Freedom’s Cause #33 – January 24, 2021

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

As of Friday, January 22, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 172 (down from 317 two weeks ago). 855 persons are in quarantine (down from 1,339), and 187 are in isolation (down from 337). The number of reported deaths stands at 25. Active positive cases are reported in CCI (2), DCI (3), Drug Abuse CC (17), Felmers O Cheney (2), John C. Burke (1), Kenosha CC (2), KMCI (8), McNaughton (1), MSDF (1), NLCI (3), Oakhill (21), RCI/Sturtevant (1), RYOCF (104), SCI (1), Taycheedah (3), and WCI (2). Among staff members, there are 72 active cases (down from 92). The total number of staff cases has risen from 2,306 to 2,408. (Source: DOC official site)

DOC NAMES PRISONS WITH COVID DEATHS

(January 11) The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is now reporting which prisons have had COVID-19-related deaths, following months of calls to release more information on prisoner deaths. Oshkosh Correctional Institution and Waupun Correctional Institution have each recorded four COVID-19-related deaths, according to information released for the first time Monday. Redgranite Correctional Institution and Stanley Correctional Institution each had three. Dodge, Fox Lake and Racine correctional institutions reported two each. One COVID-related death was reported at Green Bay, Kettle Moraine, Oakhill, Prairie du Chien and Taycheedah  correctional institutions.The number of inmates who have died from COVID-19 could be higher than the 25 reported. Corrections officials have only publicly reported deaths for which medical examiners completed reports — a process that can take weeks or months. And they only counted deaths in state-run prisons, excluding any deaths in county-run jails. Corrections had previously refused to release information on how many deaths each facility had. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

WI GOP OPPOSES VACCINE PRIORITY FOR PRISONERS

(January 21) Everyone in Wisconsin would be eligible to schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccine shots by mid-March and state health officials would be barred from prioritizing prisoners in the vaccine rollout under legislation introduced this week by Republican lawmakers. The Evers administration this week announced residents 65 and older could start scheduling appointments for their first vaccine shot on Monday. The legislation aimed at speeding up the rollout comes as the Evers administration also is considering approving a plan that would make vaccine shots available to inmates in state prisons as early as this month in its plan to expand the rollout to more Wisconsin residents. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

REFORMS IN COMMUNITY SUPERVISION?

In a policy brief released this month, the conservative Badger institute states: “The DOC plans to reduce the standard rules of supervision by half, from 18 to nine. The DOC is developing new standard rules for offenders in the categories of domestic violence, operating while intoxicated (OWI), substance use, gang/high risk/violent, property/financial and electronic monitoring, but it has not publicly provided details. Similarly, the DOC has not specified which rules will be scrapped or merged. When asked for more information about what the new standard rules will be, a DOC media spokesperson said, ‘While a preliminary review has occurred, nothing formal has been proposed.’” The BI sees some merit in proposals that would streamline bureaucratic procedures and reduce counterproductive jail-holds. (Source: Badger Institute)

PRISONERS RELEGATED TO COUNTY JAILS

(January 20) Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clientele at the Marinette County Jail is a bit more “unruly.” Jail Administrator Bob Majewski gave a report Friday to the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. He explained that the Wisconsin Prison System currently is not taking inmates from county jails who have been sentenced to prison. The state is not taking those prisoners for fear of them bringing in the coronavirus. Majewski, the committee chairman, said normally a bus comes approximately every other week to transport prisoners to the Dodge County Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin. He said usually there are a couple of prisoners to be transported each trip. The Marinette County Jail presently has 22 prisoners who are waiting to go to prison—that’s 18% of the current 120 inmates in the jail. (Source: ehextra.com)

FAMILY CIRCLES

Milwaukee’s Blessed Savior Catholic Church, Project Return and Community Advocates are working together to begin Family Circles of Support. This is a virtual (at this point) time for family members of those who are or have been incarcerated who would like to find a way to be heard, understood and supported while exploring topics surrounding incarceration and the impact on the lives of the families of the incarcerated.These Zoom meetings will be held on the 1st Monday of every month, beginning on February 1, 2021, from 6:30 until 8:00pm.  People can join in on their computer, or call in to the meeting on their phones.  Please share this information with your family members and if they are interested they can contact Amanda Smith at Project Return – 414.418.7312 or amanda@projectreturnmilwaukee.org for the information on how to sign in to the meeting.

FROM THE PRESS

(January 17) During her four months as a social worker at the state penitentiary in Santa Fe, Thelonika McCollum found herself facing a personal crisis. After being told to falsify mental health evaluations for solitary confinement inmates and clashing with her supervisors over other practices she considered unethical, McCollum decided the best thing to do to resolve her moral dilemma and continue the career she found fulfilling was to quit her job. After serving nearly 20 years as a corrections officer, Ernie Garcia left his job at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas in October. He quit over long hours and working conditions but, even though he worked at another facility and in a different position than McCollum, he reported seeing some of the same things regarding the handling of inmates in solitary confinement. In 2019, state Legislature passed the Corrections Restricted Housing Act, which bans correctional facilities from keeping juveniles, pregnant women and people with mental illness in solitary confinement. In addition, the law requires the New Mexico Department of Corrections to report the number of inmates in solitary confinement, the reason(s) they were placed there and for how long. But that system relies on accurate information, and McCollum and Garcia both independently told the Journal that wasn’t necessarily the case and that records were fudged to make it look as if the facilities were compliant. A spokesman with the state Department of Corrections said he couldn’t speak to the validity of the former employees’ claims. (Source: Albuquerque Journal)

(January 21) With a historic vote in the Illinois general assembly on 13 January, Illinois is poised to become the first state in the country to end the use of wealth-based pre-trial detention. Numerous studies have shown that bail does little to achieve its intended purpose of ensuring court attendance – people released on their own recognizance were just as likely to come back to court for their trials as people who posted money bond and no more likely to reoffend awaiting trial. The Pre-trial Fairness Act significantly limits the types of charges eligible for pre-trial detention at the first court date, among other provisions. No one arrested for a misdemeanor, with the exception of domestic violence, can be jailed pre-trial and many other charges which are unlikely to result in conviction are also ineligible for pre-trial detention. (Source: The Guardian)

(January 12) There have been more than 330,000 cases among prison inmates, according to the Covid Prison Project, which tracks Covid-19 across the nation’s correctional facilities, and more than 1,900 deaths. Thousands more cases have been detected across the nation’s jails, where experts say Covid-19 data is scarce and hard to track. And it’s not just inmates: more than 77,000 prison staff tested positive and more than 110 have died, according to the project. As the pandemic enters a new chapter, with two authorized Covid-19 vaccines on the US market, leading public health professionals have called for incarcerated people and corrections staff to be prioritized in vaccinations. It’s the nation’s moral responsibility, several experts told CNN, but also a move that will help in the recovery of other communities. “Prisons and jails are not a place apart; they’re very connected to the communities that they’re in,” Brinkley-Rubinstein said. “We have staff and people who are released from jail and prison, moving out of the correctional space into their home communities. And if you have exposure in prisons or jails, then you’re likely to bring that exposure into the surrounding community.” (Source: CNN)