Freedom’s Cause # 19 – June 21, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

As of Friday (June 19), the DOC reports that there are 6 active cases (vs. 195  two weeks ago) and 262 recovered or released cases among ‘persons in their care’, for a total of 268. 12,552 persons have been tested (vs. 5,641 two weeks ago). Here is the ratio of positive tests to total tests by prison: WCI 228/1,223, Felmers O Chaney 18/93, Marshall E Sherrer 6/48, MSDF 2/735, CCI 3/5, OSCI 9/2,013, DCI 2/1,971. Among employees, there are 56 confirmed cases in adult institutions (vs. 50 two weeks ago): CCI 4, DCI 1, Felmers O Chaney 2, FLCI 1, GBCI 3, Marshall E Sherrer 1, MSDF 8, OSCI 2, RCI 5, RYOCF 3, RGCI 2, Robert E Ellsworth 1, TCI 1, WCI 22. In addition, there were nine cases in the Division of Community Corrections. 63 have recovered and 2 are still out. (Source: DOC official site)

On the outside: as of June 20, Wisconsin has 24,539 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 744 deaths. 18,055 people have recovered. (Source: AP)

NEWS FROM INSIDE

We received this report from Stanley CI: ’At approximately 10 a.m. on 6/15/20, an inmate maintenance worker was electrocuted while working on a faulty microwave. I witnessed the staff do nothing but roll [the] inmate over and slap the ground trying to wake him up. This man was completely lifeless. It took the nursing staff at least 15 minutes to get there and start chest compressions. He was finally Flight For Life’d unresponsive by 10:30a.m.’ Please let us know if you have more information on this incident. 

Another contact at SCI has drafted a petition, which he shared with IWOC. It calls for a number of immediate changes, such as the following: ‘Until our visits are restored, WE expect every employee to wear face masks and gloves…. WE want every officer to undergo some level of racial sensitivity training. The racists must go now…. WE want the money raised from the fundraisers to go back to the communities we come from. We shouldn’t be helping to build a waiting room in a police station or paying to train a dog that will be trained to bite us in our ass….WE want the veterans wing to be immediately dismantled. How do you honor dishonorable men? Easy, give them privileges to remind the rest of us that we are a class below. WE want this institution to change its policy on SIT SIT SIT!!! It’s been medically established that sitting all the time is harmful….We are all united by a common struggle. It’s time to be united in a common goal. R.I.P. G. FLOYD.’ 

A contact at DCI sent us this on Thursday, June 11: ‘A staff member at Dodge correctional institution has tested positive for the Corona Virus. The prison has gone into a lock down. I heard the inmates will been on lock down for three days straight and then from there move to a modified lock down until further notice.’

Racine CI has recently experienced a series of power outages. This report came to us Thursday, June 11: ‘I’m on Dane Unit, & we haven’t had power in almost 24hrs now. The temperature is in the mid 80’s in this unit, just today alone. None of these guard’s are telling us anything. They just keep telling us that they’re ‘working on it’. Today began the mandatory mask-wearing policy, roughly 3 months AFTER being on modified lockdown. So it is not only very hot, on this unit/in these rooms without our fans operable, it is hard for us to stay cool. Since the ice/cold water machines don’t even work now.’

LEGAL MATTERS

We recently received this message from Columbia CI: ‘Me and a few litigators are on their asses and now two of them have come under attack, and of course myself, along with about twenty individuals that have got their legal documents seized by these people that they say are going to destroy it.’  

IWOC has initiated a PHONE ZAP this coming Monday to protest the illegal seizure of documents at CCI. 

Another contact wrote this: ‘DOC seems to want to make it hard as hell for people to properly utilize institution law libraries. Especially since they have pretty much abandoned EdNet and now use Otis, which is Rachel Chrome. (Rachel chrome is like a Chromebook, but further restricted for correctional settings). The extremely limited google docs is a complete joke. Also with EdNet we could store our data on the network and access it whenever, now as SP points out, you can only get your flash drive during business hours which further limits our access. Oh and don’t mention the fact we have to pay a ridiculous $2.50 for a 1 GB flash drive, which are of extremely poor quality might I add!!!  I used to buy 16 GB drives of very good quality for $3, and that was 6/7 years ago!’

CALLING ALL LITIGATORS

The last two items are examples of the difficulties that people are facing as they try to exercise their legal rights. IWOC is putting together a directory of incarcerated and ex-incarcerated people who can help others negotiate Wisconsin’s legal system. If you can help, please send us your contact info with a few words about your qualifications and experience.   

FROM THE PRESS

Here is an unexpected argument for abolishing prisons: According to some of the most recent data, black Americans are 2.4 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than their white counterparts, and 2.2 times as likely as Asian Americans and Latin Americans. Professor John Eason at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has found that black and LatinX people are overrepresented as corrections *officers* in county jails, and suggests that these workers may be inadvertently spreading the new virus to their communities. (Source: Medical News Today, June 18)

At the Dane County Jail in Madison, Wisconsin, robots that look like fancy space heaters have rolled from room to room 24 hours a day, seven days a week, since the end of March. The devices emit high-intensity ultraviolet light, a technology that can destroy viruses, including swine flu and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Sheriff Dave Mahoney bought the pair of UVC emitters, which cost about $80,000, shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, the robots target everything from solitary cells to eating utensils. (Source: The Marshall Project)

Wisconsin’s coronavirus-related budget crunch will limit the state’s ability to find room for inmates in the state’s prisons, former Wisconsin Department of Corrections assistant deputy secretary Patrick Hughes wrote at the Badger Institute. ‘If new prison construction were ever a viable option for addressing longstanding overcrowding, fiscal woes arising from the pandemic make that increasingly untenable,’ Hughes wrote. ‘Legislators, the governor and the DOC [must] find a way to do what other states have done: responsibly decrease the number of inmates without imperiling safety.’ (Source: Washington Examiner, June 8)

A different type of Pride was happening inside Shakopee Prison in Minnesota last Saturday. A reported 100 prisoners out of the 130 in the Anthony Unit wore blue (the only color they can wear without getting in trouble) in support of the demands of LGBTQ prisoners for an end to discrimination and harassment. Prisoners want support groups and an LGBTQ advocate; an end to mail censorship and the practice of denying or stopping medical treatment as punishment – including hormones; sensitivity training for prisoners and staff; a trans person on the committee that makes trans-treatment decisions; and an end to the controversial ‘no-touch’ policy, which LGBTQ prisoners feel is a means of harassment. (Source: Twin Cities IWOC)