Freedom’s Cause #36 – March 7, 2021


As of Friday, March 5, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 29 (down from 48 two weeks ago). 894 persons are in quarantine (down from 1,052), and 36 are in isolation (down from  59). The number of reported deaths stands at 25. Active positive cases are reported in Chippewa Valley (1), DCI (10), Drug Abuse CC (1), JCI (1), McNaughton (1), MSDF (1), RCI/Sturtevant (5), RYOCF (7), Redgranite (1), and Ellsworth (1). The total count of positive tests for incarcerated persons has reached 10,868 (up from 10,845). Among staff members, there are 13 active cases (down from 19). The total number of staff cases has risen from 2,473 to 2,490. (Source: DOC official site)


(March 5) Wisconsin on Thursday reported another 13 cases of a more contagious variant of COVID-19, as about a million residents had received at least one dose of vaccine while supply was expected to increase again next week. The state now has 19 confirmed cases of the worrisome B117 coronavirus variant first found late last year in the United Kingdom, including five cases in Dane County. Those are believed to be undercounts because less than 1% of samples undergo the genomic analysis necessary to identify the variant. The state expects to get 129,000 first doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine next week and at least that much in following weeks, up from 123,000 doses this week and about 70,000 doses weekly in much of January. Nearly 48,000 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine are coming next week, directed at teachers, and additional J&J supply likely won’t come until late March. Groups now eligible include frontline health care workers, nursing home and assisted-living residents, police officers, firefighters, correctional workers and residents 65 and older. As of Monday, teachers and child care workers also became eligible, along with people in Medicaid long-term care programs, including those with disabilities; workers in public transit, all parts of the food industry and some other sectors; other essential health care workers; and residents in congregate living settings, including group homes, prisons and jails. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)


(March 4) County jails are housing more inmates waiting to be shipped to prison than normal, and sheriffs across the state say it could end up costing local taxpayers thousands of dollars. It’s an issue that dates back to the fall, but it has re-emerged as the state recently stopped reimbursing counties for housing the inmates. Right now, Brown County is paying to house 74 inmates at its jail who are waiting to be shipped to state prisons. That is about seven times more than normal. “I don’t have that money in my budget to cover housing state inmates,” said Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain. John Beard,  Director of Communications for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, said the DOC limited intake from county jails as a way to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus across institutions. State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) says he has bipartisan support on a bill that would require the state to pay counties for inmates who stay at the jails 10 days beyond the day they receive their sentence. (Source: WLUK-TV, Brown County)


We have received this follow-up from The Community:

“IRS says you need to wait until after April 15 to file an “amended” return.  BUT if you file a new return (a second version of the same return) BEFORE April 15, the second ‘superseding’ return just replaces the original and is the one that gets processed by IRS. Either an amended or superseding return will slow up IRS processing, so you should be sure you need to file it. On that topic, if there are errors on the form that make filing impossible, such as the person has used the wrong social security number for themselves, this must be corrected. But if the error will make no difference to the tax liability, the IRS may ignore it. For example, if the person has claimed the wrong filing status (single vs married), the IRS may or may not care.  In addition, if the claimant earned $100 last year but entered $0 as income, this likely makes no difference to processing because either way the earner owes no taxes to the IRS. There are also other mistakes the IRS will automatically correct on its own, such as where the wrong social security number was used for a dependent child.  There, the IRS can check the child’s number against its records and will send a notice saying the child’s name and social security number don’t match IRS records and that the IRS disallowed the credit just for the child (with the opportunity to correct the error through a follow up process).  So, no need to correct this error ahead of time.”


“Please pass on to the inmate from SCI that a DOC approved repair place for typewriters is ACE Business machines Inc., 6022 W. National ave. Milwaukee, WI 53214.They need to file an ICE stating that FLCI uses them as an authorized dealer, so there is no way SCI could deny them. If they need proof, I can send them an Interview Request signed by FLCI property Sgt.”

“All of the prisoners 65 or older in Stanley who wanted the COVID-19 vaccination received their second dose this morning. I got mine and according to the nurse who gave me my first shot 3 weeks ago, about 75 guys agreed to take the vaccine and only a handful refused. I assume the other prisons did the same thing.”

“The Islamic prisoner you quoted must not be in a Wisconsin prison. I work in the Stanley chapel and it has free Qur’an’s that are given to anyone who asks for them. There is also a chapel library which contains over 2,000 books and several hundred of them are about Islam. The chapel also has Islamic teaching videos it shows regularly and has Jumah prayer meetings. The law on a prisoner’s right to practice his/her religion is so well-established that it’s surprising when someone claims that they don’t have free religious access. Prisons are required to use the least restrictive means possible when limiting the free exercise of religion.”

“Re: your phone zap on access…..since approximately the week of and since then, the phones continue to not function properly. They will not allow us to make calls. The system states “please stand by” for hours and when on a call hangs up. Not sure if at all institutions or if a response to the zap. Either way, worth looking into. Also, phones not let out during canteen pass even though policy states it is not mass movement; therefore no reason they should not be out.… Phones were originally moved by tier tensors and that made rotating them work on regular and more consistently. Once Covid hit, the staff used the phones as reason for spread and prohibited tier tensors from moving them…Yet if looked at, there were far less fights over phones when moved by tier tensors,…All that is needed, is for the tier tensors to be allowed to move the phones period. Problem solved. It is worth addressing with the warden.”

“Our water here at WCI has tested positive for high levels of radium (226+228) above the maximum contaminants level (MCL), which they say there is no immediate risk, but long term exposure causes cancer and it has been contaminated for years. What do they consider long term use?… One should take note that Fox lake is not far from here and probably has this contamination of their water supply also…Also many staff are refusing to be vaccinated, making the States position a moot point.”


Attention incarcerated fellow workers: We want to hear about current efforts people inside are attempting campaigns (i.e. collective efforts to improve prison conditions in specific ways, things that will benefit not just one person but people across a unit, prison, or the wider DOC). We want to be more strategic and intentional in supporting these efforts, to the extent that we can. Please write to us if you are part of such efforts, or would like to be. To make these messages be easier to find and respond to please send a discrete message with the subject line Campaign Update, and inside information the message state: 

-Current Campaign or Potential Campaign? (is this something that you are already doing, or would like to do?)

-How many people are part of this effort? (just you, are there more people you’re talking with that want this change to happen, if so how many)

-What is the specific goal of this campaign or potential campaign?

-What would need to happen to make this campaign successful?

-What support from outside IWOC would be beneficial to making this campaign or potential successful?


(February 20) The coronavirus has run rampant across Wisconsin’s prisons, infecting at least 2,153 staff members at adult institutions and 10,786 inmates throughout the pandemic — more than half of the incarcerated population. The state has detected infections at a rate more than five times higher than in the general population. At least 25 inmates have died, according to DOC data. John Beard, an agency spokesman, declined to say whether any prison staff had died of the virus. Advocates fear that more have died; the agency hasn’t updated its COVID-19 death toll since Jan. 7, and county medical examiners say determining a cause of death can sometimes take weeks or months. Wisconsin has trimmed its prison population by about 3,400 since early March 2020 — now at its lowest point in more than two decades. Revocations — violations of post-release supervision — are trending down, Beard said, meaning fewer people are serving time for that reason. Still, the state’s 19,858 inmates as of Jan. 29 are filling facilities designed to hold only 17,609. (Source: US News and World Report)

(March 1) In 35 states, people in prison could be among the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine. So far, about 63,000 incarcerated people across the country have been immunized, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press. The Marshall Project surveyed incarcerated people in state and federal prisons in January and February to understand attitudes toward vaccination. The majority of the 136 respondents said they would get vaccinated when they can. Even wary prisoners were open to vaccination, the survey showed. Most respondents said they’d get vaccinated if their questions were answered, if their friends and family said it was safe, or after guards received their immunizations first. Yet prison officials will have to overcome numerous obstacles to vaccinate the nearly 1.2 million people imprisoned in the United States. Many respondents harbor a deep distrust of medical staff. Misinformation abounds, and officials have moved slowly to explain the vaccine’s benefits and risks. Many doubt that a system that has historically shown little regard for their well-being would suddenly offer them a potentially lifesaving vaccine. Public health experts say prison officials could learn from outside community outreach efforts that tap local leaders to encourage vaccinations in communities with low rates. Inside prison, officials could enlist prisoners regarded as leaders, such as lifers or even gang members. But pulling off a peer-led vaccination campaign is logistically difficult in prisons where the pandemic has limited movement. Some states have turned to staff instead. In Rhode Island, for example, two nurses have gone cell to cell to answer questions and get consent from all incarcerated people who are interested in being vaccinated. By mid-February, officials had immunized every interested prisoner, about 900 people. (Source: The Marshall Project)

(February 25) Since last summer’s uprisings against anti-Black racism, the demands to abolish prisons and the police have become increasingly popular rallying cries. But, as often happens when a concept is rapidly amplified, the idea of abolition has been mobilized in unclear and contradictory ways as use has outpaced study. “We Do This ‘Til We Free Us,” the new book by organizer and educator Mariame Kaba, lays out with invaluable clarity the tenets of prison industrial complex [PIC] abolitionism—which imagines a world without policing, imprisonment, or surveillance—bringing Kaba’s insights from over three decades of movement work to bear on today’s struggles. Centering the experiences of criminalized survivors of violence—especially the experiences of Black women, girls, and gender nonconforming people—Kaba reveals that there is no justice to be found in the criminal punishment system. She looks instead to the horizon of PIC abolition—a world not only freed from policing but where, as she writes, “we have everything we need: food, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, clean water, and more things that are foundational to our personal and community safety”—and offers concrete organizing strategies for bringing us closer to that vision. (Source: Jewish Currents)