Freedom’s Cause #34 – February 7, 2021


As of Friday, February 6, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at  45 (down from 172 two weeks ago). 941 persons are in quarantine (up from 855), and 52 are in isolation (down from 187). The number of reported deaths stands at 25. Active positive cases are reported in DCI (7), Felmers O Cheney (18), FLCI (1), JCI (2), John C Burke (2), Kenosha (6), KMCI (1), NLCI (1), Oakhill (1), OSCI (1), RYOCF (3), Robert E Ellsworth (1), and WCI (1). Among staff members, there are 60 active cases (down from 72). The total number of staff cases has risen from 2,408 to 2,456. (Source: DOC official site)


An inside contact sent us this report: “So we need help here at Fox Lake. Really, really need help. I understand that everyone is really focused on the issues that COVID-19 has revealed. However, it has overshadowed other issues that need to be made known and taken care of. The most prevalent one at this time is the contaminated water here. For the last couple weeks, the water has had a yellowish tint to it and at times will turn coffee brown for hours at a time. It is full of calcium and lime. We can fill a cup up with water, let it set for a couple minutes, pour it back out…and the interior of the cup has a heavy visible film of calcium/lime in it. The water has a slight odor to it, as well. We have asked and asked for them to fix this. Their answer is always ‘We’re working on it.’ Yet nothing has been done…and this is the only water we have to drink. Let alone cooking, cleaning, bathing, etc.”  IWOC is inquiring with the DHS about this issue. 


A contact in SCI reports that he is unable to type legal documents because of a policy denying repairs to any electronic devices after the warrantee has expired. He writes: “Stanley Correctional relies on 2 premises, the first being policy allows them to deny repairs citing 309.20.03.  Secondly, there exist no vendors willing to meet DOC requirements as required by this policy. It appears there is little effort to work with vendors, whereby demonstrating a lack of due diligence on the DOC. I have offered repair shops both in and out of state, but again, no action. This opposition comes from vendors placing contraband in machines and modifying machines beyond their original specifications. The response is simply a broad overreaction…. A handwritten legal document often is dismissed as being frivolous not receiving the fair and just review as documents which are formatted by a word processor. ” Let us know if you have information to support a challenge to this policy. 


Conditions are worsening at Wisconsin’s juvenile prisons, in part due to challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest report from a court-ordered monitor. Exhausted guards are more likely to restrain inmates at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls, monitor Teresa Abreu said in the report released Monday. She also found that inmates aren’t receiving enough programming and staff members fear for their safety. While the use of restraints is higher than it should be, staff have cut back on the use of isolating teens to their rooms. Nearly all recent room confinements were ended in under eight hours, the report found.The ACLU and Juvenile Law Center, which sued the state over conditions at Lincoln Hills in 2017, renewed their call in the wake of the latest report for it to be shut down. Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr said he is eager to close Lincoln Hills when possible and his team will work to make improvements at the facility in the meantime. (Source: Star Tribune [Minnesota])


The Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission has selected Milwaukee’s Dasha Kelly Hamilton as Wisconsin’s new poet laureate on Monday. She is the first Black woman to be named in the role’s history. Kelly Hamilton is a writer, performance artist and creative change agent who founded the non-profit Still Waters Collective. She is also the author of three poetry collections, four spoken word albums, and two novels. “My practice as a writer and cultural organizer connects me to a spectrum of conversations and communities.” Kelly Hamilton said. “I’ve seen communities built and individuals fortified through poems and spoken word. I’m honored to continue building community across the state as Wisconsin Poet Laureate, and look forward to establishing a poetry exchange between traditional residents and writer residents in Wisconsin prisons.” (Source: Madison 365)


A corrections officer at the Milwaukee County Jail who victims said liked to brag about his sexual prowess has been charged with sexually assaulting two women at the jail, an inmate and a co-worker. Gilberto Fernandez-Rosa, 26, of Franklin, faces two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault by a correctional officer against an inmate, for allegedly grabbing one victim on different occasions, and one count of fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor, for allegedly exposing himself to a sheriff’s office co-worker. The felony counts are punishable by up to 25 years in prison. (Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered the Department of Justice to end its reliance on private prisons and acknowledge the central role government has played in implementing discriminatory housing policies. In remarks before signing the order, Biden said the U.S. government needs to change “its whole approach” on the issue of racial equity. The federal Bureau of Prisons had already opted not to renew some private prison contracts in recent months as the number of inmates dwindled and thousands were released to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic. David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, noted that the order does not end the federal government’s reliance on privately run immigration detention centers. “The order signed today is an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it, but President Biden has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises,” Fathi said. (Source: Wisconsin Law Journal)

A resolution passed Thursday by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled State Assembly repealed the state’s mask mandate and public health emergency aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. But just over an hour later, Gov. Tony Evers (D) issued a new emergency order and mandate, citing the new threat posed by “more contagious strains of the virus,” including the B.1.17 variant, which has been found in Wisconsin and 31 other states. The new mask mandate will run through March 20, and the emergency order will be effective for 60 days. House Speaker Robin Vos (R) said he supports mask requirements in certain “appropriate” areas like hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and public schools, but not statewide. (Source: The Hill)
In an op-ed piece published on February 2, Matt Rothschild wrote, “Amid the outcry over the insanity of Republican legislators trying to overturn Gov. Evers’s mask mandate, a particularly outrageous display of Republican COVID callousness hasn’t received the attention it deserves. And that’s the GOP’s effort to block inmates from getting immunizations ahead of the general population in Wisconsin. Leave it to State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) to demagogue on this issue. ’A healthy 30-year-old three-time murderer would be entitled to receive a vaccine before other at-risk individuals,’ Wanggaard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ‘A 25-year-old who raped a 60-year-old asthmatic cancer survivor would be entitled to receive the vaccine before his victim. This is not only unwise, it’s unconscionable.’ But DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk spelled out the ‘very rational premise’ for the decision to vaccinate those ‘who are at greatest risk for spread of the disease and sequelae of the disease and greatest risk of exposure.’ She added: ‘The other thing that’s really important to remember is that outbreaks in a prison have an effect on the community as well. It’s not like it’s contained within a prison when inmates become ill; they spread it to the people who work in the prison, and the people who work in the prison go out into the community and spread it to others.’” Rothschild added, “Even before the Republicans promoted this bill, I thought inmates in Wisconsin who got infected with COVID would have a good chance of succeeding in court under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and Article 1, Section 6, of the Wisconsin Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Now if this bill became law, inmates would have an even greater chance of success.” (Source: Wisconsin Examiner)