Wisconsin Prison Watch – March 2009 Newsletter


Prisons are in the news! There’s a lot of press and a lot of discussion, and not just the usual nonsense stories like the State Journal ran about “Anything Can Be A Weapon, In Prison”, and “State Plans Hospice Beds in Every Prison”. We emailed the author of those two pieces… see page 4.

The truth about the decaying, overcrowded, ineffective and, costly prison system are big news. Most of you have been reading the papers and watching on TV, so we won’t repeat what everyone already heard. But for a quick synopsis…

In early January, Mead & Hunt came with a study that recommended the DOC spend 1.2 billion to build and upgrade the system.

Then, news of yet another study by the Justice Reinvestment Strategies that will, when it’s finished, tell us what we already know. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN!!!

Then, Governor Doyle announced his budget including some provisions for releasing non-violent offenders.

Then, the PEW Institute came with a study indicating that one in every thirty-one citizens of Wisconsin is under the heel of the State.

So now, due to monetary constraints, the Governor sounds like a progressive on prison policy. Rick Raemisch sounds like a born-again reformer and even the prison guards’ union has endorsed the early release scheme. It’s scary to be on the same side of an issue with those criminals.

Your editor joined a delegation of PAW members on a lobbying day in Madison. We met with Senators, Representatives and members of Governor Doyle’s staff. Our primary focus was objecting to the reappointment of Alfonso Graham and we used the Governor’s budget proposal and the new studies to assert our view that keeping men locked up, doing dead time, is a stupid waste of money and lives. We didn’t say it like that, but they got the message.

We made sure the Governor’s staff understood that we are opposed to the idea of Al Graham as head of the new proposed commission that will review all prisoners for early release. We see a golden opportunity to say good bye to the Fonz when a new commission is organized, melding the Parole Commission and an Early Release program for TIS prisoners.

One important facet of this coming struggle, and one that every politico mentioned is that they need political cover, meaning that they need people to be loud and vocal in their support of the Governor’s proposals. They will be getting

flack from the right-wing, including politicians, the press, the cops, and DAs. Those of us who agree with the Governor’s proposal must be loud and clear in support.

PAW will be attending some of the Joint Finance Committee hearings being held around the state, with signs, press interviews, press conferences, and testimony to the Committee members. We urge all concerned citizens to write to your representative and to the Joint Finance Committee to let them know you support Governor Doyle’s proposal to release non-violent offenders. Contact info on page 5.

The reasons for the proposed changes are budgetary shortfalls. Fear mongering politicians and “successful” DAs have driven the budget over a cliff. They’ve built their careers on the backs of the poor and minorities and this ugly truth must be exposed at every opportunity.

Since this “change of heart” is not based on moral or ethical grounds it is not likely that we are witnessing a turn towards a more progressive criminal (in)justice policy or a more rehabilitative prison policy. What we are likely to see is further “cost cutting” which could mean anything to the DOC. One thing for sure, we won’t see a reduction in the overuse of segregation cells, or an improvement in the conditions of confinement, or a functioning ICRS, or improved health care, or job training, or education, or rehab.

So, we support the proposed changes but we must not become complacent and eager to join the reformers. We must remain vigilant and aggressive in our pursuit of HUMANITY for prisoners and ultimately abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex.

At NLCI a prisoner was yelled at because he had forgotten to take his hat off inside the main building. He turned to the guard and said, “I’m human, I forgot”. The guard responded, “you’re not human, you’re an inmate”. Debasement is the first necessary step towards abuse and worse. If you’re not human, they can do anything to you.

The guards are revving up the John Doe “reform” again. Both the Senate and Assembly had hearings on this Bill. I wonder why we even care about this because the DA’s will never prosecute “one of their own”. Look, Ken Harris has been trying to get his case investigated for 3 years now. He has a nurse witness (who the DOC retaliated against). He just won $75,000 in civil court on the same abuse but can’t even get a DA to listen to his story. DA Steve Bauer (now Judge Bauer) refused to investigate. Sauk Co. DA Barrett refused to investigate. When you’re an inmate, you’re not human and when you’re abused, you probably deserved it. That’s why WPW is out here!

in solidarity, WPW

page 1,

Lawsuit Calls Prison Meds Program ‘disaster Waiting’
Wisconsin State Journal
Saturday, January 24, 2009

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion in federal court Friday asking that Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison reform the way it administers medication, calling the current system a “disaster waiting to happen.”

The ACLU and the law firm Jenner & Block claim prisoners at Taycheedah Correctional Institution near Fond du Lac are forced to wait weeks for medicine, and when their medications arrive, they are often the wrong types or doses. The prison houses 700 maximum and medium security prisoners.

“The medication system at Taycheedah is a disaster waiting to happen,” Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, said in a statement. “For some medications, there is not even a system of checking for dangerous interactions between drugs before a prisoner starts taking a new prescription.”

John Dipko, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, issued a statement saying progress has been made in improving health care for Taycheedah inmates, “and this commitment to improved health care will continue into the future.”

No hearing has been scheduled yet on the motion for preliminary injunction, but Eber said in an interview that if the judge rules in the favor of the ACLU, the prison would have to institute the changes within 60 days.

The motion was filed in U.S. District Court as part of a 2006 class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Taycheedah prisoners. The lawsuit claims the prison’s medical, mental and dental care is grossly deficient and has caused its female prisoners great physical and mental suffering.

The motion asks state officials to ensure that medical prescriptions are filled quickly and accurately and administered by nurses.

Currently, correctional officers with no medical training administer medications, according to the motion. Taycheedah is one of the few state prisons in the nation that does not require nurses or trained medical personnel to administer medications.


Leaving a Paper Trail
by Debi Christie, TCI

Everyone knows that the Department of Corrections hires the corrupt and the lazy but the staff hired for the female prisons are unbelievably corrupt. I am one of those people who believe in leaving a paper trail through the Inmate Complaint System and have even had some of those complaints “affirmed”.

My most recent complaints deal with getting my property sent from the John Burke Center. Many personal items and legal paperwork were not returned to me after my move back to TCI. Just because a DOC flunky doesn’t want me to have these items, I supposed to accept this warped thinking.

After filing many complaints with the ICRS I was FINALLY granted the right to have my legal paperwork but now TCI property officers have deemed these items “contraband” because they didn’t like the ICRS decision. They even forged a money disbursement to send these items out of the institution!

This is typical of TCI staff, so now I’ve filed a Notice of Claim with the Attorney General against these corrupt state employees. I will also ask for a John Doe investigation into the theft of my property.

I want everyone who is subjected to this sort of corruption and incom-petence to remember that an administrative decision is NOT FINAL. Take your grievance to court and make their corruption known to the public.

Some times it just feels good to know we have done all we can to hold these people accountable. That is why it is so important to exhaust our administrative remedies and follow up through the court system.


Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity. But silence is impossible. Silence screams. Silence is a message, just as doing nothing is an act. Let who you are ring out & resonate in every word & every deed. Yes, become who you are. There’s no sidestepping your own being or your own responsibility. What you do is who you are. You are your own comeuppance. You become your own message. You are the message. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse : Leonard Peltier


Letter to Judiciary Committee re John Doe Reform
March 9, 2009

Members of the Judiciary Committee,

I write in opposition to the proposed John Doe reforms.

There have been a lot of hysterical cries from the prison guards’ union who claim John Doe filings are used to persecute guards.

The truth of the matter is, there are some abusive guards in the DOC system and the internal mechanisms are unable to control them. 95% of all complaints filed by prisoners against guards are dismissed by the Inmate Complaint Examiners, and many prisoners do not complain for fear of retaliation.

The system is either not willing or unable to clean its own house. John Doe complaints allow prisoners to get beyond the nepotism and cronyism of the internal complaint system and find some semblance of justice.

District Attorneys are not keen on prosecuting guards accused of abusing prisoners either. They are “team players” and see themselves as part of the team along with police and prison guards upholding the law. They are not unbiased in their prosecutorial discretion. To allow them to filter reports of abuse will only increase the frustration and resignation building in the prisons.

The real and lasting way to stop (or slow) John Doe filings is to reform the Inmate Complaint Review System. Thwarting prisoners’ access to the courts is a regressive way of dealing with the symptom of a disease while allowing the cause to continue growing.

Respectfully submitted,

Frank Van den Bosch
Wisconsin Prison Watch
P.O. Box 292
Boscobel, WI 53805


“When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to suscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe; he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.”~Thomas Paine “The Age of Reason”


page 2,

Court of Appeals Rules Against Pigs That Don’t Fly Straight

by: Mustafa-El K.A. Ajala

Madison, WI – On December 30, 2008, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued its ruling in the case of State v. Raynard R. Jackson, 2008 Wisc. App Lexis 1042. The Court ruled that Jackson, as others before him, should have been allowed to present, at his trial, evidence of corruption and abuse by the arresting officers in his case, one of which was convicted for his criminal acts in Federal Court – although, only misdemeanors.

Ala W Awadallah, convicted in U.S. v Awadallah, 05-M-408 (E.D. Wis.), was one of a ring of corrupt District 3 and District 5 Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) pigs that didn’t fly straight. They specifically targeted young brothas and sistahs of Alkebulan (Afrikan) descent. Their criminal acts included planting drugs and guns on “suspects”, robbing them of their possessions, extorting them for weapons, and engaging in serious physical assaults. In Jackson’s case, the drop gun planted on him was a .40 Glock that had no prints of Jackson on it, was not reported stolen, was identical to the police issued guns, and was placed in inventory by Awadallah – no surprise.

Other pigs associated with the corruption, though not charged criminally were, Paul Lough, Thomas Dineen, Virgil Cotton, Jason Mucha, and Kathleen Huber, as well as officers by the name of Harris, Dodd, and Westergard. If any of them were involved in your case you may want to review Jackson’s decision, along with State v Missiouri, 714 MW. 2d 595 (Wis.App.2006) – the corruption case that preceded Jackson’s and led to a favorable ruling.

Jackson’s appellate counsel was James R. Lucius during the time when the MPDs pattern of corruption became public, although Lucius failed to cite Missouri or bring any of this up on appeal. Lucius’s license has since been suspended in Disclipinary Proceedings against James R. Lucius, 2008 WI 12.

No MPD pig was ever charged with any serious felony, such as extortion, possession of drugs, illegal weapons possession, robbery, intimidating witnesses, etc., etc. However, the untold story here is that of Earl Cosey and Michelle Mac Donald, a Milwaukee couple who had the sense and nerve to record Awadallah’s attempt to shake them down for a “chopper” or 2 pistols in exchange for the return of $200 and an eightball of cocaine. If obtained, that “chopper” and/or the pistols would, no doubt, have been planted on other unsuspecting targets and, to be sure, there are lousy creeps in the system right now who have done and continue to do the same thing – working deals with corrupt pigs and other members of the judicial mob (State’s attorneys or their own attorney) in exchange for lenient plea deals.

There’s a moral to this story… A pig, as opposed to a police officer has no morals. When you step comrades, be prepared to battle them, legitimately, ie. with your own surveillance apparatus – home camcorders and security cameras (indoors and out), built in cameras on the ride (and in the trunk), hidden mics, cell phone cameras and recorders. You’re bound to encounter one of these pigs, on the take, or worse. Exercise your 5 Ps (Proper Protection in Preparation for Pigs on the Prowl) and you just might preserve your freedom, possibly your life, the life and or freedom of others, and likely get paid in the process, Insha’ Allah.

In the trenches,
your Bro. Mu-El

Mustafa-El K.A. Ajala
(FKA Dennis E. Jones-El)
P.O. Box 9900 – WSPF
Boscobel, WI 53805


Doyle’s Budget Proposal
Budget in Brief 2009


Ensure wise allocation of taxpayer resources and the highest levels of public safety through better use of data, new measures to reduce recidivism and streamlined sentence review processes:

* Transfer to the Division of Hearing and Appeals the authority to determine the length of reconfinement for revocation from extended supervision, not to exceed the time remaining on the bifurcated sentence.

* Allow the secretary of the Department of Corrections to release to extended supervision persons serving the confinement portion of a bifurcated sentence who are within 12 months of release to extended supervision and meet certain eligibility criteria.

* Transfer from the sentencing court to the secretary of the Department of Corrections the authority to review petitions and release terminally ill inmates to extended supervision so long as the public safety is maintained.

* Rename the Parole Commission as the Earned Release Review Commission and expand its duties to include sentence adjustment for Class C to I felonies for both the confinement and extended supervision portions of a sentence.

* Expand the Earned Release Program and the Challenge Incarceration Program to include inmates with programming needs other than substance abuse, to allow the inmates deemed eligible at sentencing to earn early release by fulfilling certain requirements while in prison.

* Eliminate community supervision of certain low-risk misdemeanor probationers, as determined by the offense and a risk assessment performed by the Department of Corrections.

* Provide $6.5 million and 18.00 FTE positions to improve offender reentry into the community by providing tools for offender risk assessment, to better manage purchase of services dollars, research and measure programs, and maintain dual-diagnosis rehabilitation programming.

* Expand eligibility for record expungement to include individuals up to 25 years of age, and to include nonviolent Class H to I felonies, allowing more young people to learn from their mistakes and start a new life with a clean slate.

page 3,

Greek Prisoner Hunger Strike Ends
By James Jameson

Political prisoner or not, inmates are widely known to be some of the most horribly treated and forgotten people, abused as though they are not human. In a nationwide act of solidarity, more than 7,000 prisoners throughout Greece went on hunger strike on November 3, to finally fight back for their own rights. A dedicated 19 prisoners went so far as to sew their own mouths shut. The move to boycott food ended after 18 days when the inmates won their protest as the Ministry of Justice conceded to a series of requests. This is a notable for prisoners all over the world. There is hope that more inmates will take cue and demand humane treatment for themselves, and it’s important that those of us in radical, active movements who aren’t in prison do what we can to assist in this cause.

The hunger strike was enacted to highlight a 45-point list of demands. Involving 21 prisons across Greece, inmates protested unreasonable living conditions, such as poor access to basic hygiene and sanitation, a reduction of exacerbated sentences, improper medical care and severe overcrowding. Greece has the most over-crowded prisons in Europe, with nearly 11,000 inmates sardined into jails designed to hold slightly more than 7,000 people. Many of these prisoners are drug addicts and offenders with no opportunity for rehabilitation services. Detainees wait an average of 12 months in pre-trial detention before they are able to have their cases heard.

During the hunger strike, many solidarity actions were carried out by anarchists, humanitarians and other sympathizers. Greek embassies in many countries were targeted, as several mass protest marches added to the solidarity movement.

In response to the prisoners’ demands, the Ministry agreed to the following:

1) All persons convicted to a sentence of up to five years for any offense, including drug related crimes, can transform their sentence into a monetary penalty. This will not be allowed in the case that the jury decides that the payment is not enough to deter the convict from committing punishable acts in the future.

2) The minimum sum for transforming one day of prison sentence to monetary penalty is reduced from around $13 to around $4, with the provision of being reduced to around $1.50 by decision of the jury.

3) All people who have served one-fifth of their prison sentence for two-year sentences and one-third for sentences longer than two years are to be released, with no exceptions.

4) The minimum limit of served sentence is reduced to three-fifths for conditional release and for convicts of drug related crimes. Those condemned under conditions of certain laws are exempted.

5) The maximum limit of pre-trial imprisonment is reduced from 18 to 12 months, with the exception of crimes punished by life or 20-year sentences.

6) The annual tome of days-off prison is increased by one day.

7) Disciplinary penalties are to be integrated.

8) Integration after four years into national law of European council decision of drug trafficking.

9) Expansion of implementation of conditional release of convicts suffering from AIDS, kidney failure, persistent Tuberculosis and tetraplegics.

“The amendment submitted to the Parliament by the Ministry of Justice tackles but a few of our demands,” said the Prisoner’s Committee in a press release. “The minister ought to materialize his promises for the immediate release of the suggested number of prisoners announced, and, at the same time, implement concrete measures regarding the totality of the demands. We, the prisoners, treat this amendment as the first step, a result of our struggle and of the solidarity shown by society. Yet, it fails to cover us, it fails to solve our problems. With our struggle, we have first-of-all fought for our dignity—and this dignity we can not offer as a present to no minister, to no screw. We shall tolerate no arbitrary facts, no vengeful relocation, no terrorizing disciplinary act. We are standing, and we shall remain standing.

“We demand from the parliament to move towards a complete abolition of the limit of four-fifths of served sentence, the abolition for accumulated time for disciplinary penalties, the expansion of beneficial arrangements regarding days-off, and conditional releases for all categories of prisoners,” continued the Prisoner’s Committee.

“Moreover, we demand the immediate legislation on the presently vague promises of the minister of justice regarding the improvement of prison conditions (abolition of juvenile prisons, foundation of therapeutic centers for drug dependants, implementation of social labor in exchange for prison sentences, upgrading of hospital care of prisoners, incorporation of European legislation favorable to the prisoners in Greek law, etc.).
“Finally, we offer our thanks to the solidarity movement, to every component, party, medium and militant who stood by us with all and any means of his or her choice, and we want to declare that our struggle against these human refuse dumps and for the victory of all of our demands continues.”

As these prisoners have demonstrated, when people pull together, the authorities must listen. All we can do now is wait for proof that the ministry will keep it’s end of the bargain. One has to wonder about all of the things that could be accomplished if enough of us made ourselves heard as loud and clear as these prisoners have done.



In November of ‘08, myself and Shaun Matz were appointed counsel by Judge Crocker in our lawsuit against WCI. (Schumacher v Frank et al. 08-CV-228 and Matz v. Frank et al. 08-CV-491). Both cases deal with the conditions of confinement in segregation & we are looking for anyone who has been in segregation here to write up affidavits. We want to know what your experience was like; what you went through. We want to know how you were treated, cell extractions you went through, observation placements, suicide/self harm attempts, how clinical services treated you, recreation, temperature in the cells, lights, property, etc.

Were also looking for affidavits from anyone on AC at GBCI, CCI, WSPF showing how these segregation units are run.

You can send the affidavits to myself or Shaun through legal route. Matthew Schumacher #369487 or Shaun Matz #264654 at WCI. We will get this info to our attorneys. We are on the brink of getting this place changed and would appreciate your support.



The masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim”. Gustave Le Bon;”The Crowd”

page 4,

Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing (Senate)
Senator Lena Taylor (Chair) D
Room 415 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-5810
District Telephone
(414) 342-7176

Jim Sullivan (Vice Chair) D
Room 15 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
(608) 266-2512 Or (866) 817-6061

Jon Erpenbach D
Room 8 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-6670 Or (888) 549-0027

Glenn Grothman R
Room 20 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-7513 Or (800) 662-1227

Randy Hopper R
Room 108 South
State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-5300

Committee on Corrections and the Courts (Assembly)
Representative Joe Parisi (Chair) D
Room 126 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5342

Chuck Benedict (Vice Chair) D
Room 306 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-9967

Donna Siedel D
Room 218 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-0654 Or
(888) 534-0085

Frederick Kessler D
Room 302 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5813

Sondy Pope-Roberts D
Room 209 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-3520 Or (888) 534-0079

Ted Zigmunt D
Room 420 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-9870

Sandy Pasch D
Room 122 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-7671 Or (888) 534-0022

Karl Van Roy R
Room 123 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-0616 Or (888) 534-0090

Mark Gundrum
Room 119 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 267-5158 Or (888) 534-0084

Steve Kestell R
Room 15 West
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-8530 Or (888) 529-0027

Daniel LaMahieu R
Room 17 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-9175 Or (888) 534-0059

Edwards Brooks
Room 20 North
State Capitol
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-8531 Or (877) 947-0050

Joint Committee on Finance (budget)
Senate Members
Senator Mark Miller, Co-Chair D
Senator Dave Hansen D
Senator Lena Taylor D
Senator John Lehman D
Senator Judy Robson D
Senator Julie Lassa D
Senator Alberta Darling R
Senator Luther Olsen R

Assembly Members
Representative Mark Pocan, Co-Chair D
Representative Pedro Colón D
Representative Cory Mason D
Representative Jennifer Shilling D
Representative Gary Sherman D
Representative Tamara Grigsby D
Representative Robin Vos R
Representative Phil Montgomery R

Committee Clerk:
Charlene Vrieze
Room 305 East, State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
(608) 264-8314

Office of the Governor, Jim Doyle
Madison Office
P.O. Box 7863
Madison, WI 53707

Northern Office
400 4th Avenue South
Park Falls, WI 54552

Milwaukee Office
Room 560
819 North 6th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53203

As you will notice, the Democrats outweigh the Republicans in every committee and are the Chair of every committee. You can write to the Republicans if you feel like getting something off your chest, but don’t expect a response or to change their minds.

When writing any of these officials, try to be respectful and polite… even if you’re mad as Hell.





“My generation’s apathy. I’m disgusted with it. I’m disgusted with my own apathy too, for being spineless and not always standing up against racism, sexism and all those other -isms the counterculture has been whinning about for years.” : Kurt Cobain

page 5,



We are here in support Governor Doyle’s budget provision calling for an Early Earned Release program for non-violent offenders sentenced under Truth in Sentencing. This provision is smart on crime, not “tough on crime”. Tough on crime has clogged our judicial system and overfilled our prisons. Governor Doyle’s provision addresses one of those problems in a safe, sane and just manner. We are at a turning point – either we follow the proposals outlined in the Hunt & Mead survey and spend 1.2 billion on upgrading and building new prisons as the study suggests or we reduce the pressure on the facilities and staff by releasing nonviolent offenders.

Following are some of the reasons we support the Governor’s proposal:

1. Prisons are overcrowded. They are at 120% occupancy. The facilities and rehabilitative programs are inadequate to handle this amount of prisoners. This overcrowding creates unsafe conditions for both guards and prisoners.

2. The cost of housing 22,000+ prisoners in Wisconsin is nearly $30,000 per year per prisoner. Taxpayers cannot afford to sustain these costs any longer. This money could be more effectively spent in the communities for rehabilitation and job training.

3. The majority of prisoners are incarcerated for crimes committed because of drug and/or alcohol problems. The “Treatment Instead of Prisons” legislation which has been passed will save millions of dollars. It is, in fact, what is being done in Minnesota and they have less than half the number of prisoners as Wisconsin. Minnesota has the same demographics as Wisconsin in crime rates and population.

4. The human costs must also be taken into consideration. The families of the inmates are suffering. Children need fathers and mothers for stability. Keeping offenders in their community will help stabilize the families and prevent another generation of prison expansion.

5. Under the Earned Early Release program there will be extended supervision which is a good corrections policy to help ex-offenders become productive members of society through rehabilitation and treatment programs. It will encourage better behavior and make the streets safer.



P.O. Box 05669
Milwaukee, WI 53205

Meetings: second and fourth Saturday of every month
Time: 10 am to noon
Place: All God’s Children Church
3356 N. Martin Luther King
Milwaukee WI.
Pastor Lee Shack

page 6,

Economic crisis propels prison system changes
Shelley Nelson Superior Telegram
Published Tuesday, March 03, 2009

With the cost of housing just one of the state’s 23,000 prison inmates at $29,000 per year, Wisconsin is looking for ways to get smart on crime.

Department of Corrections Secretary Rick Raemisch was in Superior on Monday to meet with local law enforcement to highlight some of the changes proposed as the state faces a $5.7 billion budget shortfall. Among the changes is a new evaluation system that could keep low-risk, nonviolent offenders out of state prisons and low-risk offenders who’ve committed misdemeanor crimes off the state’s probation system.

Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor said Monday’s session was the first he heard of dropping supervision for misdemeanor offenders. He said even if offenders aren’t actively supervised, probation provides a mechanism to bring an offender in quicker when they reoffend. “You get in this cycle ‘it’s a minor crime,’ but when there are true victims, there are no minor crimes,” La Lor said.

The budget for corrections is about $1.2 billion, a cost that could double in the next 10 years if the state doesn’t develop new strategies, Raemisch said.
“There always will be a need for prisons to house violent criminals who pose a threat to public safety, but … we need to invest in strategies beyond prison expansion to curtail corrections spending and reduce recidivism,” Raemisch said.

The budget proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle for the next two years would start the state on that path.

The goal of the new strategy is to protect public safety by keeping violent offenders in prison, but providing opportunities for nonviolent offenders to complete treatment so they can succeed and become productive citizens when they return to their communities, Raemisch said. Under the proposed changes, offenders would be evaluated to determine the level of risk they pose to the community and provide services to help low-risk offenders.

The state would expand services in the Earned Release Program to provide services needed for successful reintegration in the community. Currently, drug and alcohol treatment are provided, but an offender may need education and job skills, Raemisch said. He said the goal is to provide what the offender needs. “This whole do-the-crime, do-the-time strategy is taxing people out of their homes and probably closing schools as we build prisons,” said District Attorney Dan Blank.

Currently, 1 in 39 Wisconsin adults are under some form of control of the state’s corrections department, whether probation, extended supervision, local jails or prison, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Center, an independent nonprofit that uses analysis to improve public policy.

While 1 in 26 Minnesota adults are under some form of corrections control, the state’s prison population is only about 9,000, Raemisch said, suggesting there could be a better way to deal crime.

“If we reduce our population more, that just means less cost for criminal justice system, less crime, less victims, and the savings just goes on and on,” Raemisch said. “We’re talking about changing people’s lives and working in a positive nature, and that’s just going to help the state.” Of the 23,000 people currently in the state prison system, 3,000 automatically would be evaluated for risk when the law passes, he said. “That doesn’t mean they’ll get out of prison right away. It will take months and months.”

Since the 1990s, Blank said the state’s focus has been incarceration and getting tough on crime, when the state needs to be smart on crime. “I think the important thing is this represents a philosophical change that recognizes the way we’ve done business probably is not as effective as we wanted it to be and it’s turned out to be horribly expensive,” Blank said. “We took the easy way out in a lot of cases and we started dumping people in the prison system because it looks like we’re tough on crime and that’s what gets headlines and votes.”

One of the things county officials hope to see come from this is an opportunity to reintegrate prison inmates in the community by using the county jails to house state prisoners and allow them a chance, under Huber work release, to get jobs to ensure a successful transition from incarceration to release in the community.

“I’d like to work with the sheriff’s on a re-entry program … and get them acclimated in the community,” Raemisch said.


Corrections workers back Doyle’s early release plan
By Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel, Mar. 11, 2009

Madison – Correctional officers say they support Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to give early release to some low-risk inmates because of rising security concerns at the state’s overcrowded prisons.

Officers who also serve as Wisconsin State Employees Union leaders said they would be safer if inmates had an incentive to behave themselves.

“There’s no incentive to do good time,” said Daniel Meehan, a Waupun Correctional Institution officer and union local president. “If I’m doing 20 years, I’m going to act the fool for 20 years.”

Doyle has proposed allowing some offenders to be released early to save money and better rehabilitate criminals. His fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have shown support for the idea, even as Republicans rip it as dangerous.

“To release criminals – felons – before their sentence is up is hogwash,” said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). “It’s insulting to the citizens of Wisconsin to pretend you’re tough on crime when those committing the egregious crimes are given a free pass for not acting out while they’re incarcerated.”

Doyle’s plan focuses on nonviolent criminals, but some have criticized it for including drug offenders.

The backing for Doyle’s proposal from correctional officers comes at a time when a legislative committee is looking into ways to overhaul the state’s prison system.

Experts told the Justice Reinvestment Initiative Oversight Committee on Wednesday that revocations of probation and extended supervision are major drivers of the state’s exploding prison costs, fueling $286 million in new expenses in 2007. Those costs will be spread over several years because many of the offenders will serve more than a year behind bars.

The findings were presented by the nonpartisan Council of State Governments Justice Center, which is analyzing Wisconsin’s corrections data for the committee.

The group’s analysts said 61% of those who entered prison in 2007 did so because they had violated rules – but not broken any laws – while on probation or extended supervision. The 61% represents 5,598 new inmates.

One reason for the increasing revocations: The average amount of time former inmates spend on supervision more than doubled between 2000 and 2007 – from 23 months to 54 months.

That increase is because of the state’s 10-year-old truth-in-sentencing law, which lawmakers passed to make sure offenders served their full sentences. At the time, they planned to also shorten the length of sentences, but they never did so.

Many offenders have problems following probation and extended supervision rules because of drug addiction, mental health issues and difficulty finding jobs, the group told lawmakers.

Many of those returning have had their supervision revoked multiple times, said Tony Fabelo, the group’s research director.

“Whatever you’re doing, you’re not slowing down this recycling of people coming in,” Fabelo said.

The committee is trying to find ways to cut recidivism and trim the $1 billion annual budget for corrections. Wisconsin prisons hold more than 22,000 people.

The state budget Doyle proposed last month would allow low-risk inmates to shave off up to a third of their sentences if they followed prison rules. Doyle has said 500 to 1,000 inmates would likely be released over two years, saving up to $27 million.

Lawmakers will decide whether to go along with the governor in the coming months.

Correctional officers have long complained that truth in sentencing has created a dangerous environment for them by overcrowding prisons with inmates who have little motive to follow rules.

But Kleefisch and some other Republicans said Doyle’s plan would put the public in danger.

“No question the public will be at risk if? …felons are released early,” Kleefisch said.

page 7,

Write to Legislators

The following agencies are currently investigating Corrections and are trying to address concerns with mental health treatment and/or availability of programs for inmates. Such treatment or programs may be necessary for your personal well being or for satisfying A&E or Parole Commission requirements.

Rep. Joe Parisi, Chair
Assembly Committee on Corrections and the Courts
E-mail: Rep. Parisi@legis.wisconsin.gov
Room 126 North, State Capital
P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708

Sen. Lena C. Taylor, Chair
Special Committee on Justice Reinvestment Oversight
E-mail Sen. Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov
Room 415 South, State Capital
P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882

Janis Mueller; (mental health audit)
Legislative Audit Bureau
22 E. Mifflin Suite 500
Madison, WI 53703

If you are being denied, delayed, or having problems getting treatment or programs essential to your rehabilitative progress, mental health, and/or are being denied parole release or minimum security because you lack having completed such DOC requirements, then enlighten the Legislature by sharing your story and problems.

You may know what you are experiencing but the Legislatures may not. An audit is requested for all past PRC decisions, DOC-1292 Appeals, and for all Parole Commission written decisions.

The Parole Commission denies many parole releases based upon a single statement; ”you have not served sufficient time as to not depreciate the seriousness of the crime.” We all know this is a hollow statement and it provides no guiding rationale. Inmates are in prison because of the seriousness of the crime! This reasoning based on the same factors you were sentenced to prison makes little sense. Public safety is a concern to all, but rehabili-tation and the social reintegration of one of societies members must be part of that goal.

Similarly the DOC’s Program Review Committee (PRC) routinely assigns a security (risk) classification to inmates’ by simply referencing a guideline manual titled; “Risk Rating Instructions” (Instructions). In 2002, the DOC made rule changes to its own Administrative Codes on the justification the rules were outdated, yet they continue to use the 1990 Instruction manual unchanged. This Instruction manual is a general guideline that does not distinguish between the many distinct sentencing schemes which have been legislated throughout the years and which inmates are now serving in Wisconsin’s overcrowded prison system; such as Old Law Parole, New Law Parole, PMR, TIS-I, TIS-II.

Notably, a 15 year sentence under the parole scheme is not similar to a 15 year sentence under the Truth in Sentencing Law. Yet all these sentencing schemes are being placed under a single “15 year” threshold rule for determining inmates’ security custody levels. A Sentence Structure section of these Instructions work to the exclu-sion of all other relevant factors, such as your rehabilitative achievements.

If the Sentence Structure factor rates high then the total risk rates high, even if all other factors rate low. The DOC is denying programs, or movement to a lower classification such as Minimum, and/or place inmates on program waiting lists under this cover-all-umbrella known as the Risk Rating Instructions.

In addition, the PRC’s written decisions or reasons for denying requests for entry into treatment or programs or requests for reduced custody are typically boiler plate statements being universally applied to inmates such as; “to much time to MR”; “time likely to be served” ; or “potential parolability.” The boiler plate reasons or excuses seem designed to block your interests in improving or maintaining your mental health or your interests in achieving “suitability” for parole release.

Former Governor Thompson actually issued a memorandum in 1994 directing the DOC to do just that, “block” your release from prison, which runs counter to your efforts to be released. And notoriously, the Parole Commission during the mid-1990s tightened parole release standards. Legislative, Executive, and Private influences for the past years seem to be working against your efforts to be released. (Ref. American Legislative Exchange Council). A complete audit of these agencies is requested.

Friends and family members should phone, write, or E-mail their congress member and state their support for Governor Doyle’s early release proposals.
Write to Legislators (cont. from 7)
Maybe even suggest expanding them? If you generally agree with and/or your situation relates to the above statements either write your own letter or send this commentary as being representative of your view, send along with personal samples of decisions, records, etc… as evidence for the legislature to consider. “Do Not” send your original documents, instead send copies of the originals. Ask that the material be submitted as testimony into the congressional record. This may be the best moment in time and opportunity to voice your opinion on Corrections in Wisconsin and its management.


P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

A-L= P.O. Box 8952
M-Z=P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

page 8,

Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

At worst, Hillary Transue thought she might get a stern lecture when she appeared before a judge for building a spoof MySpace page mocking the assistant principal at her high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. She was a stellar student who had never been in trouble, and the page stated clearly at the bottom that it was just a joke.

Instead, the judge sentenced her to three months at a juvenile detention center on a charge of harassment.

She was handcuffed and taken away as her stunned parents stood by.

“I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare,” said Hillary, 17, who was sentenced in 2007. “All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

The answers became a bit clearer on Thursday as the judge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.

The case has shocked Luzerne County, an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that has been battered by a loss of industrial jobs and the closing of most of its anthracite coal mines.

And it raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates.

If the court agrees to the plea agreement, both judges will serve 87 months in federal prison and resign from the bench and bar. They are expected to be sentenced in the next several months. Lawyers for both men declined to comment.

Since state law forbids retirement benefits to judges convicted of a felony while in office, the judges would also lose their pensions.

With Judge Conahan serving as president judge in control of the budget and Judge Ciavarella overseeing the juvenile courts, they set the kickback scheme in motion in December 2002, the authorities said.

They shut down the county-run juvenile detention center, arguing that it was in poor condition, the authorities said, and maintained that the county had no choice but to send detained juveniles to the newly built private detention centers.

Prosecutors say the judges tried to conceal the kickbacks as payments to a company they control in Florida.

Though he pleaded guilty to the charges Thursday, Judge Ciavarella has denied sentencing juveniles who did not deserve it or sending them to the detention centers in a quid pro quo with the centers.

But Assistant United States Attorney Gordon A. Zubrod said after the hearing that the government continues to charge a quid pro quo.

“We’re not negotiating that, no,” Mr. Zubrod said. “We’re not backing off.”

No charges have been filed against executives of the detention centers. Prosecutors said the investigation into the case was continuing.

For years, youth advocacy groups complained that Judge Ciavarella was unusually harsh. He sent a quarter of his juvenile defendants to detention centers from 2002 to 2006, compared with a state rate of 1 in 10. He also routinely ignored requests for leniency made by prosecutors and probation officers.

“The juvenile system, by design, is intended to be a less punitive system than the adult system, and yet here were scores of children with very minor infractions having their lives ruined,” said Marsha Levick, a lawyer with the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center.

“There was a culture of intimidation surrounding this judge and no one was willing to speak up about the sentences he was handing down.”

Last year, the Juvenile Law Center, which had raised concerns about Judge Ciavarella in the past, filed a motion to the State Supreme Court about more than 500 juveniles who had appeared before the judge without representation. The court originally rejected the petition, but recently reversed that decision.

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that children have a constitutional right to counsel. But in Pennsylvania, as in at least 20 other states, children can waive counsel, and about half of the children that Judge Ciavarella sentenced had chosen to do so. Only Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina require juveniles to have representation when they appear before judges.

Clay Yeager, the former director of the Office of Juvenile Justice in Pennsylvania, said typical juvenile proceedings are kept closed to the public to protect the privacy of children.

“But they are kept open to probation officers, district attorneys, and public defenders, all of whom are sworn to protect the interests of children,” he said. “It’s pretty clear those people didn’t do their jobs.”

On Thursday in Federal District Court in Scranton, more than 80 people packed every available seat in the courtroom. At one point, as Assistant United States Attorney William S. Houser explained to Judge Edwin M. Kosik that the government was willing to reach a plea agreement with the men because the case involved “complex charges that could have resulted in years of litigation,” one man sitting in the audience said “bull” loud enough to be heard in the courtroom.

One of the parents at the hearing was Susan Mishanski of Hanover Township.

Her son, Kevin, now 18, was sentenced to 90 days in a detention facility last year in a simple assault case that everyone had told her would result in probation, since Kevin had never been in trouble and the boy he hit had only a black eye.

“It’s horrible to have your child taken away in shackles right in front of you when you think you’re going home with him,” she said. “It was nice to see them sitting on the other side of the bench.”

page 9,

Wisconsin Prison Watch
P.O. Box 292
Boscobel, WI 53805


The United States spends about $57 billion annually on its prison and jail system. Over $750 billion on the military budget. Hundreds of billions on police and courts. How much on schools?



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