Freedom’s Cause #24 – September 13, 2020


We have learned that phone calls on behalf of a person in TCI had the desired effect: she was released from unjust segregation this week. IWOC was contacted by her partner via email after other attempts to find an advocate had failed. The campaign was led by a member of IWOC who had just helped her incarcerated brother out of a similar situation. In her own words: ‘persistence pays off’. 


As of Friday, September 11, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 180 (down from 223 three weeks ago). 2,854 persons are in quarantine (up from 1,362), and 231 are in isolation (down from 390). Active positive cases have been reported in RCI (68), DCI (54), GBCI (26), KMCI (24), NLCI (7), and Milwaukee Women’s Correction Center (1). Among staff members, there are 26 active cases (down from 30). The total number of staff cases has risen from 170 to 244. (Source: DOC official site)


(August 27) IWOC members Ron Schroeder and Bob Thibault were heard on Lake Effect, a program that airs daily on WUWM Milwaukee. They spoke about Gov. Tony Evers’ failure to issue health-based clemency to prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of Wisconsin prisons to meet basic health and safety standards. Schroeder listed five categories of persons who should be eligible for commuted sentences: those who are currently approved for work release, people over 60 and/or with serious health issues that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, people who were convicted when they were under 25 years of age and who have been in prison more than 15 years, those who are due to be released in the next six months, and people who are serving time for a revocation who have not been convicted of a new crime. Thibault pointed out that Wisconsin’s prison population is disproportionately made up of people of color, who face a greater risk of dying from COVID-19 than white prisoners. ‘You know, we’ve had a lot of discussion around the country in the last few months about Black Lives Matter’, he said. ‘And everybody thinks that Black Lives Matter in policing, in the streets, but Black Lives Matter in prison, too.’ (Source: WUWM Milwaukee)


Fighting Excessive Informal and Summary Disciplinary Sanctions: A Practical Perspective

by Tony Justich (©August 25, 2020) @ OSCI

I’ve noticed a lot more ‘informal’ sanctions happening lately in the disciplinary process. This means that instead of writing a conduct report, staff will offer an informal sanction (extra duty, loss of dayroom, etc) to see if you’ll agree to it. These are a couple methods to try to get a lesser sanction. Sometimes the informal disposition is a reasonable offer but staff can sometimes take things too far.

It’s alright to take a reasonable  informal sanction, but remember that you can always try to counter with a lesser amount. First, try to bargain down with the officer. If they won’t do it, then go to the Sgt. Emphasize that the sanction seems a bit steep/is unwarranted and offer a compromise. If you’re guilty or can be found guilty, then an apology (however much it pisses you off) and taking responsibility can help with your negotiations to get the offered sanction lowered.

If you do get an actual conduct report, then the best bargaining tool we have is called ‘progressive discipline’. Basically, what it means is that for minor rule-breaking the sanction should start low and get progressively higher for each further infraction. This argument is made in your statement contesting the conduct report. Typically, and these may be slightly different at different institutions, a first summary should be around 3 days loss of day room/10 hrs extra duty, a second around 5 days loss of day room/20 hrs extra duty. Third summary of 15 days loss of day room/15 days building confinement with 30 days loss of day room and 30 days building confinement thereafter. At that point it can earn a trip to Seg instead of a summary, but you can usually get out with the same disposition of 30 & 30. But battling to avoid Seg is not the focus of this article; I’ll returned to summary dispositions.

If you do get offered a high summary disposition offer on a conduct report that’s outside of this range but haven’t had any tickets for a while, you can refuse the summary and argue for a lesser disposition in your statement that gets sent to the white shirt. The argument would state, ‘My progressive discipline should restart, as I’ve had no actual conduct reports in [at least 6-months [preferably a year, as the longer your time without a conduct report you’ve gone the better]. I believe would be more appropriate in this situation.’ Obviously, this argument can be bolstered as with negotiations for a lower sanction listed above, and you can make this statement without regard to previous warnings or informal sanctions for the same type of conduct.

An example: my cellie and I leave the door open to circulate fresh air despite the rule against it when its really hot (shhh…don’t tell anybody). We each received three warnings for it and two back-to-back informal sanctions (5 days loss of day room) within the space of about a week and a half. We were then written up with a conduct report a few days after completing the informal sanctions for again having the door opened and offered a 10 day loss of day room summary. My cellie didn’t take my advice on how to fight it to get it reduced and got the full 10 days he’d accepted. I refused the summary and made the progressive discipline argument as I had not had a conduct report in well over a year. I suggested that since this was the case a sanction of 3 days loss of day room would be more appropriate. So, while my cellie got 10 days loss of day room, I received only 3.

Bottom line, staying cool, logical and respectful will help your arguments to succeed. Rehearse before presenting your argument. These methods will work more often than not if properly applied. Stay safe and sane!


From a contact in NLCI: ‘Fom the home page of West Law, if you put in a search term, for example “EVIDENCE,” and on the left hand side of the page select BRIEFS, then when your search results are returned, change the RELEVANCE to DATE, you will find a number of articles written by attorneys, legal professionals, law professors, etc and most importantly you will find their CONTACT INFORMATION!!!! …Also, from the West Law home page, if you look on the upper right hand side of the page you will see Black’s Law Dictionary and NEWS!!!if you select NEWS, you will get the latest articles; I mean they are extremely current. …Finally, from the West Law home page scroll down to administrative decisions and guidelines, select federal, and a host of decisions from ALL government departments and agencies will be at your finger tips. Again and always change the RELEVANCE to DATE.’


If you have been denied books because they came without a receipt, you can send your ICEs or affidavits to Adam Christopher, JCI #640313, PO Box 233, Black River Falls, WI 54615. If you can file an amicus brief, file it in the Western District case # 18cv1073bbc (Christopher v. Schwochert, et al.) by October 30th, 2020 (discovery cutoff). Parties will have until November 13 to file briefs. 


From Prison Legal News (July 2020), via an IWOC contact in DCI: Kuan Barnett, 20, filed a lawsuit in March 2020 against two former prison guards in Madison federal court, relating to an October 2018 beating he was subjected to in his cell at Columbia Correctional. Barnett seeks punitive compensatory damages for conspiracy, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In October, Barnett had spit at guard Russell Goldsmith from his cell. The next day he spit at guard Tara Woodruff. Later that day, according to the lawsuit, Goldsmith and guard Michael Thompson went to the cell. They allegedly beat Barnett after Woodruff opened the cell, then dragged him to a restraint chair. A video of the events later surfaced. Goldsmith and Thompson later admitted to lying in their official report, which claimed Barnett had pretended to hang himself. Goldsmith resigned and pleaded no contest to abuse of a penal facility resident and misconduct in public office, serving 18 months probation. Thompson was fired and pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. He served a year of probation. Woodruff and three other guards are also named in the suit. (Source: Prison Legal News)

(August 24) In an op-ed piece for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, Mark Rice, the founder of the #CLOSEmsdf campaign, set out the case for ending Wisconsin’s disastrous system of mass supervision. ‘Detaining people struggling with poverty, housing insecurity, mental health issues and addiction issues for alleged rule violations is at odds with common sense approaches to justice,’ he wrote. ‘Yet, public officials in Wisconsin have been keeping its prisons and jails overcrowded for many years by doubling down on this unjust practice.’ He cited a new report by Human Rights Watch and the ACLU demonstrating the deep racial injustice and extent of harm caused by this policy. Wisconsin now detains people for violations of supervision at the third highest rate in the nation. (Source: Milwaukee NNS)

(August 28) The Abolish Slavery National Network (ASNN) today announced the launch of a nationwide effort to remove exceptions for slavery and involuntary servitude in the U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions across the country. ASNN is a coalition of 6 organizations and nearly 100 supporting individuals and groups who believe that the fight to eradicate systemic racism cannot be won as long as the country’s foundational documents still carve out exceptions for slavery. With the release of a kickoff video and the launch of its website,, ASNN aims to create a nationwide movement to finally close the chapter on this grim part of American history. In 2018, the Abolish Slavery Colorado coalition brought about the passage of Amendment A, which removed involuntary servitude and slavery from the Colorado Constitution. Amendment A passed with 100 percent legislative approval for the ballot initiative and two-thirds of the voting populace voting in favor. Two other state legislatures–Nebraska and Utah–have referred amendments to the 2020 ballot. Similar campaigns are underway in several other states. (Source: ASNN)