Freedom’s Cause #27 – October 25, 2020


As of Friday, October 23, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 854 (down from 969 two weeks ago). 1,832 persons are in quarantine (down from 1,875), and 620 are in isolation (down from 1,028). Active positive cases are reported in OSCI (251), WCI (174), RCI (149), RGCI (79), NLCI (64), KMCI (45), SCI (44), JCI (16), DCI (8), Drug Abuse CC (6), Oakhill (5), MSDF (4), CCI (2), Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills (2), Burke CC (2), Black River (1), GBCI (1), and REECC (1). Among staff members, there are 160 active cases (up from 123). The total number of staff cases has risen from 540 to 783. (Source: DOC official site)


A third Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) inmate has died after contracting COVID-19, the Fond du Lac County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed on Thursday, Oct. 22. The Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution inmate was identified as a 56-year-old male who became ill and was brought to a hospital for treatment, where he died. The medical examiner’s office listed the cause of death as COVID-19 pneumonia and Type 2 diabetes and obesity as contributing factors. (Source: Fox6 News, Milwaukee)


From a contact: ‘WCI has been on lockdown since 10/09 and since that time, no medical staff, no notifications, there has been zero cleaning and disinfection. I have had symptoms since last Saturday and it’s like being on a rollercoaster. I feel like I’ve been 15 rounds. I boxed when I was a young man and and never felt like this. Understand when I say this; it feels as if every fibre of my body is “saturated” with ache’s…. The quarantine burnout is starting to reveal itself within the security staff. The grumbling has begun, the denial of the severity of the virus, or outright denial that the virus exists and this is the left creating an “election infection”.’

This from another contact: ‘REECC announced at 6pm last night we are on yet another 14 day lockdown. The whole facility this time. The B floor was due to get off their 14 day lockdown today but not anymore.  So they will be on 28 days lockdown when this is over. The women here are so emotionally and mentally spent….I am very disturbed by Fessahaye and her comment about health care!!! They have HSU here, not health care…They don’t know what to do here if there was an outbreak.  They take our vitals and send us off.  They don’t have medicine, space, equipment or expertise to treat us if there is a Covid outbreak.’


From of friend of IWOC: ’I am a junior at Hunter college and my colleague and I are working on constructing a narrative around the  reality of  American prison labor. As I have gone through the process of reviewing literature that investigates the question of American prison labor, I noticed the majority of the studies (normative and empirical alike) leave out the voices of the workers themselves. Therefore I was wondering if you knew of anyone who has done industry work while incarcerated (whether it be through a state institution or otherwise) that would be willing to be interviewed about their time as an incarcerated worker. The purpose of the interviews are not to gain empirical knowledge about prison labor, but to uncover the day-to-day experiences of these individuals, who are often left out of scholarly work. Therefore, with these interviews, I would not be testing a theory but simply including individual experiences into the larger narrative of this piece. My goal with this writing piece is to help bring to light the experiences of those who are often not listened to by the public.’ If interested, please respond with ‘Research Project’ in the subject line. 


(October 20) Prisoner advocacy groups continue to call on Gov. Tony Evers to take action and protect people who are incarcerated. Peggy West Shroeder, an organizer with Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO), says measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like social distancing and providing hand sanitizer, just aren’t possible in prison. Masks have been provided to prisoners, but Shroeder doesn’t think it happened fast enough. ‘No one in the state of Wisconsin has received the death sentence and that’s what this is becoming,’ she says. EXPO has called on the Evers to set up a process to reexamine petitions for compassionate release for those who are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19. (Source: WUWM Milwaukee)

(October 20) Robert Thibault, a volunteer with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), said many inmates have sent emails to his organization from prisons across the state to express concerns about their living conditions behind bars during the pandemic. ‘They’re scared. They’re frustrated,” he said. ‘They feel like the way it’s being dealt with in the institutions just puts them at very high risk.’ In early October, an inmate at Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Waupun, began an email to the organization with a blunt assessment of his situation: ‘This place is so messed up.’ (Source: Appleton-Post Crescent)

(October 17) Changes in Medicaid guidelines affecting incarcerated persons will take effect later this month, state officials announced Friday in a press release. Starting Oct. 24, incarcerated Medicaid members will have their health care benefits suspended and re-evaluated before they are released from jail or prison. Under the current policy, Medicaid members have their coverage terminated when they became incarcerated. As a result, the program delayed their access to medical and behavioral health care after their release. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC), working with income maintenance agencies and community partners, made the changes. ’This new policy will increase the likelihood of successful re-entry for Wisconsin residents into their communities,’ DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a news release. ‘Connecting incarcerated individuals to health care, and other support services upon their release is critical to breaking the cycles of chronic homelessness, reliance on emergency care and re-arrest.’ (Source: Racine County Eye)

(October 16) The U.S. government collects detailed data on who’s dying in which jails around the country – but won’t let anyone see it. So, Reuters conducted its own tally of fatalities in America’s biggest jails, pinpointing where suicide, botched healthcare and bad jail-keeping are claiming lives in a system with scant oversight. The article, filed by five Reuters correspondents, features Harvey Hill, who was severely beaten and died in an isolation cell in Canton, Mississippi, in 2018. Hill’s is one of 7,571 inmate deaths Reuters documented in an unprecedented examination of mortality in more than 500 U.S. jails from 2008 to 2019. Death rates have soared in those lockups, rising 35% over the decade ending last year. Casualties like Hill are typical: held on minor charges and dying without ever getting their day in court. At least two-thirds of the dead inmates identified by Reuters, 4,998 people, were never convicted of the charges on which they were being held. (Source: Reuters Investigates)