Freedom’s Cause #26 – October 11, 2020


As of Friday, October 9, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 969 (up from 184 two weeks ago). 1,875 persons are in quarantine (down from 1,947), and 1,028 are in isolation (up from 393). Active positive cases have been reported in KMCI (406), OSCI (353), DCI (61), CCI (61), Gordon CC (42), RGCI (13), NLCI (10), RCI (7), WCI (6), Oakhill (6), FLCI (2), MSDF (1), and Winnebago (1). Among staff members, there are 123 active cases (up from 75). The total number of staff cases has risen from 338 to 540. (Source: DOC official site)


(October 8) At least two inmates at Dodge Correctional Institution died in September after contracting COVID-19 — the first confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the Wisconsin prison system. The Dodge County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the deaths Wednesday with the Wisconsin State Journal. A 63-year-old man in Dodge Correctional died Sept. 12 from COVID-19, Dodge County Medical Examiner PJ Schoebel said. The man had pre-existing health conditions, including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, but Schoebel said a forensic examination determined that the primary cause of death was COVID-19. On Sept. 15, a 62-year-old man who tested positive for COVID-19 while incarcerated at Dodge Correctional died of lung cancer. The COVID-19 infection was a contributing factor to his death, Schoebel said. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)

Per report from a contact: a third death has occurred at OSCI. He added, ‘Of course a Sergeant on my unit denied it, telling me that it takes 6 days to investigate to have an autopsy. I told him it was on the news.’ On October 8, WBAY (Green Bay) reported that DOC had confirmed the death in Oshkosh, without indicating the cause.   


(October 8) Citing HIPAA laws, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections leaves it up to medical examiners and coroners to disclose inmate deaths of those who have tested positive for COVID-19. That practice differs from neighboring states like Minnesota and Michigan, which both disclose total COVID-19 inmate deaths on their websites. As cases rise in Wisconsin prisons and at least three inmates die after testing positive, the DOC continues to cite HIPAA as a reason not to disclose information about COVID-19 related deaths. ‘It’s a ridiculous excuse. It’s not an excuse; It’s a cover-up,’ executive director Gretchen Schuldt of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative said. ‘Under DOC standards, we would never know how many people died on a highway each year.’ (Source: Channel 3000)


(October 8) ‘This is definitely unprecedented times for this department,’ Wisconsin Department of Corrections administrator Makda Fessahaye said. -‘In Kettle Moraine, it’s 40% of the incarcerated people that are currently infected, and Oshkosh, it’s about 330 folks,’ prison reform advocate Jim Cairns adds. ‘When you have that many people that are infected, what’s being provided? I mean, just even something as simple as Tylenol, is there any sort of medication?’ -‘There is access, more access, to medical care in the institutions right now than there is out in the community,’ Fessahaye claimed. -Cairns says there are reports that corrections officers have not been following the mask mandate. ‘They would put them on when the supervisors walked by and then in between times they would not have a mask on,’ he said. -‘We’ve done all that we can do to try to mitigate the spread of this pandemic,’ Fessahaye said. ‘But again as you know, we don’t have a vaccine.’ -Cairns points to overcrowding as the real problem: ‘Maximum capacity is in the 17,000 [inmates] range; at the beginning of this [pandemic], we were at 23,000 [inmates].’ -‘We have expanded our early release program, those individuals are made eligible for that program through the courts,’ Fessahaye said. (WLUK Green Bay)


(October 6) In Wisconsin, COVID-19 cases are spiking at an incredible rate and the state now ranks third behind only Texas and California in terms of total new cases in the last seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. In fact, the state of Wisconsin now has more people in ICU with COVID-19 than the entire country of Canada. It’s a huge concern for Wisconsin’s prison population, where positive coronavirus tests are on the rise, too. WISDOM/EXPO and their statewide affiliates and allies, in particular, have been pressuring Governor Tony Evers to release specific populations from Wisconsin prisons to protect against COVID-19. ‘COVID-19 has given the governor a great opportunity to use special circumstances to release the most vulnerable in our prisons, including the elderly, immunocompromised and those with chronic health conditions,’ says David Liners, statewide director of WISDOM, in a statement. ‘These are people who are not a danger to the public in any way, shape or form. Keeping somebody who is elderly or ill in prison during a pandemic just seems vindictive; it does not seem like justice.’ (Source: Madison 365)


From Ladell Evans (533468) at WSPF: ‘As of today I am back on a Hunger and a Fluid strike. I have a court order to be forced fed and have an IV put in. I will be refusing all treatment and allowing them to suit up and spray me with incapacitating agents for the cause of being removed from an illegal program that is being used to PUNISH Administrative Confinement Inmates. This may seem radical but I have come to understand that diplomacy has failed and talking is not working so now I must put my body on the line to show that I want things to change within the Department of Corrections. I will be out of contact for a while but I wish the best to all and hope you are all doing well.’ You can write to Ladell at WSPF, PO Box 9900, Boscobel WI 53805-9900


Good news: the deadline for e-filing had been extended to November 21. The deadline for filing on paper has been extended to October 30 (postmark date). DOC is supposed to provide paper forms (persons on this list may have received one from us already). If you asked the Community or IWOC to e-file for you, your paper form will be disregarded.


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(July 27) Saying they are being used as ‘slave labor’ by the Colorado prison system, three current and one former inmate have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Jared Polis, the state prison system and a private prison operator. They are asking that inmates be paid minimum wage, be considered state employees and receive the same benefits as state workers like paid holidays and vacations, and paid sick leave and medical benefits. A 2018 vote in Colorado on Amendment A that changed the state constitution paved the way for the new lawsuit. That amendment prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude. The Colorado constitution prior to 2018 stated, ‘There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.’ Amendment A changed that language to prohibit slavery in all circumstances. The wording was changed to state, ‘There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.’ The measure passed with 66% of voters agreeing to the change. (Source: CBS4 Denver)

(October 2) Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the Families Over Fees Act, making California the first state in the nation to end the harmful and costly collection of 23 administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal legal system. The bill takes statewide reforms first enacted in San Francisco to eliminate ‘high pain, low gain’ fees that pile debt onto people who cannot pay it, drive people deeper into poverty and create barriers to their successful reentry. San Francisco’s successful experience has galvanized a national movement for fine and fee justice. (Source: San Francisco Bay View)

(September 15) Human rights advocates sounded alarms Monday following a whistleblower complaint that alleges an alarming number of hysterectomies were performed on detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Georgia. The complaint also alleges ‘jarring medical neglect’ throughout the facility, particularly in relation to Covid-19 safety protocols and procedures. The whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a longtime licensed practical nurse who has been working at the facility for three years, described unsanitary practices and little if any regard for containing or controlling the spread of Covid-19 among detainees and staff, as well as an alarming number of hysterectomies performed on detainees. (Source: Common Dreams)