Freedom’s Cause #29 – November 22, 2020


As of Friday, November 20, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 1,909 (up from 1,703 two weeks ago). 4,615 persons are in quarantine (down from 5,330), and 1,868 are in isolation (up from 1,451). The number of reported deaths stands at 10. Active positive cases are reported in Black River (4), Chippewa Valley (70), CCI (155), Copper Lake (1), DCI (223), Drug Abuse CC (9), Flambeau CC (8), FLCI (375), GBCI (38), JCI (9), McNaughton CC (49), MSDF (40), MWCC (7), NLCI (8), OSCI (248), PDCI (18), RCI (288), RYOCF (1), Redgranite CI (7), Robert E Ellsworth (101), Sanger B Powers (29), SCI (26), TCI (140), Thompson (19), Waupun (35), Winnebago (1). Among staff members, there are 336 active cases (up from 265). The total number of staff cases has risen from 1,157 to 1,641. (Source: DOC official site)


The Wisconsin Department of Corrections reported 808 new COVID-19 cases among inmates Monday (11/16) — the highest single-day spike in cases in the state prison system since the start of the pandemic. Some of the new spikes are in prisons that have been battling COVID-19 for several weeks but have failed to keep the virus from spreading once it got into the facility. Oshkosh Correctional Institution, for instance, had an outbreak of 341 active cases Oct. 5, which dipped below 100 cases but then rose again to 288 active cases Oct. 19. By the end of October, infections were starting to wane, with only 39 active cases on Oct. 31. But after the most recent surge, Oshkosh has become the prison with the greatest number of COVID-19 infections in the state with a total of 944 cases since March. That’s nearly half of the prison’s entire population. Despite cases continuing to rise, the death count hasn’t changed since Nov. 3. More prisoners may have died from COVID-19, but they won’t be added to DOC’s data dashboard until the medical examiner confirms it. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)


The total number of COVID-19 cases the Wisconsin prison system has seen among inmates surpassed 7,000 Tuesday (11/17), another bleak milestone in the state’s battle against the pandemic.The state Department of Corrections added 70 new COVID-19 cases to its dashboard Tuesday, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases up to 7,047 and the active case count to 2,068. Several active outbreaks across multiple prisons contributed to the increase, including four prisons with more than 250 cases each. None of Wisconsin’s 36 adult correctional facilities have avoided the pandemic entirely. Kenosha Correctional Center and the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility have had zero positive COVID-19 cases among inmates, but DOC staff at the facilities have tested positive. Kenosha has had two self-reported COVID-19 cases among staff, while the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility has had 23 among staff. The rest of Wisconsin’s prisons have all had at least one inmate get infected with COVID-19, and most many more. As of Friday, 28.4% of the state’s prison population had tested positive for the virus, a figure similar to that of other midwestern states. (Source:


(November 16) Advocates for Wisconsin’s incarcerated people are losing patience with Governor Tony Evers as COVID-19 spreads throughout the state’s prisons and jails. Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections have made some modest efforts since March to slow prison admissions and release people who were in prison for parole violations. This is only a fraction of what the Governor has the power to do—especially a Governor who ran on a proposal to reduce Wisconsin’s prison population. After months of letters, phone calls, a petition hand-delivered to Evers, and June’s “Drive to Decarcerate” protest in Madison, Evers failed to take further action or even come out publicly to acknowledge the problem. So organizers at WISDOM, a Milwaukee-based interfaith group working to end mass incarceration in Wisconsin, launched a vigil-like protest this October outside the Governor’s Mansion in Maple Bluff, a small affluent village that borders Madison. WISDOM’s goal is to post at least two protestors in front of the mansion every day, until Evers holds a press conference drawing attention to the problem. (Source: tone madison)


Milwaukee IWOC organized a phone zap on behalf of incarcerated people at Dodge Correctional Institution on Tuesday, November 17. DCI has seen one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus in recent days, and IWOC has received reports of medical neglect and inadequate supplies. Participants demanded that staff wear masks and provide prisoners with disinfectant spray, soap, and hand sanitizer. 


(November 4) More than 2,000 inmates in New Jersey were released Wednesday in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in the state’s prison system — almost a month after the state passed one of the first bills in the U.S. to reduce sentences because of the pandemic. Liz Velez, a New Jersey Department of Corrections spokesperson, told NBC News in an email that 2,261 adults nearing the end of their prison sentences were released early Wednesday amid rising coronavirus cases in some state prisons. As of Wednesday morning, the department recorded at least 51 inmate deaths and 4,111 cases, including employees and inmates, since the beginning of April, according to department Covid-19 data.The move came less than a month after Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill to reduce sentences for inmates to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state’s prison system.Under the S2519 bill, prisoners in New Jersey can get their sentences reduced by as many as eight months for every month spent behind bars during the pandemic. People serving time for murder or sexual assault, sex offenders and inmates in federal prisons and county jails are not eligible. (Source: NBC News)

(November 19) With a national surge in newly confirmed coronavirus cases, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an executive order allowing some inmates to be released early from the state’s correctional facilities to help stem the pandemic among both prisoners and prison employees.The order comes as the Republican governor also issued new statewide restrictions for the general population. Under the governor’s order, inmates eligible for early release or home detention include those whose prison term is set to expire within the next four months and are not serving time for a violent or sexual offense. An inmate’s medical condition and whether they are pregnant or have other special needs will be also taken into consideration in determining eligibility. Inmates 60 and older with good behavior will be eligible for an accelerated consideration of parole, according to the order. (Source: NPR)

(November 12) Roughly 80 percent of Texas county jail inmates who have died after contracting COVID-19 were in pre-trial detention and had not been convicted of any crimes, according to a new report from the University of Texas at Austin.  Based on Texas county jail populations data, the university researchers found that of those who died from COVID-19 in a Texas county jail, 11 out of 14, or nearly 80 percent, had not received a conviction. The report also noted that of those who died from the virus in Texas prisons, run by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), a disproportionately large number were charged with “person offenses,” which include robbery, simple

assault, sexual assault and murder. The university also found that at least 231 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s correctional facilities as of early October. However, the researchers noted in the report that this number could likely be higher, as autopsies are sometimes conducted months after the inmate’s death. Some inmates also “died without ever having been tested for COVID.” The researchers noted that those who had passed away due to a preexisting condition that was worsened by the virus were not counted in the total figure. (Source: The Hill)(November 20) In an op-ed in the Daily Californian, Julia Burns writes: “The concept of incarceration, or of taking someone’s freedom away, has always been inhumane. Prisons and immigration detention centers have always been detrimental to healthy human life. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the unsafe living conditions of these facilities and exposed them for what they are. The for-profit model of many private prisons extends to their health services, with states across the country outsourcing medical services to for-profit companies. Because of the way these companies are contracted, they often have little incentive to provide high-quality care — doing so would lower their profits. Inmate requests for medical attention often go unanswered, and, in some cases, inmates are punished for making too many requests. Lack of health services and medical attention is abhorrent under any circumstances but is especially dangerous during a pandemic caused by a highly infectious virus….We cannot be afraid of abolition because it’s new. A post-abolition future will prioritize the safety, health and well-being of its people without turning to draconian punishments that permanently harm the human spirit. It will prioritize education and services that can halt the funnel to prisons in the first place.” (Source: Daily Californian)