Freedom’s Cause #41 – May 23, 2021


As of Friday, May 21, the count of active positive cases among incarcerated persons stands at  11 (the same as two weeks ago). 952 persons are in quarantine (down from 1,126) and 17 are in isolation (no change). The number of reported deaths has risen to 32. Active positive cases are reported in Chippewa Valley (1), John C. Burke (1), NLCI (3), RCI/Sturtevant (5), TCI (1). The total count of positive tests for incarcerated persons has reached 10,976. Among staff members, there are 16 active cases (up from 14). The total number of staff cases has risen to 2,566. (Source: DOC official site)


(May 23) Nineteen members of Milwaukee IWOC met online to exchange ideas about goals, strategy, and tactics for the next three years. Participants noted that IWOC’s network of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons has continued to expand and that the groups has improved its organizational structure, media outreach, and response to messages from inside. Future priorities may include more focused and flexible actions, recruitment and retention, and expanding IWOC’s social media presence. A timeline of short-term objectives will be worked out at upcoming meetings. 


(May 18) The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Odyssey Beyond Bars Program received a $300,000 grant from the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation. Since 2015, the program has taught for-credit and noncredit UW Madison courses in Wisconsin prisons. The first for-credit course, English 100, was taught by Odyssey’s Co-Director Kevin Mullen. Last spring, the program expanded to teach an African American studies course on multi-cultural literature. With the funds from the grant, Mullen said the program will now teach three different courses across three Wisconsin prisons in the coming years, with academic advising and tutoring offered to students during the week. Mullen said several of his students recently were released from OCI and are now full-time students at various technical colleges in Wisconsin. (Source: Channel 3000)


(May 21) The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to make phone calls more affordable for people in prisons or jails by approving a plan to reduce out-of-state call rates by at least one-third. The FCC capped at 12 cents per minute the rate for prison calls and 14 cents per minute the rates in larger jails. Interstate rate caps were previously set at 21 cents per minute for debit and prepaid calls from prisons and jails with more than 1,000 inmates, according to an FCC proposal. (Source ABA Journal)


(Apri 26) A new therapy technique at Wisconsin’s Lincoln Hills youth prison holds the promise of making the facility safer for both staff and youth. But implementing it requires buy-in from an overworked, sometimes cynical prison staff — and advocates for youth justice reform say it’s not a substitute for the state’s promise to close the facility for good. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, emphasizes communication and relationship-building between prison staff and youth inmates. State leaders say it means a culture change at the facility, and since late 2020, staff at all levels of the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth facilities have undergone training and begun to incorporate the techniques into their work with youth. (Source: Wisconsin State Journal)


(May 18) Sheriff Earnell Lucas said Monday the long-troubled Milwaukee County Jail has made a transformation in the health care it provides to inmates. The jail received the three-year accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, but still has more work to do, he said. Before he took over in 2019, Lucas said, there was a “recent history … of some very unfortunate incidents” in the jail. Among the most high-profile was the death of Terrill Thomas, 38, in 2016. Thomas died after jail guards deprived him of water for days.There have been at least four in-custody Milwaukee County deaths since the beginning of 2020. Three have been ruled suicides. In the fourth case, a 26-year-old man who died last month, there were no apparent signs of self-harm, the sheriff’s office said. (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


“I am an inmate at OSCI. I have a fiancee that is in TCI and am informed they are in red zone again because of a positive outbreak of covid. This is because of a lack of covid vaccines given out. She told me nobody is being vaccinated at the facility yet. Here at Oshkosh they are still attempting to vaccinate the general public in the prison. Do you know why the importance of being vaccinated in the prisons is taking so long? ….When we had a break out here, I had 300 plus overtime hours that I turned in. Never got paid a cent but my cellie did get a partial payment for his equivalent hours. I guarantee that any guard working overtime will get his pay time and a half on top of it. I was ready to settle for a small amount of $15 bucks. Now I got nothing. Although I and my cellie never tested positive during the outbreak here.”


(May 21) The U.S. Department of Justice in an amended complaint says the Alabama Department of Corrections and its leadership continue to fail to protect incarcerated men from physical and sexual violence and death, despite years of warnings from the federal government. The DOJ on Wednesday filed an amended complaint, in a December 2020 lawsuit against the state of Alabama and ADOC, which alleged violations of inmates’ constitutional rights to protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence, sexual abuse and excessive force by prison guards. The DOJ in the amended complaint — signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland — describes the pattern of violence in Alabama’s prisons for men as “pervasive and systemic” and explains the state has failed to address the deep-seated problems since being notified in 2019. (Source: Alabama Political Reporter)

(May 21) In response to a wave of protests against police killings of Black people in 2014, the newly elected New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced an array of policing reforms focused on increasing community trust. The reforms were a boon for the NYPD rank and file: the introduction of body cameras led to a 1% salary hike negotiated with the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the city’s largest police union, in 2016. And a 2017 contract between NYC and the union added another 2.25% pay increase for all NYPD police officers, called a “neighborhood policing differential”, whether or not they participated in the program. Overall, it meant a near 12% raise over five years. After last year’s protests following the death of George Floyd, there has been increasing scrutiny across the country about widely promoted policing reforms that come with salary hikes for officers, largely thanks to police unions suggesting that reforms are onerous and that criticism has made their jobs dangerous. (Source: The Guardian)

(May 12) Inmates from all nine of Iowa’s prisons have donated more than $11,000 to fundraisers supporting the families of two Anamosa State Penitentiary staff members killed while on duty in March, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections . In March, two prisoners were charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and second-degree kidnapping after nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland were killed during a failed escape attempt. Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman Cord Overton said the department’s business managers added up donations from inmates made to memorial accounts established for the victims. (Source: Des Moines Register)(May 12) An inmate who spent 22 years in solitary confinement in an Illinois prison after being arrested for stealing a hat and a dollar bill is campaigning for legislation to end a practice that he says drove him to self-mutilation and a suicide attempt. Anthony Gay said he was “tortured for decades” by his isolation for up to 24 hours a day in a cold, tiny cell he likened to a dungeon, and was denied access to necessary mental health care. His efforts since his 2018 release to outlaw the procedure as a punitive measure is reflected in a bill that bears his name now making its way through the Illinois legislature. The Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act would limit such extreme confinement for any individual to no more than 10 consecutive days in any 180-day period, and compel the Illinois department of corrections to produce quarterly reports showing the use of the practice. Additionally it would guarantee a prisoner’s access to exercise, recreation and therapy while not in their cells. The bill passed the Illinois house of representatives last month and is currently before state senators. (Source: The Guardian)