at high risk; communication between staff and incarcerated people has improved. On the down side: staff are not required to wear masks and do not practice social distancing; modified lockdown is depressing the morale of incarcerated people; time in the law library is limited; there is no access to rec equipment; staff are still able to conduct pat searches without changing gloves between patting incarcerated people. 

A contact in CCI writes: ‘While they claim to have increased the spending limits on the canteen, reports indicate the canteen has not been sending maximum orders.

Instead, it would appear that there has been a decrease in spending amounts, because they have been secretly capping orders at 50 and even 30 dollars by just not sending the items. I suspect this is the case, and the reason why is that they don’t want to run out of stock too soon. So they are secretly rationing the stock pile while lying to us & the world.’

A contact at NLCI writes: ‘I just found out a few days ago that if my family puts money on the phone it needs to be used up within six months or they steal it. My aunt…who lives up in Michigan, put 28 dollars on the phone in November. With the pandemic going on, it’s been even harder to get a hold of her. Well a couple days ago I finally got a hold of her, but it wouldn’t let her accept the call…The other thing I would like to bring up is that apparently your people need to log on to the home page of the email site once in a while or they won’t get the messages. The thing is that these are things that they aren’t telling people and we’re losing contact with our families and friends because of it.’ 


A report in the Wisconsin State Journal on May 2 states that despite ‘dramatic’ changes in life inside Wisconsin prisons, ‘inmates and some prison workers say the changes were too slow in coming and didn’t go far enough, especially considering the risks’. The report continues: ‘According to two correctional officers and three inmates at Oshkosh, the gym and library are still open, inmates from different housing units are allowed to mix together while working, and guards work with both COVID-19 infected inmates and other prisoners. Social distancing is not always followed, they say, and cleaning can be inconsistent.’ ‘All I see is a bunch of cross contamination,’ said one of the guards who, like the other officer, asked not to be identified for fear of possible retaliation, including being fired. Three incarcerated persons independently confirmed many of the guards’ complaints about the slow response and potential for future spread. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)

More than 1,800 persons at Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, OH, have tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus. As of Sunday (May 3),1,828  prisoners have tested positive, along with 109 staff members. Of the 1,828 cases, 38 are currently receiving outside hospital level care, according to an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesperson.There are approximately 2,500 incarcerated persons in the Marion Correctional Institution. One staff death was announced on April 8. No prisoners at Marion Correctional have died. (Source: WCMH-TV, Columbus)

On April 29, the PBS New Hour reported that over 70 percent of federal prisoners who have been tested for the coronavirus have tested positive. New figures from from the federal Bureau of Prisons show that out of 2,700 tests systemwide, nearly 2,000 have come back positive, strongly suggesting there are far more COVID-19 cases left uncovered. 30 incarcerated persons have died of the coronavirus at federal correctional facilities since late March. About 600 have recovered. The report also stated that the Bureau of Prisons communication policies are leaving families in the dark about their loved ones’ potentially life-threatening condition. (Source: PBS News Hour)

Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a professor at CUNY and the co-founder of California Prison Moratorium Project and Critical Resistance, recently made the case for prison abolition on the television program, ‘Democracy Now’, with Amy Goodman. Prof. Gilmore said, ‘Abolition seeks to undo the way of thinking and doing things that sees prison and punishment as solutions for all kinds of social, economic, political, behavioral and interpersonal problems. Abolition, though, is not simply decarceration, put everybody out on the street. It is reorganizing how we live our lives together in the world. And this is something that people are doing in a variety of ways throughout the United States and around the planet already.’ She went on to talk about ‘organized abandonment’, not only by the state, but also by capital in real estate and tourism. These forces ‘work together to raise barriers to some kinds of people and lower them for others.’ (Source: Democracy Now)