Freedom’s Cause #23 – August 23, 2020


As of Friday, August 21, the number of active positive cases among incarcerated persons has risen to 223  (from 11 two weeks ago). 1,362 persons are in quarantine (up from 893), and 390 are in isolation (up from 13). Active positive cases have been reported in GBCI (185), DCI (11), NLCI (8), KMCI (6), MSDF (5), RCI (4), Milwaukee Women’s Correction Center (3), and Felmers O Cheney (1).  Among staff members, there are 30 active cases (up from 24). The total number of staff cases has risen from 130 to 170. (Source: DOC official site)


As mass testing continues, the number of positive COVID-19 cases at Green Bay Correctional Institution has more than tripled since Tuesday, bringing the total number of inmates infected up to 185 as of Friday. With the help of the National Guard, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections started testing every prisoner and staff member in Green Bay Correctional on Tuesday, after an outbreak of nearly 60 coronavirus cases was discovered through testing individuals who had symptoms or were exposed to a symptomatic person. As of Friday, results were still pending on roughly 500 coronavirus tests, DOC spokesman John Beard said. Of the completed tests so far, 200 have come back negative. (Source: Kenosha News)


In a message received on 8/22, one of our contacts reported: ‘Well, covid-19 has finally reached Kettle Moraine. It luckily only made it to unit 10, which is the 2 week intake quarantine unit, but those who were having symptoms or tested positive (which one I’m not exactly sure yet) were sent to seg unit 14 to isolate in quarantine. And of course all of us left on unit 10 are on lockdown while they clean extensively for a couple days except to use the bathroom, so I would say they did a good job containing the virus so far. But question is, how did covid get in here if everyone was supposed to be quarantined for two weeks and tested before being transferred in?’ 


We have received a report from inside WCI that an incarcerated person was found dead in his cell on or about August 2. According to the report, the prisoner, who was in his forties, had been going to HSU for over a month with complaints of pain and swelling his legs. The staff gave him ice and told him that the problem with his legs was common in WCI. If you have more information about this incident, please send us a message. 


On July 17, IWOC contacted DAI Administrator Makda Fessahaye with reports of excessive and potentially lethal temperatures inside Wisconsin Prisons. She copied the message to Zachary Osell, who in turn cited a recent (Aug. 6) memo from DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. It states: ’The new policy of the Department of Corrections is to condition all new construction. In addition, any time a building is remodeled or improved in such a way that adding air conditioning or tempering is possible, it should be considered in design.’ Note that the letter commits DOC *only* to air-conditioning new prisons. Current PIOCs may not see relief until the end of summer. 


In late July, members of Milwaukee IWOC phoned the Columbia County DA’s office, urging the prosecution of a corrections officer who had been charged with sexually assaulting a prisoner in CCI. After learning that the charges had been dropped, they made calls again on 8/21 to the warden, Larry Fuchs, inquiring into the status of the guard’s employment. We will keep an eye out for further developments.  


IWOC recently circulated a directory of incarcerated litigators, containing self-provided information about persons willing to discuss legal issues. Thanks again to all who volunteered. Please be advised that IWOC has not screened these individuals. To be on the safe side, you should not put original documents in the mail. When contacting a person, you may ask to see copies of his/her most recent filings.  


Two lawsuits seeking redress for DOC’s illegal seizure of funds (outside of restitution) have been dismissed because the plaintiffs were released from prison. Thus, they did not have legal standing when the cases went before a judge. IWOC is looking for persons who have been victims of this practice, who do not expect to be released soon, and who are willing to appear as plaintiffs in a similar action. Please respond with the words ‘money seizure’ in the subject line. 


We have also received this query: ‘Would you ask of anyone has experience (preferably w/success) fighting conditions of supervision? (Imposed by DCC agent, not the court; the court actually completely reversed the internet ban acknowledging unconstitutionality per Packingham v. North Carolina). I am looking to get rules that are not standard and not individualized to me per Wis Admin Code Chapter DOC 328.04(1). MR is September 8, 2020.’ Please respond with the word ‘supervision’ in the subject line. 


In a wide-ranging article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (8/11), Rory Linnane, wrote: ’Temperatures in at least one Wisconsin prison have reached at least 87 degrees this summer, intensifying health concerns in prisons, already considered among the most dangerous environments during the coronavirus pandemic.’ The article included information from sources obtained through Milwaukee IWOC. In addition to reporting on conditions in both women’s and men’s facilities in Wisconsin, Ms. Linnane took Gov. Tony Evers and the DOC to task for not using available means to reduce the prison population. She reported: ‘At least 131 Wisconsin inmates have applied since March 1 for what’s known as compassionate release based on their old age or extraordinary health conditions, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson John Beard. A corrections committee has rejected 106 of those cases and forwarded 14 to courts for final decisions. Of those, courts have released two people and denied three while nine await hearings. Another 11 are waiting for consideration by the committee.’ (Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) 

IWOC also contributed to a piece by Avand Dilawar in the Progressive (8/18). He wrote: ‘People who are incarcerated across Wisconsin, and their advocates, accuse guards of failing to meet safety protocols and thereby risking spreading the virus to overcrowded, under-resourced prisons, where it will undoubtedly claim lives.’ Nicasio Quiles, who is imprisoned in PDCI, commented in an email to the Progressive: ‘Excuses ranged from false concerns that “wearing masks will scare the prison population” to “If prisoners don’t wear one, why should I?” Even though everyone knows that the only way COVID-19 enters a prison is because of staff.’ (Source: The Progressive)

(August 18) A decision from Dane County officials last Friday to turn down state funding to establish a residential correctional facility will pump the brakes on a proposal to expand the juvenile detention center in downtown Madison. Under the proposal, Dane County would have housed a state locked correctional facility at the site, located in the City County Building, which would have allowed youth with longer sentences to stay in the county. The plan also played a key role in a statewide directive to close two youth prisons and more broadly overhaul juvenile corrections. But because of concerns over costs the county would incur and broader worries over the state’s commitment to improving juvenile corrections, Dane County decided to put off the local expansion push for now. (Source: Cap Times)

(August 21) A new study finds that treating county jail inmates with respect and decency can go a long way in improving some aspects of America’s criminal justice system. Matt Richie at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh (UWO) studies jail recidivism and operations as well as pre-trial/post-conviction treatment diversion programming. His study is the result of years of researching how correctional officers manage the jail population. The findings reveal that a great deal of the work involves interpersonal communication skills rather than physical force. So, in a sense, treating people like people makes life easier for both ends of the power dynamic. The study, ‘Managing the Rabble with Dignity and Respect,’ was recently published in the Journal of Crime and Justice, a publication of the Midwestern Criminal Justice Association. (Source: Psych Central)