Freedom’s Cause #40 – May 9, 2021


As of Friday, May 7, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at 11 (down from 18 two weeks ago). 1,126  persons are in quarantine (up from 994) and 17 are in isolation (down from 26). The number of reported deaths has risen to 31. Active positive cases are reported in CCI (1), DCI (2), Drug Abuse CC (1), GBCI (1), JCI (1), RCI/Sturtevant (1), TCI (3), and Thompson (1). The total count of positive tests for incarcerated persons has reached 10,963. Among staff members, there are 14 active cases (down from 17). The total number of staff cases has risen to 2,549. (Source: DOC official site)


(May 5) Nearly half of the Wisconsin state prison population has gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections reported Tuesday. A total of 9,536 of the state’s roughly 19,400 prisoners have been either fully or partially vaccinated, according to DOC’s COVID-19 data dashboard, which is updated every Tuesday. About 3,100 of those incarcerated individuals were vaccinated within the last week. As of last week Tuesday, only 6,437 inmates had gotten a dose. Wisconsin prisoners have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine since March 1, but vaccinations were slow going throughout the month of March. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)


(May 6) Alarming staffing shortages at Waupun Correctional Institution have state officials looking to pull workers from other prisons across Wisconsin. 41.89% of the officer and sergeant jobs at Waupun Correctional are currently open. That compares to 16.24% of those jobs at adult prisons statewide. Starting June, 12 adult prisons with staff vacancies below 20% will take turns sending four of their staff members to Waupun every other two-week pay period. Volunteers will be sought first, but if there aren’t enough, the least senior uniform staff would be sent. “Pulling them away from their families, that is just another incentive to quit DOC and join the workforce elsewhere in Wisconsin,” said a corrections officer, who prefers to be anonymous. (Source: WLUK-TV, Green Bay)


(May 6) Wisconsin leaders are on track to blow past the July 1 statutory deadline they set for themselves to shutter the state’s two youth prisons. And less than two months out from that end date, there’s seemingly no bipartisan plan to push back the time frame. At this point, pulling off the closure of northern Wisconsin’s Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake would be contingent on building or expanding a series of county- and state-run facilities within the next 56 days — a task officials agree is unworkable. “It’s certainly not going to close in two months,” the co-chair of the Legislature’s powerful budget committee, Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, told reporters Thursday. The push to close the state’s troubled youth prisons has been marred by previously blown deadlines, ballooning budgets, legislative leaders’ refusal to provide necessary funding for alternative sites, county officials’ decision to pull out of the replacement process and more. All of that means after July 1, Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake will all but certainly remain open — a reality that directly defies what’s written in state statute. (Source: Cap Times)


(May 7) The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed a lawsuit Friday demanding state corrections officials relax COVID-19 protocols and allow ministers to visit inmates.The archdiocese alleges in the filing that the Department of Corrections adopted a policy in March 2020 banning volunteer visits. The policy has prevented clergy from the archdiocese from meeting in-person with inmates to provide spiritual guidance, communion and penance, violating a state law that grants clergy of all faiths weekly visits with prisoners and inmates’ constitutional right to freedom of religion. Attorneys and DOC employees such as psychologists and social workers have been allowed to see inmates since March 2020 if the visitors follow health and safety protocols such as temperature checks, COVID-19 tests and masks, according to the lawsuit. But those protocols don’t apply to clergy, the archdiocese contends. The lawsuit demands that a judge order the DOC to allow clergy to visit prisoners immediately. (Source: AP)


Wisconsin voters often split evenly on big elections and key issues. But voters on the right and the left agree on the dire shortcomings of the state’s corrections system and the need for reform. A few areas are especially ripe for it. In Wisconsin, an expungement — basically the sealing of a record — is available for low-level, non-violent felonies and misdemeanors for offenders under the age of 25. A strange aspect of Wisconsin’s expungement law is that judges must determine an individual’s eligibility at the time of sentencing when little to no information is available about his or her likely rehabilitation. This illogical timing may contribute to the state’s troubling disparities by race, county and age. Nearly three-quarters of Wisconsin voters — including 77% of Republicans, 69% of Independents and 70% of Democrats — support reforming the state’s expungement law to grant eligibility after the completion of a sentence when a judge can make a better-informed decision. Wisconsin lawmakers also should consider reducing the terms of probation and extended supervision to decrease the likelihood of an individual having his or her community supervision revoked and ending up behind bars. This reform was supported by a majority of voters, too. Another area ripe for reform involves the pervasive substance abuse issues that many in our state prison system face. An overwhelming majority (81%) of people who were revoked had a substance abuse problem that contributed to their revocation. Treatment and diversion courts statewide address this issue and, according to the Wisconsin State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the state criminal justice system saves $4.17 for every dollar spent on a treatment court and $8.68 for every dollar spent on diversion. Such programs also reduce recidivism while holding participants accountable for high standards and expectations while in the program. These programs are popular with voters. According to our survey data, nearly 80% of voters support sending fewer low-risk, non-violent offenders to Wisconsin prisons so more money can be used to fund treatment and diversion programs. Further research should determine if programs like these can further reduce recidivism, save money and solve underlying treatment needs. It’s clear Wisconsin has an appetite to reform our state’s criminal justice system. Expungement, supervision and treatment reforms offer a good starting point. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)


We are encouraging folks to send any creative work that they would like to be featured on social media and in a zine. We are asking folks to create art, poetry, or short stories that focus on imagining a world without prison and incarceration, and what true justice would look like in that world. Feel free to submit writing to the CorriLinks email address or mail to PO Box 342294 Milwaukee, WI 53234. 


From an incarcerated contact: “An FYI for you…Dr. Ribault, a big problem physician here and at Boscobel, has been walked out on administrative leave, allegedly pending investigation.  I would strongly recommend dropping a mention of this in a newsletter, as I have 24 separate inmates with claims against this guy that I am aware of.”


(April 29)  Two more New Jersey corrections officers have been charged in connection with the beatings of inmates at the state’s only women’s prison, while the public awaits the results of an investigation into the matter and a settlement with federal officials over sexual assaults and the general climate at the facility. The total number of those the state attorney general’s office says were either involved in or helped cover up the overnight assaults stands at 10 after the new charges on Tuesday. The assaults in January seriously injured two inmates at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women. One woman was punched 28 times and officers used pepper spray and other types of excessive use of force in violation of official policy, according to state investigators. (Source: NJ Spotlight News)
(April 30) “For the past couple years I’ve been doing something extra special for my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s not flowers, it’s not candy, it’s not even a card. I’ve been helping bail someone else’s mother out of jail. And I’ll be doing the same this year. For the fourth year in a row I’m donating $50 in honor of my mom to National Bail Out, an organization working to end the corrupt and broken system of bail money. Every year they do a campaign around Mother’s Day called #FreeBlackMamas where they focus on bailing out as many black mothers and caregivers as they can. Not only does it make my mom happier than flowers, candy, and cards combined, it’s helping free people that shouldn’t be in jail in the first place.” (Source: Broke Ass Stuart Blog)