Wisconsin Prison Watch Autumn Newsletter

Our friends from Wisconsin Prison Watch produced another important Newsletter, which we copy here below:

SEPTEMBER 2009 NEWSLETTER

Friends,

First, an apology. Personal matters have interrupted my life and drained some of my energy and fight. With every letter I received asking “where’s my May issue?”, I said to myself, well, I’ll get one out soon so the questions will be answered. But, days turned into weeks and weeks into months and the longer I waited the harder it became to get something on paper. Life on the outside is full of distractions and responsibilities and when we don’t see the inhumanity on a daily basis (through letters) we lose our outrage, we become complacent. The Beast never sleeps, it is continually growing stronger while the few of us who care, get tired and weak. That’s how the system works, that’s why we need lots of fighters.

Anyone who understands the prison issues, knows that all the hoopla about releasing nonviolent offenders doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the scheme of things. Over policing, career building prosecutions, and harsh sentencing remain the standard. The problem isn’t that prisoners aren’t being released soon enough (well, that’s a problem too) but rather that too many are being locked up to begin with.

Once in, we face another set of stupid reactionary people who’s ideology determines policy. Alfonzo Graham continues to give lengthy defers to guys who were ready to go home long ago; BOCM and PRC continue to place “program needs” on people and then keep them from entering the programs; Wardens and guards taunt and harass prisoners with write-ups for minor infractions, rotating the seg population to make use of all the beds.

In the meantime, politicians posture and weasel word and pass a John Doe “reform” Bill even though they KNOW the reason prisoners file with the courts is because the ICRS is worthless. The complaint system is fraught with nepotism and cronyism where justice and fair play are totally absent.

Hey, but you guys know all this. These have been constant and repeated themes in this newsletter. In fact, this newsletter has held its tongue and curbed its words lately in light of the “changes” that many perceived taking place in this country and state. Many prisoners believed Barak Obama would set a new standard and bring civility and dignity to the way America does business. They hoped that this new way would trickle down to the bottom of the barrel, the prisons. So many were under the spell of Hope-ium that speaking the truth, that Obama is a corporate salesman intent on maintaining empire abroad and repression at home, was out of bounds.

The same Hope-ium addiction afflicts many prisoners regarding the situation here in Wisconsin. The false hope that weasel-wording politicians will reform the prison system in any meaningful way, keeps prisoners pacified and complacent. Just in case you really don’t get it, things ain’t changin’. Punishment, retribution, and violence are the true values the privileged of this country hold and they ain’t giving in. Things won’t change unless YOU make them change. Sucking on that Hope-ium pipe only prolongs the misery. In the mean time, days and weeks and years slip by and the prisons get fuller and the conditions get worse.

That said, Wisconsin’s financial mess is not resolved and more and bigger cuts in all sorts of spending areas will be needed. Prisons are part of the conversation and that’s a good thing. We only wish the motivation was some sort of enlightened thinking instead of financial reality. Word is, some of the old timers with lots of time in, will be released this October. That’s just a rumor at this point so don’t start packing your bags.

Our brother Warren Lilly won a court order halting his forced feeding. The order is stayed while it runs through the appeal process. For those of you who did not receive our January 2009 issue, it is because we ran a piece written by Warren.

Judge Bissonnette actually had himself strapped into a restraint chair to understand the brutality Warren has been subjected to. Judge Bissonnette said in his order, in part, “Certainly, this Court, nor the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, nor the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, should in any way condone any type of mistreatment or torture of an inmate in a Wisconsin correctional facility. This debate should form no part of a discussion about how medical care is to be delivered to a U.S. citizen over his constitutional objection.” In other words, STOP THE TORTURE!!

Another comrade, Harlan Richards has submitted an article on the continued ideologically (and politically) driven parole commission. His research is on the status of lifers but the trends he has teased out of the statistics are similar through every category of parole eligible prisoner. A recent report from the Sentencing Project, Life Without Parole, confirms the trends Harlan reports.

We hope this newsletter helps you sort out the conflicting news and dis-information presented by the DOC and the mainstream press. We hope to continue our efforts to bring critical analysis and revolutionary inspiration but make no promises. We always hold out hope that others will join our effort, providing the needed energy and vision. Thousands of prisoners are released every year and a few have offered assistance when released but the pressure of day to day survival along with the heavy and threatening hand of their POs as left us overwhelmed, stressed out, and tired.

We have engaged the Beast in the courts. Our case #09-C-062-C is moving forward in U.S. District Court WDWI. Hopefully the DOC will fund future newsletters. That will relieve some of our stress and invigorate our spirit. We’ll still be overwhelmed and tired but that’s the nature of battle. Onward!

in solidarity,
WPW

Quote to Ponder: “The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make a criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X

Doyle’s Legacy
By Harlan Richards

Back in the 1980s a person with a life sentence (lifer) would serve on average 13-15 years before release on parole. In the 1970s it was much shorter because Wisconsin’s governors routinely granted clemency to lifers by commuting their sentences to 50 years or less. This allowed lifers to receive parole hearings far in advance of the statutorily mandated 11 years, 3 months (one lifer had his sentence commuted to “time served” after only 5 years).

It was so rare for a lifer to spend more than 20 consecutive years in prison that in 1980 there were only two prisoners with that distinction. In 1990, it was a newsworthy item when Steve Urban died in prison after serving 47 years on a life sentence. He was released on parole in the early 1970s but by that time he had become institutionalized and quickly demanded that he be allowed to return to prison. When he died, he no longer had any family to claim his body, which was buried in a pauper’s grave outside of Waupun. The Waupun Correctional Institution Lifers Group took up a collection and bought a headstone for his grave.

Times have changed. The constant drum beat of vengeance, retribution and punishment has changed the political landscape. Newly convicted lifers no longer automatically become eligible for parole after 11 years, 3 months. The judge sets the length of time to eligibility and it is not uncommon for lifers to have to serve 30 or more years to their first parole hearing.

Fast forward to 2009, and those same lifers who could have been paroled in 13-15 years are now hoping for release after serving twice that amount of time. In the 1980s, release on parole was virtually assured based on past practice. While there are a few lifers still being released on parole after an average of 30 years, it has become the exception rather than the rule.

From only 2 lifers with 20 or more consecutive years served in 1980, there are now 255. The number is increasing every year. One of those lifers who had already served 20 years in 1980 is still in prison. Garold Rheinschmidt has now served 49 years. He is not alone. There are 6 lifers who have served over 40 years and an additional 37 lifers who have served over 30. There were none in 1980.
When data on lifers is evaluated based on year of admission, the critical year is currently 1979. That is the first year for which there are more lifers still in prison than have been released. The percentage of lifers incarcerated increases until 1989; none of the lifers who entered prison that year have been released.

Curiously, there are some anomalies. Two women came to prison in 1992 and were paroled relatively early. Lashonda Mayhall was released in 2005 after 12.5 years and Mary Leggate. One wonders why these two women were released in such a relatively short period of time while all other lifers spend years, or decades more.

To the lay person, it may seem right that “life means life”; that regardless of what was done in the 1980s and before, murderers belong in prison forever. It may seem that murderers are only now getting their just desserts. Perhaps that is true. Ex-governor Tommy Thompson made being “tough on crime” his mantra and served multiple terms as governor. The prison population was just 3,980 in 1980, grew to 7,362 in 1990 and hit 21,110 in 2005. Thompson made the warehousing of prisoners an established policy and became infamous among prisoners for his 1994 letter where he stated: “The policy of this Administration is to keep violent offenders in prison as long as possible under the law.”

The data reflect this change in attitude as most of the growth in time served to release occurred in the late 1990s and beyond. Dierdra Morgan, chairperson of the parole commission in 2001-02, is the only chairperson with the distinction of having gone an entire calendar year without paroling a single lifer (2002). In 2001, she paroled one lifer. He was housed in maximum security at the time and that generally means he was either paroled to a in prison or was released because he was terminally ill.

Jerry Smith, Ms. Morgan’s predecessor, was not much better. He released only 2 lifers in each of the two years he was chairman.

Lenard Wells was Governor Doyle’s first chairman. He started out slowly but once he gained confidence he began paroling many lifers. In 2005, he released 18 lifers. But he was forced to resign in 2006 due to the public outcry when he paroled two “cop killers.” The news media never did tell the whole story, prefering sensationalism to fair and accurate reporting. Robert Prihoda and LaVern Rogers were convicted in the 1975 shooting death of an off-duty police officer during a tavern robbery. They were both young men who made poor choices and paid the price of over 30 years in prison. Now approaching middle age, they no longer pose a threat to anyone and were appropriately released on parole. Neither one has been involved in any further criminal activity although they have now been free for years.

But Governor Doyle, ever the weather vane of public opinion, was spooked by the press coverage and replaced Wells with someone he could be sure would never make him look bad in the media again. Political expediency took precedence over fair paroling policies. The outcome of the 2010 gubernatorial election is more important than letting rehabilitated prisoners return to society. After all, nobody wants ta be “Willie Hortoned” in an election.

Governor Doyle’s adoption of Thompson’s warehousing policy seems very puzzling considering who Doyle’s father was. Honorable James E. Doyle, Sr., was a federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin and was instrumental in bringing Wisconsin’s prison system out of the dark ages in the 1960s and 1970s. Gone are the days of bread and water diets, the silent system and a raft of draconian restrictions prison administrators once claimed were necessary to running a prison. It was so-called activist judges like Doyle who brought the cleansing light of judicial scrutiny to a medieval prison system. How ironic that decades later it is his son who is behind the erosion of those principles of justice and fair play upon which Judge Doyle’s legacy stands.

One of the basic constitutional protections our founding fathers guaranteed us was the right to be free from ex post facto laws. This includes not being subjected to increased punish-ment for a crime previously committed. It seems only fair that this principle be respected in our country. Still, many oppose such a basic guarantee.

The problem is that when the constitution was written it only proscribed actual changes in laws, not reinterpretation of existing laws. Although the spirit of the ex post facto Clause would prohibit doubling a prisoner’s time in prison after the fact,
the devil is in the details. In other words, our judges have chosen to rely on a strict literal interpretation rather than a more equitable analysis based on the intent of the constitution.
Many people listen to the controversy over judicial appointments to the federal bench with a yawn. For most citizens it does not matter who becomes a judge because they will never see the inside of a federal courthouse. But for those on the fringes of society – the prisoners and other social outcasts – federal courts are their only hope for justice. After decades of conservative judicial appointments, few judges remain who are willig to stand up for society’s most oppressed people.

Wisconsin’s lifers are trapped in a system which exists solely to perpetuate itself. In 1990, Thompson funded a study which called for the prison population to reach 20,000 by 2000. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The growing population of lifers has contributed to that growth. Those 255 lifers with more than 20 years served have cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the decades of their captivity. The annual cost to house a prisoner in fiscal year 2005 was $44,118. It is easy for Governor Doyle to blame our $6 billion budget shortfall on a bad economy. Much of it, however, appears to be the direct result of ill-considered corrections policies over the last 25 years.

There are hundreds of lifers still in prison under the old sentencing laws who could be safely released on parole. Jesse Derickson is 85 years old, serving double life for shooting 2 men and trying to make it look like they shot each other. Jesse has spent 26 years in prison and is now a doddering old man, wasting away in a prison cell. Wayne Lowe is 81 years old and has spent 21 years in prison on a life sentence for killing his wife’s boyfriend. Wayne weighs about 90 pounds and can best be described as frail. These men have spent decades in prison, are near the end of their lives and no longer pose a threat to anyone. Who would you rather see in a prison cell? One of the many aging, now harmless, lifers or the young gun toting gang member selling crack on a street corner near you? Which one do you have the most to fear from?

The time for vengeance is over. What Wisconsin needs is restorative justice: A system which heals the victim, the community and the offender. Now is the time to restore sanity to the correctional system. The Department of Corrections has numerous programs to help prisoners learn to be good citizens. When prisoners change their thoughts, beliefs and actions, it should be acknowledged and they should be permitted to return to being productive members of society.
Parole decisions should be based on suitability for release rather than the next gubernatorial election. Our elected officials are squandering tens of millions of dollars on misguided corrections policies while children go hungry and schools are
under funded. Isn’t it time that Wisconsin’s citizens speak out on this issue?

About the author:
Harlan Richartds is serving a life sentence for stabbing another man in a fight. He has served 24 years in prison. In April 2008, after 2 1/2 years at a work release center and 19 months on work release, Alfonso Graham increased the length of Richards’ parole defer which resulted in Richards’ transfer back to a prison for additional years of warehousing. Richards is a self-taught jailhouse lawyer who has litigated prison rights issues extensively during his incarceration. He earned a bachelors degree in business administration from UW Platteville in 1997, graduating summa cum laude. He is currently housed in Oakhill Correctional Institution.

All raw data and calculations may be found at: WisconsinLifers.blogspot.com

*****************

Report wants life without parole abolished
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A record 140,610 inmates in state and federal prisons are serving life sentences and nearly one-third of those have no possibility of parole, according to a criminal justice research group that supports alternatives to incarceration.

The Sentencing Project, whose reports are regularly cited in academic and government reviews examining criminal justice policy, concluded that the number of inmates sentenced to life without parole has more than tripled to 41,095 since 1992. The report, citing in part the rising cost of incarceration, urges that life without parole be abolished.

The recommendation was met with strong opposition from some law enforcement officials who said life sentences, including life without parole, help drive down violent crime.

Joseph Cassilly, past president of the National District Attorneys Association, acknowledged that long prison terms are a “huge drain on resources.”

He said life sentences are appropriate for violent offenders and even some repeat drug dealers.

“Sometimes there is no way of getting through to these (criminals,)” said Cassilly, who did not dispute the report’s statistical findings.

In the project’s review, titled “No Exit,” researchers also found “overwhelming” racial and ethnic disparities for those serving life terms: 66% are non-white and 77% of juveniles sentenced to life in prison are non-white.

“Life sentences imposed on juveniles represent a fundamental and unwise shift from the long-standing tradition that juveniles are less culpable than adults … and are capable of change,” said Ashley Nellis, a co-author of the report.

Among other findings:

• In Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York at least one in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.

• California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole.

• Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving life without parole.

• The costs of housing an aging prison population also are rising. States should expect to pay $1 million for each prisoner who spends at least 40 years incarcerated, the report concluded.

Todd Clear, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the cost of maintaining a permanent prison population is daunting. The total price tag to keep today’s “lifers” incarcerated for the rest of their lives could cost the nation tens of billions of dollars, he said.

*********************

‘LIFER’ NUMBERS CLIMB

Number of people sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the U.S.:

1992 12,453
2003 33,633
2008 41,095

The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 – “undertake a top-to-bottom review of our entire criminal justice system” and to offer recommendations for reform.”

Senator Jim Webb of VA has introduced The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009.

Here is a fact sheet on the Bill which according to Senator Webb will be “undertake a top-to-bottom review of our entire criminal justice system” and to offer recommendations for reform.”

Here is part of Webb’s statement:

The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process.

Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:
With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation’s prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration.

Matlock on a Mission

Our friend Ken Harris is taking it to ‘em. Resistance to the abuse and oppression can take many forms. Some guys refuse to work, some refuse to eat, some stay in the hole, some write to politicians, some write to the press, and some learn the law and use the “tools of the Master” against the master. Our friend Matlock has done the latter, with vigor.

He recently settled his case, similar to Johnson v. Raemisch regarding the violation of his First Amendment rights in the denial of our newsletter.

He also won his Federal civil suit against the guards who abused him. That civil suit arose from the original John Doe filed by Harris in 2005. As we reported, Columbia County DA Bauer (now Judge Bauer) refused to prosecute the two guards and then Sauk Co. DA Barrett refused to interview Harris or his witnesses and asked to be removed from the case.

This case also created quite a stir when the DOC retaliated against a nurse who verified Harris’ claim of abuse.

In June, Judge George closed the case, falsely claiming that the prosecutors determined the case “lacked prosecutorial merit”. This, after 4 years of “investigation” where none of Harris’ witnesses were interviewed.

Harris has filed a Writ of Mandamus in the Court of Appeals forcing the Judge George to subpoena witnesses and documents that will prove the abuse.

The DOC, DAs, and courts want to keep their record intact – no prisoner will ever win a John Doe complaint on the 940.29 statute “Abuse of residents of a penal institution.” Who knows what pressure was applied on Judge George.

If you recall, Harris filed an ICRS against KMCI Deputy Warden Beck for foul-mouthing a group of prisoners. This resulted in Conduct Reports and other retaliation against Harris. He was removed from his program and transferred to a max.

He’s about ready to file suit in Federal Court on a claim of retaliation. You can bet he’ll prove his case. He’s a pit bull and he’s got a good chunk of their ass in his jaws.

He’s suffered a lot of abuse for standing up and fighting, but he’s satisfied and happy that he has done what he can to fight the abusive system. Fight on!

Stanley prison sucks up more state money
Published: August 14, 2009
Paul Snyder

The chorus of anger and resignation gets louder every time the state has to shell out more money for the Stanley Correctional Institution.

“It’s a white elephant,” said David Helbach, administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of State Facilities and secretary to the state Building Commission. “It was a bad deal, and it never should have happened.”

But it happened and has cost taxpayers ever since.

Construction of the 43-acre prison began in 1998 as a joint venture between the city of Stanley and Dominion Venture Group, Edmond, Okla. The prison was built to state specifications with the understanding the state would buy the prison upon completion.

Helbach, who joined DOA two years ago, said the state negotiated an $82 million deal to buy the prison. But, he said, it was a curious deal considering the state was in the midst of a prison construction boom in the late 1990s.

“We bought it for about 30 percent more than we could have built it for,” Helbach said. “And we could have done it better.”

Since paying the $82 million and opening the prison in 2000, Wisconsin has dumped almost $20 million into upgrades and repairs, Helbach said.

That trend extended Wednesday when state Building Commission members unanimously approved a $313,250 boost to a security upgrade project, increasing the total cost of the security project to $1.4 million.

The project will add new door-locking and monitoring systems and fix defects in the buildings’ security systems, said John Dipko, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

“We’re so far into the hole, we can’t get out,” Risser said.

State Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, agreed, saying Wisconsin is stuck with the building.

“I don’t know if we can throw up our hands and say, ‘Forget it, we’ll build something new,’” he said. “I don’t know where the tipping point is, and I don’t think we can throw in the towel.

Sept. 2009 Newsletter (WI Prison Watch)

Friends,

First, an apology. Personal matters have interrupted my life and drained some of my energy and fight. With every letter I received asking “where’s my May issue?”, I said to myself, well, I’ll get one out soon so the questions will be answered. But, days turned into weeks and weeks into months and the longer I waited the harder it became to get something on paper. Life on the outside is full of distractions and responsibilities and when we don’t see the inhumanity on a daily basis (through letters) we lose our outrage, we become complacent. The Beast never sleeps, it is continually growing stronger while the few of us who care, get tired and weak. That’s how the system works, that’s why we need lots of fighters.

Anyone who understands the prison issues, knows that all the hoopla about releasing nonviolent offenders doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the scheme of things. Over policing, career building prosecutions, and harsh sentencing remain the standard. The problem isn’t that prisoners aren’t being released soon enough (well, that’s a problem too) but rather that too many are being locked up to begin with.

Once in, we face another set of stupid reactionary people who’s ideology determines policy. Alfonzo Graham continues to give lengthy defers to guys who were ready to go home long ago; BOCM and PRC continue to place “program needs” on people and then keep them from entering the programs; Wardens and guards taunt and harass prisoners with write-ups for minor infractions, rotating the seg population to make use of all the beds.

In the meantime, politicians posture and weasel word and pass a John Doe “reform” Bill even though they KNOW the reason prisoners file with the courts is because the ICRS is worthless. The complaint system is fraught with nepotism and cronyism where justice and fair play are totally absent.

Hey, but you guys know all this. These have been constant and repeated themes in this newsletter. In fact, this newsletter has held its tongue and curbed its words lately in light of the “changes” that many perceived taking place in this country and state. Many prisoners believed Barak Obama would set a new standard and bring civility and dignity to the way America does business. They hoped that this new way would trickle down to the bottom of the barrel, the prisons. So many were under the spell of Hope-ium that speaking the truth, that Obama is a corporate salesman intent on maintaining empire abroad and repression at home, was out of bounds.

The same Hope-ium addiction afflicts many prisoners regarding the situation here in Wisconsin. The false hope that weasel-wording politicians will reform the prison system in any meaningful way, keeps prisoners pacified and complacent. Just in case you really don’t get it, things ain’t changin’. Punishment, retribution, and violence are the true values the privileged of this country hold and they ain’t giving in. Things won’t change unless YOU make them change. Sucking on that Hope-ium pipe only prolongs the misery. In the mean time, days and weeks and years slip by and the prisons get fuller and the conditions get worse.

That said, Wisconsin’s financial mess is not resolved and more and bigger cuts in all sorts of spending areas will be needed. Prisons are part of the conversation and that’s a good thing. We only wish the motivation was some sort of enlightened thinking instead of financial reality. Word is, some of the old timers with lots of time in, will be released this October. That’s just a rumor at this point so don’t start packing your bags.

Our brother Warren Lilly won a court order halting his forced feeding. The order is stayed while it runs through the appeal process. For those of you who did not receive our January 2009 issue, it is because we ran a piece written by Warren.

Judge Bissonnette actually had himself strapped into a restraint chair to understand the brutality Warren has been subjected to. Judge Bissonnette said in his order, in part, “Certainly, this Court, nor the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, nor the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, should in any way condone any type of mistreatment or torture of an inmate in a Wisconsin correctional facility. This debate should form no part of a discussion about how medical care is to be delivered to a U.S. citizen over his constitutional objection.” In other words, STOP THE TORTURE!!

Another comrade, Harlan Richardts has submitted an article on the continued ideologically (and politically) driven parole commission. His research is on the status of lifers but the trends he has teased out of the statistics are similar through every category of parole eligible prisoner. A recent report from the Sentencing Project, Life Without Parole, confirms the trends Harlan reports.

We hope this newsletter helps you sort out the conflicting news and dis-information presented by the DOC and the mainstream press. We hope to continue our efforts to bring critical analysis and revolutionary inspiration but make no promises. We always hold out hope that others will join our effort, providing the needed energy and vision. Thousands of prisoners are released every year and a few have offered assistance when released but the pressure of day to day survival along with the heavy and threatening hand of their POs as left us overwhelmed, stressed out, and tired.

We have engaged the Beast in the courts. Our case #09-C-062-C is moving forward in U.S. District Court WDWI. Hopefully the DOC will fund future newsletters. That will relieve some of our stress and invigorate our spirit. We’ll still be overwhelmed and tired but that’s the nature of battle. Onward!

in solidarity,
WPW

Quote to Ponder: “The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make a criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X

Doyle’s Legacy
By Harlan Richardts

Back in the 1980s a person with a life sentence (lifer) would serve on average 13-15 years before release on parole. In the 1970s it was much shorter because Wisconsin’s governors routinely granted clemency to lifers by commuting their sentences to 50 years or less. This allowed lifers to receive parole hearings far in advance of the statutorily mandated 11 years, 3 months (one lifer had his sentence commuted to “time served” after only 5 years).

It was so rare for a lifer to spend more than 20 consecutive years in prison that in 1980 there were only two prisoners with that distinction. In 1990, it was a newsworthy item when Steve Urban died in prison after serving 47 years on a life sentence. He was released on parole in the early 1970s but by that time he had become institutionalized and quickly demanded that he be allowed to return to prison. When he died, he no longer had any family to claim his body, which was buried in a pauper’s grave outside of Waupun. The Waupun Correctional Institution Lifers Group took up a collection and bought a headstone for his grave.

Times have changed. The constant drum beat of vengeance, retribution and punishment has changed the political landscape. Newly convicted lifers no longer automatically become eligible for parole after 11 years, 3 months. The judge sets the length of time to eligibility and it is not uncommon for lifers to have to serve 30 or more years to their first parole hearing.

Fast forward to 2009, and those same lifers who could have been paroled in 13-15 years are now hoping for release after serving twice that amount of time. In the 1980s, release on parole was virtually assured based on past practice. While there are a few lifers still being released on parole after an average of 30 years, it has become the exception rather than the rule.

From only 2 lifers with 20 or more consecutive years served in 1980, there are now 255. The number is increasing every year. One of those lifers who had already served 20 years in 1980 is still in prison. Garold Rheinschmidt has now served 49 years. He is not alone. There are 6 lifers who have served over 40 years and an additional 37 lifers who have served over 30. There were none in 1980.
When data on lifers is evaluated based on year of admission, the critical year is currently 1979. That is the first year for which there are more lifers still in prison than have been released. The percentage of lifers incarcerated increases until 1989; none of the lifers who entered prison that year have been released.

Curiously, there are some anomalies. Two women came to prison in 1992 and were paroled relatively early. Lashonda Mayhall was released in 2005 after 12.5 years and Mary Leggate. One wonders why these two women were released in such a relatively short period of time while all other lifers spend years, or decades more.

To the lay person, it may seem right that “life means life”; that regardless of what was done in the 1980s and before, murderers belong in prison forever. It may seem that murderers are only now getting their just desserts. Perhaps that is true. Ex-governor Tommy Thompson made being “tough on crime” his mantra and served multiple terms as governor. The prison population was just 3,980 in 1980, grew to 7,362 in 1990 and hit 21,110 in 2005. Thompson made the warehousing of prisoners an established policy and became infamous among prisoners for his 1994 letter where he stated: “The policy of this Administration is to keep violent offenders in prison as long as possible under the law.”

The data reflect this change in attitude as most of the growth in time served to release occurred in the late 1990s and beyond. Dierdra Morgan, chairperson of the parole commission in 2001-02, is the only chairperson with the distinction of having gone an entire calendar year without paroling a single lifer (2002). In 2001, she paroled one lifer. He was housed in maximum security at the time and that generally means he was either paroled to a in prison or was released because he was terminally ill.

Jerry Smith, Ms. Morgan’s predecessor, was not much better. He released only 2 lifers in each of the two years he was chairman.

Lenard Wells was Governor Doyle’s first chairman. He started out slowly but once he gained confidence he began paroling many lifers. In 2005, he released 18 lifers. But he was forced to resign in 2006 due to the public outcry when he paroled two “cop killers.” The news media never did tell the whole story, prefering sensationalism to fair and accurate reporting. Robert Prihoda and LaVern Rogers were convicted in the 1975 shooting death of an off-duty police officer during a tavern robbery. They were both young men who made poor choices and paid the price of over 30 years in prison. Now approaching middle age, they no longer pose a threat to anyone and were appropriately released on parole. Neither one has been involved in any further criminal activity although they have now been free for years.

But Governor Doyle, ever the weather vane of public opinion, was spooked by the press coverage and replaced Wells with someone he could be sure would never make him look bad in the media again. Political expediency took precedence over fair paroling policies. The outcome of the 2010 gubernatorial election is more important than letting rehabilitated prisoners return to society. After all, nobody wants ta be “Willie Hortoned” in an election.

Governor Doyle’s adoption of Thompson’s warehousing policy seems very puzzling considering who Doyle’s father was. Honorable James E. Doyle, Sr., was a federal judge in the Western District of Wisconsin and was instrumental in bringing Wisconsin’s prison system out of the dark ages in the 1960s and 1970s. Gone are the days of bread and water diets, the silent system and a raft of draconian restrictions prison administrators once claimed were necessary to running a prison. It was so-called activist judges like Doyle who brought the cleansing light of judicial scrutiny to a medieval prison system. How ironic that decades later it is his son who is behind the erosion of those principles of justice and fair play upon which Judge Doyle’s legacy stands.

One of the basic constitutional protections our founding fathers guaranteed us was the right to be free from ex post facto laws. This includes not being subjected to increased punish-ment for a crime previously committed. It seems only fair that this principle be respected in our country. Still, many oppose such a basic guarantee.

The problem is that when the constitution was written it only proscribed actual changes in laws, not reinterpretation of existing laws. Although the spirit of the ex post facto Clause would prohibit doubling a prisoner’s time in prison after the fact,
the devil is in the details. In other words, our judges have chosen to rely on a strict literal interpretation rather than a more equitable analysis based on the intent of the constitution.
Many people listen to the controversy over judicial appointments to the federal bench with a yawn. For most citizens it does not matter who becomes a judge because they will never see the inside of a federal courthouse. But for those on the fringes of society – the prisoners and other social outcasts – federal courts are their only hope for justice. After decades of conservative judicial appointments, few judges remain who are willig to stand up for society’s most oppressed people.

Wisconsin’s lifers are trapped in a system which exists solely to perpetuate itself. In 1990, Thompson funded a study which called for the prison population to reach 20,000 by 2000. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. The growing population of lifers has contributed to that growth. Those 255 lifers with more than 20 years served have cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the decades of their captivity. The annual cost to house a prisoner in fiscal year 2005 was $44,118. It is easy for Governor Doyle to blame our $6 billion budget shortfall on a bad economy. Much of it, however, appears to be the direct result of ill-considered corrections policies over the last 25 years.

There are hundreds of lifers still in prison under the old sentencing laws who could be safely released on parole. Jesse Derickson is 85 years old, serving double life for shooting 2 men and trying to make it look like they shot each other. Jesse has spent 26 years in prison and is now a doddering old man, wasting away in a prison cell. Wayne Lowe is 81 years old and has spent 21 years in prison on a life sentence for killing his wife’s boyfriend. Wayne weighs about 90 pounds and can best be described as frail. These men have spent decades in prison, are near the end of their lives and no longer pose a threat to anyone. Who would you rather see in a prison cell? One of the many aging, now harmless, lifers or the young gun toting gang member selling crack on a street corner near you? Which one do you have the most to fear from?

The time for vengeance is over. What Wisconsin needs is restorative justice: A system which heals the victim, the community and the offender. Now is the time to restore sanity to the correctional system. The Department of Corrections has numerous programs to help prisoners learn to be good citizens. When prisoners change their thoughts, beliefs and actions, it should be acknowledged and they should be permitted to return to being productive members of society.
Parole decisions should be based on suitability for release rather than the next gubernatorial election. Our elected officials are squandering tens of millions of dollars on misguided corrections policies while children go hungry and schools are
under funded. Isn’t it time that Wisconsin’s citizens speak out on this issue?

About the author:
Harlan Richartds is serving a life sentence for stabbing another man in a fight. He has served 24 years in prison. In April 2008, after 2 1/2 years at a work release center and 19 months on work release, Alfonso Graham increased the length of Richards’ parole defer which resulted in Richards’ transfer back to a prison for additional years of warehousing. Richards is a self-taught jailhouse lawyer who has litigated prison rights issues extensively during his incarceration. He earned a bachelors degree in business administration from UW Platteville in 1997, graduating summa cum laude. He is currently housed in Oakhill Correctional Institution.

All raw data and calculations may be found at: WisconsinLifers.blogspot.com

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Report wants life without parole abolished
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A record 140,610 inmates in state and federal prisons are serving life sentences and nearly one-third of those have no possibility of parole, according to a criminal justice research group that supports alternatives to incarceration.

The Sentencing Project, whose reports are regularly cited in academic and government reviews examining criminal justice policy, concluded that the number of inmates sentenced to life without parole has more than tripled to 41,095 since 1992. The report, citing in part the rising cost of incarceration, urges that life without parole be abolished.

The recommendation was met with strong opposition from some law enforcement officials who said life sentences, including life without parole, help drive down violent crime.

Joseph Cassilly, past president of the National District Attorneys Association, acknowledged that long prison terms are a “huge drain on resources.”

He said life sentences are appropriate for violent offenders and even some repeat drug dealers.

“Sometimes there is no way of getting through to these (criminals,)” said Cassilly, who did not dispute the report’s statistical findings.

In the project’s review, titled “No Exit,” researchers also found “overwhelming” racial and ethnic disparities for those serving life terms: 66% are non-white and 77% of juveniles sentenced to life in prison are non-white.

“Life sentences imposed on juveniles represent a fundamental and unwise shift from the long-standing tradition that juveniles are less culpable than adults … and are capable of change,” said Ashley Nellis, a co-author of the report.

Among other findings:

• In Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York at least one in 6 prisoners is serving a life sentence.

• California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania each have more than 3,000 people serving life without parole.

• Pennsylvania leads the nation with 345 juveniles serving life without parole.

• The costs of housing an aging prison population also are rising. States should expect to pay $1 million for each prisoner who spends at least 40 years incarcerated, the report concluded.

Todd Clear, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the cost of maintaining a permanent prison population is daunting. The total price tag to keep today’s “lifers” incarcerated for the rest of their lives could cost the nation tens of billions of dollars, he said.

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‘LIFER’ NUMBERS CLIMB

Number of people sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the U.S.:

1992 12,453
2003 33,633
2008 41,095

The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 – “undertake a top-to-bottom review of our entire criminal justice system” and to offer recommendations for reform.”

Senator Jim Webb of VA has introduced The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009.

Here is a fact sheet on the Bill which according to Senator Webb will be “undertake a top-to-bottom review of our entire criminal justice system” and to offer recommendations for reform.”

Here is part of Webb’s statement:

The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 that I introduced in the Senate on March 26, 2009 will create a blue-ribbon commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make concrete recommendations about how we can reform the process.

Why We Urgently Need this Legislation:
With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses 25% of the world’s reported prisoners.
Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980.
Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals.
Approximately 1 million gang members reside in the U.S., many of them foreign-based; and Mexican cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country.
Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation’s prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration.

Matlock on a Mission

Our friend Ken Harris is taking it to ‘em. Resistance to the abuse and oppression can take many forms. Some guys refuse to work, some refuse to eat, some stay in the hole, some write to politicians, some write to the press, and some learn the law and use the “tools of the Master” against the master. Our friend Matlock has done the latter, with vigor.

He recently settled his case, similar to Johnson v. Raemisch regarding the violation of his First Amendment rights in the denial of our newsletter.

He also won his Federal civil suit against the guards who abused him. That civil suit arose from the original John Doe filed by Harris in 2005. As we reported, Columbia County DA Bauer (now Judge Bauer) refused to prosecute the two guards and then Sauk Co. DA Barrett refused to interview Harris or his witnesses and asked to be removed from the case.

This case also created quite a stir when the DOC retaliated against a nurse who verified Harris’ claim of abuse.

In June, Judge George closed the case, falsely claiming that the prosecutors determined the case “lacked prosecutorial merit”. This, after 4 years of “investigation” where none of Harris’ witnesses were interviewed.

Harris has filed a Writ of Mandamus in the Court of Appeals forcing the Judge George to subpoena witnesses and documents that will prove the abuse.

The DOC, DAs, and courts want to keep their record intact – no prisoner will ever win a John Doe complaint on the 940.29 statute “Abuse of residents of a penal institution.” Who knows what pressure was applied on Judge George.

If you recall, Harris filed an ICRS against KMCI Deputy Warden Beck for foul-mouthing a group of prisoners. This resulted in Conduct Reports and other retaliation against Harris. He was removed from his program and transferred to a max.

He’s about ready to file suit in Federal Court on a claim of retaliation. You can bet he’ll prove his case. He’s a pit bull and he’s got a good chunk of their ass in his jaws.

He’s suffered a lot of abuse for standing up and fighting, but he’s satisfied and happy that he has done what he can to fight the abusive system. Fight on!

Stanley prison sucks up more state money
Published: August 14, 2009
Paul Snyder

The chorus of anger and resignation gets louder every time the state has to shell out more money for the Stanley Correctional Institution.

“It’s a white elephant,” said David Helbach, administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Division of State Facilities and secretary to the state Building Commission. “It was a bad deal, and it never should have happened.”

But it happened and has cost taxpayers ever since.

Construction of the 43-acre prison began in 1998 as a joint venture between the city of Stanley and Dominion Venture Group, Edmond, Okla. The prison was built to state specifications with the understanding the state would buy the prison upon completion.

Helbach, who joined DOA two years ago, said the state negotiated an $82 million deal to buy the prison. But, he said, it was a curious deal considering the state was in the midst of a prison construction boom in the late 1990s.

“We bought it for about 30 percent more than we could have built it for,” Helbach said. “And we could have done it better.”

Since paying the $82 million and opening the prison in 2000, Wisconsin has dumped almost $20 million into upgrades and repairs, Helbach said.

That trend extended Wednesday when state Building Commission members unanimously approved a $313,250 boost to a security upgrade project, increasing the total cost of the security project to $1.4 million.

The project will add new door-locking and monitoring systems and fix defects in the buildings’ security systems, said John Dipko, spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

“We’re so far into the hole, we can’t get out,” Risser said.

State Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, agreed, saying Wisconsin is stuck with the building.

“I don’t know if we can throw up our hands and say, ‘Forget it, we’ll build something new,’” he said. “I don’t know where the tipping point is, and I don’t think we can throw in the towel.

Link to Warren Lilly’s Forced Feeding Video

Isthmus article of June 18, 2009

Here are the snippets of the forced feeding of Warren Lilly, taken from Isthmus:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=5205079&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Lilly- “Idiot’s Club” from The Daily Page on Vimeo.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=5205539&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Lilly- talk with “Seaweed” from The Daily Page on Vimeo.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=5208018&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Lilly – 2/28/09 breakfast “stop this” from The Daily Page on Vimeo.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=5220114&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Lilly – 2/28/09 Breakfast “Oscar Mayer” from The Daily Page on Vimeo.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=5220741&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Lilly – “Lavern and Shirley reruns” from The Daily Page on Vimeo.

Wisconsin Prison Watch – January 2009 Newsletter

Friends,

Three questions have presented themselves in letters during these past few months that I would like to address. Question 1. Does WPW avoid news articles and opinion about sex offenders? Question 2. Should WPW “tone down” the rhetoric and seek credibility? Question 3. Why don’t you do more investigative articles and more research?

Question 1. Does WPW avoid news articles and opinion about sex offenders? No, our mission is to highlight and expose the crimes committed by the DOC, Parole Commission and (in)justice system. We never ask, nor do we feel it important to consider the crime of the prisoner. Our newsletter also tries to highlight the societal penchant and immorality of putting people in cages as a method of solving social problems. We do not express an opinion on the crimes of those behind bars – it is not our concern. Our concern is with the crimes committed by those in uniform.

Question 2. Should WPW “tone down” the rhetoric and seek credibility? We are what we are. Actually, we do curb our contempt and disgust with the abuse and indignity heaped on prisoners. We are outraged and hope that message is loud and clear. We wonder, from whom the questioner thinks we should seek credibility? Certainly not from the institutions and bureaucrats who run them, they are not responsive to polite pleas or reasoned arguments. Have you filed an ICI lately?

Maybe the questioner thinks the public needs to hear a “reasonable” articulation of the “problems” behind the walls? On this point we agree – to a degree. WPW does inform the press whenever important stories arise. For the most part, the press is not interested, because the public is not interested and if the public’s not interested the advertisers lose interest. In a capitalist system the merit of the story is subjugated to the profit margins. But, as I said, we agree and do our best to inform the main stream press.

But, we are not the main stream press; our newsletter goes to prisoners who already know they are being abused, degraded and dehumanized. The families kinda know it but don’t believe it from their loved ones. So, the purpose of the WPW newsletter is to, not only expose the rot, but to heighten political awareness and understanding of “how the system works”, and how we need to resist the oppression. If you don’t think you’re being oppressed then this newsletter is not for you. If you think prisons serve a legitimate purpose then this newsletter is not for you. If you think bending a knee to the powers that be will reform prison policies, this newsletter is not for you. If you think the public will be moved to compassion if one more story of abuse gets published, you’re deluding yourself.

Question 3. Why don’t you do more investigative articles and more research? The primary reason is, we don’t have the time or resources. There’s an important book written by the feminist group INCITE!, titled The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, from which we draw a lesson. We don’t seek funding from institutions, charities, or foundations because we do not want our message or objectives to be blunted or coerced by the funders. We are funded by YOU, the people who are impacted by the prison system. If what we say and do serves a purpose, the funding will continue. If we become insipid and ineffective, we will disappear.

Another reason why we don’t do investigative journalism is because we don’t have a large volunteer staff. We would love to have a bunch of people sitting around with nothing to do, ready to research and investigate. Hey wait a minute, there are a bunch of guys sitting around with nothing to do. Get busy and send in articles and reports.

So, you see, it’s up to you. Send us contributions and ask others to subscribe and support our work. Also, send us your reports and investigations or just send your reflections on “how the system works”. Send us news articles and court cases. This is your newsletter.

Some of you are really busy. We’ve received some really powerful court cases. Some guys are trying to shake things up in the courts. Some have sent us reports of success despite the many hurdles placed on their efforts. Many of us don’t understand the law and its convoluted language. Many of us are frustrated by the lying, cheating, and corruption we face when trying to get some justice. Here at WPW we are continually frustrated by the lack of public concern, the lack of revolutionary spirit, the lack of political awareness, and the lack of outrage, but we fight on. Not because we think we can win, but because we must. We must resist, we are compelled to resist the dehumanization and stupidity of prisons. We cannot do otherwise but resist this culture of oppression.

The winter weather has chilled the desire to protest and leaflet outside of the DOC and prisons but PAW is making plans for the spring. One thing for sure, a contingent of PAW members will be visiting the Capitol to let the Governor know that Al Graham needs to go. He’s up for reappointment in March and PAW wants to make it clear, families are being victimized by the Parole Commission. We urge all families of incarcerated to call or write to the governor to let him know what you think of Al Graham. More info on page 5.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has organized a campaign called STOPMAX whose mission states, in part: “To promote and support a national movement to end the use of solitary confinement and related forms of torture in US prisons”. Your editor has been invited to sit on the steering committee and I will bring my knowledge and experience in dealing with Wisconsin’s overuse of segregation units to the national discussion. Comments from those suffering this barbarity are welcome.

We are in the process of compiling a handbook for families of incarcerated. The purpose is to help families understand the process and negotiate the bureaucracy while supporting their loved one. Suggestions are welcome – please tell us what you think your families should have known or should know in order to help you on the inside

in solidarity,

WPW

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Illinois Prisoners Win $8 Million for Failure to Treat Hep C, from PLN

A federal jury has awarded four Illinois prisoners over $2 million apiece in a civil rights action filed against state prison officials for denying treatment for Hepatitis C (Hep C).

In 2005, Edward J. Roe, Anthony P. Stasiak, Timothy J. Stephen and Jackson Walker, all state prisoners at the Logan Correctional Center (LCC) in Lincoln, Illinois, were denied Hep C treatment. Hep C is a blood-borne disease that can cause liver failure if left untreated; it is most often spread through IV drug use, needle sharing (including tattoo needles) and unprotected sex.

Larry Sims, the Chief Administrative Officer at LCC; Willard Elyea, Medical Director for the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC); and IDOC Director Roger Walker refused to provide Hep C treatment based on a blanket policy that denied such treatment to prisoners with fewer than 18 months left to serve on their sentences.

In September 2005, the four LCC prisoners filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. They claimed the non-treatment policy resulted from the defendants’ deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

On February 15, 2008 a federal jury agreed that the policy was unconstitutional, and awarded the prisoners $20,000 each in actual damages and $2,000,000 each in punitive damages.

Attorney H. Kent Heller of Mattoon, Illinois represented the plaintiffs; he said this was the largest monetary judgment he had ever won for a client. Attorney fees have not yet been awarded in this case. See: Roe v. Sims, U.S.D.C. CD Ill., Case No. 3:06-cv-03034-HAB-CHE.

Hep C-related prison litigation appears to be on the upswing, since large numbers of prisoners are infected with the disease and most prison systems are unwilling to provide the expensive – though necessary – medical treatment for it.

For example, on July 8, 2008, a class action lawsuit was filed against the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) on behalf of California’s 159,000 state prisoners. The complaint states they do not receive adequate treatment for Hep C, which infects an estimated 40 percent of the CDCR population. See: Jackson v. Dezember, U.S.D.C. CD Cal., Case No. 2:08-cv-04454-GHK-FMO.

“This is a nasty, nasty disease,” said attorney Shawn Khorrami, who filed the class action suit. “We don’t allow this kind of punishment in America, where someone has a disease and we have them suffer from it and have all kinds of problems going forward in their lives just because they’ve committed a crime.”

Actually prison officials routinely allow such punitive medical neglect to occur, which is why such lawsuits are necessary.

UPDATE ON THE HEP-C CLASS ACTION

A few of you have contacted attorney Heller on this but we know more under-treated and untreated cases of Hep-C are out there. Spread the word because this action could have some deep implications for the DOC (financial) and for those suffering this disease (financial and health). For more information write to:

Attorney Kent Heller
Heller, Holmes & Associates, P.C.
1101 Broadway
P.O. Box 889
Mattoon, IL 61938

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Dear Prison Watch,

Hey! I’ve been down for 25 years all together in this fucked up system and all I can say is, it’s about time somebody kept an eye on these freaks!

This is my eighth time in, 4 were revocations, and the other four were all property crimes, yet I’ve served more time than a few lifers I’ve met.

Right now I’m almost done with a five year sentence for breaking my probation by going to Texas (absconding) for two months. This five year sentence stems from a 1998 burglary conviction where I stole a check for $420 and cashed it.

So, yes it’s true, I’m sitting here, taking up a single cell (red tag) in Green Bay, for a crime that occurred over ten years ago. And, it was my only violation after three years of supervision; working, paying rent and minding my own business. No ATR, no work release; five years on a ten year withheld sentence. They extradited me 1620 miles on an eight day bus ride from Hell.

All this for going down to Texas to roof houses damaged in Katrina, to make $15 an hour cash instead of $11.50 minus taxes here in Wisconsin. The state has spent thirty thousand dollars a year “punishing” me for stealing a check and then leaving the state for a better job.

Anyway, I’ll be out soon with 20 months of parole which I may or may not get revoked on. And of course when I get released I will have zero dollars and zero cents because that’s the way the DOC likes to see you leave. But you can bet I’ll get that “good luck out there” on the way out the door, because they always smile and say that when you leave prison, just to let you know they care, you’re their friend and it’s not personal.

Sincerely,
Scott McLeod

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Doyle named Obama’s Commerce Secretary (parody by Bonnie Abzug)

Wisconsin Governor was recently chosen to replace Gov. Bill Richardson for US Commerce Secretary. Doyle was chosen and then his name was quickly withdrawn due to the fact that the State of Wisconsin stands at the top (worst) ranking of Black incarceration rates in the whole United States of Amerikkka!

Wisconsin Prison Activists were elated by the nomination, hoping that a new Governor would realize the highest ranking of top Black Incarceration rates were sure signs of the racism in Wisconsin state laws, justice system and its whole state government. Activists hoped a new Governor would stand on a bully pulpit and make this gross and shameful record a thing of the past. They were sure that a new governor would get rid of the regressive Parole Chair, Al Graham.

Obama and his aides must have made note of Doyle’s and the State of Wisconsin’s abysmal treatment of its Black population and decided that this type of politician is not wanted in their cabinet. Unfortunately Obama’s de-cision does not bode well for our state.

As a matter of reference, Minnesota and Wisconsin both have the same minority population demographics and crime rate. Minnesota houses 9000 prisoners while Wisconsin houses over 22,000. How many times must these statistics be shown before our state’s citizens force our government representatives to rectify this inequity.

page 2,
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Notes from Starvin’ Naked Marvin: The Day After

What does Barack Obama’s election mean for Black prisoners?
Very little and a great deal. Very little in that it’s unlikely he’ll make sweeping changes to the justice system. Obama was not elected on a platform for social change, he ran and won with an economic agenda and was supported by the same money ‘strokers’ that have supported every president. IF Blacks, especially those imprisoned, expect social change they’re going to be disappointed.

Obama’s election though, in a psychological sense, means a great deal to prisoners. Prisoners are quicker than free persons to believe they can not fight and win against an entrenched system and that color is an inherent bar to success. Obama has shown that the bar to success of Black men is mostly a bar of their own making, a self-imposed limit on how high they can climb.

Obama’s victory is a classic lesson in vision and persistence all prisoners should study, especially Black prisoners. For in that lesson is the means to overcome the horrors of both imprisonment and the justice system. His victory instructs us to first recognize our own worth and to respect the worth of others, then to establish a goal and pursue it through planning and preparation, and finally, most importantly, to embrace a single-minded focus toward achieving that goal.

Obama’s victory has shown us that even ‘blue sky’ is not limited to one who’s determined to achieve a goal. How then can we, given his example, fail to take on and defeat the problems of injustice and imprisonment we face?

Let me propose a goal for all prisoners: The reduction and reformation of the prison system into a more human-centered service through the non-violent destabilization of the current dehumanizing system. Prisons operate efficiently and effectively because we prisoners allow them to do so. Without our support, mentally by obeying orders, and physically by working in prisons, the prison system, as it now stands, would collapse. This is a fact we’ve known but have been afraid to exploit.

To achieve this goal we must first set aside our fear. Fear is the mind killer, it prevents self defense. For unless you are willing to abandon your fears and risk everything you stand to gain nothing. Ask yourself if your life has value and worth not just to you but also those with whom you interact – your family, your friends. If you answer is yes then you must vigorously defend your life from the ravages of a system which as declared your life worthless.

Since, to this system, you’re only a body give them that body without its mind. Do not perform any function or obey any order which supports the orderly running of any prison. Non-violently refuse to be an intelligent but willing victim of a rogue system. Refuse to accept their pronouncement of you as worthless. Make them work like hell to maintain you and this system.

In this country we’ve allowed morality and conscience to be replacement with bad laws. To obey such law is to deny your humanity and the responsibility you bear, as an American , to raise protest in the face of injustice.

Look to President-Elect Obama as your inspiration towards this goal. It only seems like ‘blue sky’ because we fear to fight for our worth.

Warren G. Lilly, Jr.,, pen name Starvin’ Naked Marvin, has been hunger striking for over four years in protest of Wisconsin’s and America’s abusive overuse of imprisonment. He refuses to eat, wear clothing, and obey orders, and is force fed thrice daily, Monday through Saturday. Warren asks prisoners and free persons to fast with him every Sunday then to e-mail or write to their Governor in support of his protest.

Contact Warren at: Warren G. Lilly, Jr.
DOC # 447655
WCI, P.O. Box 351
Waupun, WI 53963-0351
Warrenlilly.blogspot.com


 

“One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.”
Charles Austin Beard
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Studies: Wisconsin has highest racial disparity in drug sentences

Associated Press
05/06/2008
MILWAUKEE — Two new studies show Wisconsin has the highest racial disparity in the nation when it comes to sentences for drug convictions. …

page 3


HOME DEPOT ACCUSED OF VIOLATING CIVIL RIGHTS OF JOB APPLICANTS WITH CRIMINAL RECORDS—National Employment Law Project seeking other people who have been denied employment

Two African-American men have filed charges of discrimination against Home Depot alleging that the company’s rejection of their job applications based on their past criminal records violates federal civil rights laws forbidding race discrimination because the practice has an adverse impact on African Americans and Hispanics. The charges were filed with the New York office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The charging parties are being represented by the Legal Action Center (www.lac.org), Outten & Golden LLP (www.outtengolden.com), the National Employment Law Project (www.nelp.org) and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian (www.gdblegal.com).

As part of their investigation of these claims, the charging parties counsel are interested in speaking to other African Americans and Hispanics who have been rejected for employment by Home Depot because of a past criminal record.

People in New York State should contact the Legal Action Center, 212-243-1313 (outside of NY City, call 800-223-4044), and ask to speak to a paralegal about the Home Depot case. People in California should contact the National Employment Law Project, 510-409-2427. People outside of New York or California should contact Justin Swartz at Outten & Golden, 212-245-1000.


A note from a friend at WCI

As a Wisconsin State prisoner at the Waupun “correctional” Institution (WCI), the guards, the wardens, and other administrative staff don’t have to say out loud what they really think of me and other state prisoners, (That prisoners are sub-human), they show it to us every day by exploiting our labor; by locking us up in cells – some of us double celled – that even animals would deteriorate in; by keeping us away from those we love; by instilling in our minds, fear, anger, hatred, disgust and a deep contempt for the injustices inherent in the “rule of law”; by keeping us prisoners locked up, away from, and alienated from each other when we try to educate and organize ourselves to do something about our sub-human conditions and subhuman treatment; and by subjecting us to endure years and years of this systemic dehumanization without ever knowing if, when, or how we will finally be released.

Such is the stuff that keeps Wisconsin prisons overcrowded and the recidivism rate at nearly 70% which begs the question, what are they correcting? And even more deplorable, all this state sponsored systematic dehumanization takes place in the name of “corrections” at taxpayers expense of $30,000 or more per year per prisoner!

Signed – Just another forgotten and anonymous WCI state prisoner. (I am not afraid to sign my name to this letter to the editor of WPW; I’m just not stupid enough to sign it publicly as I know if I do, I’ll end up in HSU again for stating what I know to be the facts and truth… so much for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and for freedom of speech!)
11-13-08


 

5,000 prisoners on hunger strike across Greece in demand for reforms!

All 21 Greek prisons are in the grip of prisoners 3-stage campaign in demand of 45-point reform. As part of the protest, more than 5,000 inmates are now on hunger strike.

As of Monday the 3rd of November the totality of prison across Greece are under a 3-stage campaign in demand of a 45-point reform, asking amongst other things for abolition of all juvenile prisons, greater freedoms, reduction of prison service and better conditions. The first stage of the prisoners struggle in which 8,000 out of 15,000 inmates took part consisted of refusing food from the prison catering. On Friday the 7th, 1,000 of them upgraded to the second stage of the campaign by going on hunger strike. The number of the hunger strikers today (11/7/08) is 5,120, 17 of whom have sewn their mouths. The third stage of the campaign, general uprising, looms over the prison establishment as outside the prisons solidarity campaigns are filling the streets of the Greek cities with protest marches, concerts and various forms of direct action.


 

Sen. Webb’s Call for Prison Reform

January 1, 2009
Editorial – N.Y. Times

This country puts too many people behind bars for too long. Most elected officials, afraid of being tarred as soft on crime, ignore these problems. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat of Virginia, is now courageously stepping into the void, calling for a national commission to re-assess criminal justice policy. Other members of Congress should show the same courage and rally to the cause.

….

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Prison Action Wisconsin
P.O. Box 05669
Milwaukee, WI 53205

Prison Action Wisconsin General Membership meetings are held on the second Saturday of every month at:

All God’s Children Church
3356 N. Martin Luther King Dr.
Milwaukee, WI

January 10, 2009
February 14, 2009
March 14, 2009

Committees meet more often and on different days.

We ask all prisoners to urge their family attend our meetings and support our effort. It is only through a united voice that we will be heard.

Prison Action Wisconsin asks that all who read this message call or write governor Doyle to let him know we are being victimized by Alfonso Graham and the Parole Commission. Many of our loved ones are ready to come home and we are ready to help them restart their lives.

Let the Governor know it is cruel and unusual punishment to keep families waiting, not knowing what is expected of their loved ones and what they need to do to get released.

Tell the Governor to appoint a progressive and reasonable Parole Commission Chair who will listen to the families.

PAW also asks that you call your State Senator and Representative with the same message.

We can force a change. We need to make the calls. We need to lobby the legislators. Please join us at the Capitol in February for a day of lobbying. Please make the calls.

Office of the Governor
608-266-1212

Senator Lena Taylor
608-266-5810

Senator Spencer Coggs
608-266-2500

Representative Marc Pocan
608-266-8570

Representative Leon Young
608-266-3786

Representative Tamara Grigsby
608-266-0645

Legislative Hotline
Toll-free: 1-800-362-9472

****************

WORT – Madison’s progressive, community owned, volunteer operated radio station sent holiday messages over the airwaves to those locked up behind the walls. Families called and left a recorded message for their loved one which was compiled and aired during the holiday season. We hope you caught the show. Some of the folks who called in:

Beverly Pittman, Unity Brown, Draylon Oliver, Roy Taylor, Wayco, Lavail Coleman, Chazna Hopkins, Rhonda Oliver, Duvila Rivers, Carl Brown, LaQuanda Jones, Carolyn Arrington, Rosenil Hicks, Awdarrah Bowman, Zolo Farrior, Kathleen Hart, Sarah Freeman, Montrell Oliver, Frank Van den Bosch, Avishareail Stringfellow, Cencreaha Alexander, Ajinai Kenyadah, and many others.

WORT is not a powerful radio station and many in the remote areas of Wisconsin probably didn’t get the holiday greeting so…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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ARTISTS AGAINST THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

PROJECT LODGE
817 E. Johnson St. Madison

January 30 – Feb 5
Reception, Fri., Jan 30 7pm -10pm

Gallery Hours – 10am – 5pm M-F

Sponsored by Justseeds’ Artists
Cooperative & WI Books to Prisoners,
A project of Rainbow Bookstore

Over 30 prints by printmakers nationwide addressing the use of policing, prisons and, punishment as a “solution” to social, political and, economic problems and more than 70 critical drawings by prisoners will be on display.

Artwork is welcome year around for public education.
Please send or deliver artwork to:

Wisconsin Books to prisoners
Rainbow Bookstore
426 W. Gilman St.
Madison, WI 53703

Contact: Camy or John at 608-262-9036

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WSPF – When will it ever convert into a general population?
by: Comrade Muhammad Crutchfield

For almost two years now WSPF, formerly the WI SuperMax, has supposedly been converting into a “general population” prison. Prisoners who first arrived have told me that the place has been a mess from day one, with no real format as to how it operates. I’ve been here since Sept. 17, 2008 and know from personal experience that the place is nothing more than a continued human experiment, as it was originally designed to be.

Every week there’s a new rule on top of a rule. Memos are constantly being put out by the so-called Charlie and Delta Unit Manager on just about everything you can imagine, mainly non-sense.

For instance, no prisoner can get state soap unless they are indigent. Also, only prisoners without type-writers may put in a request to use the so-called ‘law-library’ type-writer. They must get the typing ribbon from the bubble Sgt. and return it to him once done. They must also show him/her what they typed to prove that it was strictly legal materials.

About a month and a half ago a prisoner wanted to call his attorney, but had to go through all kinds of hoops. The reason being, his so-called social worker thought that the forms he produced to her (DOC FORMS) were fake, because she’d never seen them before. He was told by her that she’d been a social worker at WSPF for years and had never seen such forms, nor had she ever heard of any prisoner having a non-monitored phone call to his attorney. She told him that she “felt he was getting away with something and am going to investigate”.

Her investigation found that she’d been un-informed, WSPF was/is recording/ monitoring even prisoners attorney calls, at least one of his attorney phone calls had been “monitored” (which was quickly denied by the Warden after an outside concerned person called and inquired about the matter), and that WSPF is basically violating client/ attorney confidential rights. He was told that notices would be put up in each phone call area notifying prisoners of the bogus monitoring of even attorney calls. This was at least two months ago and still nothing is posted.

Among the numerous other problems here of major significance, the lack of contact visiting is the biggest felt, especially on those who get regular visits. Because WSPF was not designed for population there was never an area built for visiting. However, as soon as it was decreed that WSPF would be converting into a general max, it became the DOC’s responsibility to build a visiting room or convert some area in the prison into a temporary visiting room until one was built. Denying us contact visits is a violation of the WI Admin. Code (see visiting regulations regarding visits in its entirety). The WI Admin. Code clearly states that the only way a prisoners visits can be made non-contact is for punitive reasons. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I haven’t violated any WI Admin. Code, nor have my visits been restricted (except forcefully by the DOC sending me here). Rumors have it that a visiting room will be built within another one or two years.

WSPF has made an art of penny-pinching. Three times a week prisoners are fed bag breakfasts, they aren’t given state boots, no state hygiene items are given out, job wages are being intentionally kept low that normally pay higher elsewhere. The main kitchen better not catch a worker-prisoner eating an extra sugar packet or salt packet if he values his job.

There is no population here. Prisoners are constantly being put through one form of psychological game play after another by staff. Last week prisoners signed up for “rec.” only to be told they didn’t have it, even though a schedule was passed to all saying they did. After complaints, they were eventually let out that afternoon. Ironically, later that evening, the list with all of the names on it for phone calls was suspiciously “lost” and guys were told they couldn’t call their loved ones. These are just some of the problems, but the real problem is us……

DARE TO STRUGGLE!!!!!!!

“SETTLE YOUR QUARRELS, COME TOGETHER, UNDERSTAND THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION, UNDERSTAND THAT FASCISM IS ALREADY HERE.”

“DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, DISCOVER YOUR HUMANITY AND YOUR LIFE IN THE REVOLUTION. PASS ON THE TORCH, JOIN US, GIVE UP YOUR LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE.”
Comrade/Brother, George Jackson

WA-ALAYKUM AS-salaam
Comrade Muhammad Crutchfield

****************************

Free the San Francisco Eight!!!!!
Notes pertaining to SORP:
from Chris Klingeisen

The DOC is administrating Civil Punishment on the persons who are incarcerated by enforcing the policy 301.45 (10) and thus turned the punishment towards the families of the incarcerated, due to the fact that 95% of the inmates cannot afford to pay this fee. This fee has doubled, prior was $50.00 a year, now $100.00 a year. This action by itself is punishment especially when it is administered to the incarcerated. It is different when the offender is released and then he can take this responsibility. The only factor that is in question is the timing of this policy.

Also, the threat of submitting offenders to collections will cause issues in the future. This can have adverse effects on the person while he is attempting to apply for a job, (many employers look at a person’s credit history). There are some offenders like myself who have good credit and this action threatens it. Also, this action would cause issue when a person is applying for credit, DVR, school, S.S., & grants. This may seem small at first but it is major to a person who is trying to be a positive person in the community. This action over time will explode into many infractions in a person’s life. Simply by waiting when the offender is released it then would be more responsible to apply this action. In some cases, offenders may be incarcerated for a number of years and building debt. This action is added stress and possibly a factor on one’s desire to correct their issues.

****************

“The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.” – Edward Dowling

************

“…it is essential if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.” (preamble) – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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Message from Moso

Dear Comrades,

I’m writing this article to hopefully welcome our new readers. As mentioned in the last edition, there has been an effort by PAW to bring more attention to our struggle by passing out material in front of the prisons during visiting hours.

I believed this was a good idea because, as we have seen, most prisoners have not attempted to get their families and loved ones involved. We have been depending on inmates to contact their families from prison and have them sign them up or join them up with the organization.

It appears only when they face adversity and experience abuse of power by correctional officials by getting a unjustified conduct reports or having their visitors mistreated, do they then seek assistance from a outside source once they realize they themselves have no power. But unless the organization itself has a sufficient amount of members and resources, it can help no one. So we ourselves have to be the leaders, as no one else will save us, but us.

I think Frank did a good job of explaining the different mission of this organization from that of the others. It’s nice to have them attempt to at least do something different than what a lot of progressives are doing. Now that society has made some progress with the recent election of Barack Obama, doors are about to open.

Insanity has been defined as when a person does the same thing over and over, but always expects a different result. A lot of the progressives now want to institute a lot of the same things tried in the past, in the belief that it will make things better such as treatment programs and counseling, etc., etc.

These are good intentions, but are misguided. This stuff has already been tried back in the late 60s and 70s when liberals were in control. It had a lot of beneficial results, however, we still have a lot of the same problems today as we had then.

So now, it’s time to think of a radical solution, which even the so called “Progressives” are afraid to tackle for fear of not being “politically correct”. They want to talk about: the problem of the incarceration rate. However, they don’t want to discuss the root cause of the high rate of incarceration.

Why is there no discussion of what was really behind this conspiracy called the War on Drugs? Everyone want to speak on the ill effects of drugs and how it is destroying communities and society. That’s really a sham. The drugs are not what’s causing the crime and violence, instead it is the laws that are the culprit. It is the enactment of these draconian laws that has reinvented prohibition.

Most have some limited knowledge of history – it was prohibition that gave rise to the “gangster age”. It was only after seeing the effects on the White Majority population, (mass arrests and prison sentences), that a Constitutional Amendment was passed, to abolish the Prohibition Act. However, the effects of the prohibition laws were studied and mastered by social scientists, to where they have now been reapplied to carry out a agenda of political power, population control, and subversion of the United States Constitution.

The only way these power hungry “one worlders” can take people’s rights away, is if citizens voluntarily give them up. Before Bush and his backers so clumsily exposed this secret technology and plot under the guise of the war on terror, it was being used to target people and organizations under the guise of the war on drugs. They already knew the prohibition of drugs would cause rival drug gangs and warfare, armed robberies and violent crimes, just as gangsters did back in the prohibition era, lured by profits and riches. This is assured by making the product illegal. Look at the prisons today. Once we could buy tobbacco in pouches which cost about 85 cents. However, now that this item is “prohibited”, the same item will sell for over $50.00 a pouch.

The same principle applies. Thus, it is the law that is causing the destruction of poor people and making them “victims” of the conspiracy. This is why over 80% of us are in prison. We walked into the trap and many more will follow unless and until we deal with the real causes of these social ills. As long as they have the community’s eyes stuck on the trick that the drugs are the problem, and the false “solution” to stop using, selling and buying drugs, they will be blind to the real crooks who knows it is the law (which they control), that is the real enemy. However, it is politically incorrect to say drugs should not be illegal even though they were only made illegal as part of a conspiracy. So even though it’s the truth, it is a radical truth whose time for light has come.

For those who have access to a library, a book entitled Down by the River, authored by Charles Bowden, reveals a lot of information and history about the secret dealings of the United States Government and the Mexican Government and this fake “war on drugs” and its real purpose. So it will be the WPW that will be reporting on and organizing to address such topics.

Additionally, who is advocating for the prisoner victims to these past plots? Who speaks for those who have been given these life ending terms of incarceration for crimes like armed robbery, burglary, felony murder, etc., etc.? Who will expose how they stacked the state Courts with these Federalist Judges, (which is a judicial cult), bent on protecting the corporate and police state interests against the little people who have no power?

With sufficient political power, relief could be gained by organizing and getting the political power to have laws changed to where inmates can get adequate post conviction relief and sentence modifications. When these extreme Right Wing Republicans were in power, they pretty much shut the door to make sure a lot of their handy work does not get undone. We have to change that. And as the recent election of Barack Obama has shown, if you organize from the grass roots, ordinary people can do extraordinary things. If you want justice and relief, get involved and support the WPW and PAW. More information will be submitted in future editions.

MoSo


“What is the great American sin? Extravagance? Vice? Graft? No; it is a kind of half-humorous, good-natured indifference, a lack of “concentrated indignation” as my English friend calls it, which allows extravagance and vice to flourish. Trace most of our ills to their source, and it is found that they exist by virtue of an easy-going, fatalistic indifference which dislikes to have its comfort disturbed….The most shameless greed, the most sickening industrial atrocities, the most appalling public scandals are exposed, but a half-cynical and wholly indifferent public passes them by with hardly a shrug of the shoulders; and they are lost in the medley of events. This is the great American sin.”: Joseph Fort Newman, Atlantic Monthly, October 1922

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The United States: A Country Without Mercy

By Paul Craig Roberts

December 16, 2008 The Christmas season is a time to remember the unfortunate, among whom are those who have been wrongly convicted.

In the United States, the country with the largest prison population in the world, the number of wrongly convicted is very large. Hardly any felony charges are resolved with trials. The vast majority of defendants, both innocent and guilty, are coerced into plea bargains. Not only are the innocent framed, but the guilty as well. It is quicker and less expensive to frame the guilty than to convict them on the evidence.


Wrongful Convictions

Results of a Washington and Lee School of Law examination into the principle causes of wrongful convictions.

DNA Inclusions *
Other Forensic Inclusions *****
False Confessions ************
Informant/Snitches ************
False Witness Testimony ************
Bad Lawyering **************
Microscopic Hair Comparison ****************
Defective/Fraudulent Science ********************
Prosecutorial Misconduct ***********************
Police Misconduct **************************
Serology Inclusion ***************************
Mistaken Identification *******************************************
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

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WISCONSIN PRISON WATCH NEWSLETTER
SUBSCRIPTION FORM

Dear Prison Watch,

Please subscribe me to your newsletter

Enclosed is a remittance in the required amount (please check one)

I am currently incarcerated in the state of __________________ ___ $5.00 per year

I am an “outside” friend, relation, or supporter of a prisoner ___ $15.00 per year

I work for the DOC, FBI, ATF, DEA, CIA, Milwaukee Police Dept. ___ $100.00 per year

Please also accept $_________ as a donation to be used in the struggle for justice.

Postage stamps are acceptable as payment.

Please send your newsletter to:

Name____________________________________DOC#___________

Institution________________________________________________

Address__________________________________________________

City_____________________________State_______ZIP___________

Remit to: Wisconsin Prison Watch – […]

Wisconsin Prison Watch – November 2008 Newsletter

Friends,

By the time you receive this newsletter we will have elected a new president. The important word in the last sentence is ‘we’, because the right to vote is not available to thousands of Wisconsin citizens. About 70,000 Wisconsinites are under some sort of oppressive state authority. Not all of those 70,000 are precluded from voting, but most are. Many of those denied the right to vote are working and paying taxes which makes us wonder about the taxation without representation issue. Who is representing us?

Aside from the voting problem, census figures show the 53rd state assembly district claims about 5,000 prisoners as “constituents” of that district even though their legal residences are elsewhere – mostly from Milwaukee Co. These census figures are important in proportioning seats in the legislature and funds (Federal and others) to those communities.
*****************
As a note of clarification, our WPW legal team is engaged in research and the evaluation of general legal questions about the criminal (in)justice and prison system. The team is not a legal resource for specific legal questions about pending litigation or procedures. Any opinions given will address general topics of legal process. We cannot offer legal assistance to prisoners.
*****************
Have you been getting the proper and prescribed treatment for your Hep-C? Prisoners in Illinois won a huge class action suit due to lack of treatment. It appears that the Illinois and Wisconsin policies are identical and the same goes for the lack of treatment administered. We are in conversation with the attorney who won the Illinois suit. He is studying the possibility of bringing the same class action against the WIDOC. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you informed.
******************
Speaking of class action suits, has anyone heard from the folks in Frisco, TX and the Parole class action suit? We haven’t. We became concerned a couple of months ago when communication ended and the primary architect of this suit filed a parole related suit on his own behalf. Of course he claimed that, if he wins, it will help all similarly situated prisoners. We’ve heard that before and it appears that his appeal for “class members” was a way to bolster his own case and argument. That’s how we see it; let’s hope we’re wrong.
********************
The rally in front of DOC headquarters turned out pretty well considering how the effort was undermined by the “leader” of PAM who actually sent out an email to around 150 prison activists, legislators and press that the “rally has been canceled”. We’ll not speculate on the motivations but suffice it to say that the PAM leadership has developed a cozy relationship with Alfonzo Graham. I’m going to be generous here and attribute this stupid behavior to naiveté and a belief that “working with the system” will get something accomplished.

Hence the split and new organization called Prison Action Wisconsin. This split has been another frustrating setback in the organizing effort, but it was essential. Aside from the above described foolishness PAM was also heading down the “post release assistance” path intent on becoming another toothless organization looking to feel good about itself by “helping” returning prisoners. The mission of addressing conditions of confinement and parole abuse were becoming secondary to the mission.

PAW will remain focussed on the criminality of the DOC in their abusive treatment of prisoners; on the degrading and inhuman warehousing of our loved ones; on the utter failure of the DOC to complete its stated mission; on the merry-go-round of needed programs – parole consideration – early release – carrot dangling manipulation.

One of our comrades, 15 years in on an excessive 30 sentence just came up for parole. He had over 100 letters of support, letters from State Representatives, a letter from one of the jury members who was shocked at the original sentence. No conduct reports in over 10 years, a job waiting, family waiting, lots of support. He got a 36 defer. Just another example of the ideologically driven parole commission.
*******************
The ten year Critical Resistance anniversary conference in Oakland, CA was a great gathering of prison abolitionists and activists. Former Panthers, community organizers and young anarchists all came together for a weekend of networking and workshops. The primary message coming out of all the talks and workshops was ORGANIZE!!! Organize in the communities, organize in the prisons, organize, organize, organize.

Attending the CR10 conference reinforced the truth that PRISONS DO NOT SOLVE SOCIETAL PROBLEMS – THEY MAKE THEM WORSE. If you think prisons are about rehabilitation and punishment, you’re looking at it the wrong way, prisons are about controlling populations, poor populations. As our economies collapse and jobs become even scarcer, we can expect desperation and crime to increase. As state budgets tighten we will see a tug of war for funds; social programs will be slashed as repressive systems get funding, speeding up the regressive spiral. The next few years will be very interesting and if we prepare, if we organize, we will be able to resist the oppressive machine. We can either hang together or separately hang.

in solidarity, WPW & PAW

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Employment Discrimination Based Upon Arrest and Conviction Record
by Dujuan Walker

In my last piece I discussed the John Doe Statute and how this statute may be used by prisoners to help enforce their rights. In this issue I will address a legal problem which seems to plague almost every prisoner upon their release to the community: Illegal employment discrimination based on arrest and conviction record. Many former prisoners are finding that employers are basing their decision not to hire strictly upon the former prisoner’s past criminal background. In many situations, as I will discuss below, this practice is illegal and in violation of Wisconsin State Statutes s.. 111.335 et. seq. If you are discriminated against based upon your arrest and conviction record, you may be able to recover damages in civil court AND get the employer to hire you at that place of employment. The following information is quoted directly from a fact sheet published by the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division (ERD-7609-P).

How does the law define (Wisconsin Fair Employment law, Wisconsin Statutes. 111.31-111.395) arrest record?
Arrest record is defined as information that a person has been questioned, apprehended, taken into custody or detention, held for investigation, arrested, charged with, indicted or tried for any felony, misdemeanor or other offense by any law enforcement or military authority.

How does the law define conviction record?
Conviction record is defined as information indicating that a person has been convicted of any felony, misdemeanor or other offense, has been judged delinquent, has been less than honorably discharged, or has been placed on probation, fined, imprisoned or paroled by any law enforcement or military authority.

Can an employer discharge a current employee because of a pending criminal charge?
No. An employer may, however, suspend an employee, if the offense-giving rise to the pending criminal charge is substantially related to the circumstances of the particular job or licensed activity.

Can an employer refuse to hire a person because or a record of arrests that did not lead to conviction?
No. An employer is not allowed to ask about arrests, other than pending charges.

What can an employer ask regarding arrest and conviction records?
An employer may ask whether an applicant has any pending charges or convictions, as long as the employer makes it clear that these will only be given consideration if the offenses are substantially related to the particular job. An employer cannot, legally, make a rule that no persons with conviction records will be employed. Each job and record must be considered individually.

Can an employer refuse to hire an applicant because of a lengthy record of convictions or conviction for a crime the employer finds upsetting?
An employer may only refuse to hire a qualified applicant because of a conviction record for an offense that is substantially related to the circumstances of a particular job. Whether the crime is an upsetting one may have nothing to do with whether it is substantially related to a particular job.

What is meant by substantially related?
The law does not specifically define it. The “substantially related” test looks at the circumstances of an offense, where it happened, when, etc. – compared to the circumstances of a job – where is this job typically done, when, etc. The more similar the circumstances, the more likely it is that a substantial relationship will be found. The legislature has determined that certain convictions are substantially related to employment in child and adult caregiving programs regulated by the Department of Health and Family Services.

What if an employer believes a pending charge or conviction is substantially related but the employee or applicant believes it is not?
In this situation, the employee or applicant may file a complaint and the Equal Rights Division will make a determination as to whether there is a substantial relationship, with either party having the right to appeal the decision.

Can an employer refuse to hire or discharge a person with a pending charge or conviction because other workers or customers don’t want the person with a conviction there?
No. The law makes no provision for this type of problem. The employer must show that the conviction record is substantially related to the particular job. Co-worker or customer preference is not a consideration.

Is it a violation of the law if the applicant’s conviction record is a part of the reason “for not being hired, but not the who!e reason?
Yes. A conviction record that is not substantially related to the particular job should be given no consideration in the hiring process.

How should an applicant answer questions on an application regarding conviction record?
It is best to answer all questions on an application as honestly and fully as possible, and to offer to explain the circumstances of the conviction to the employer.

Should an employer ask about the circumstances of a conviction during an interview?
Yes. An employer must obtain enough information to determine if the conviction record is substantially related to the job. If the employer decides there is a substantial! relationship, employment may be refused but the employer must be prepared to defend the decision if the applicant believes there is not a substantial
relationship and files a complaint.

What should a person do if refused employment or discharged because of an arrest or conviction record (that is not substantially related)?
Complaints about violations of the law protecting persons from discrimination because or arrest and/or conviction may be filed with:

State of Wisconsin Department Of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division
201 E Washington Ave. Room A300
P.O. Box 8928
Madison, WI 53708
Telephone: (608) 266-6860

819 N. 6th Street
Room 255
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Telephone: (414) 227-4384

For more information on this issue see, for example, County of Milwaukee v. LIRC, 139 Wis. 2d. 805, 407 N.W. 2d. 908 (1987). Keep in mind that the filing of a complaint with the Equal Rights Division is a prerequisite to filing any court action against the employer for refusing to hire you based upon arrest or conviction record or firing you because of arrest and conviction record. You have 300 days from the date of the incident to file a complaint with the ERD or else your issue is time-barred. In many cases, the issue is resolved without litigation ever being necessary. Many employers would rather just hire a former prison than deal with litigation by the former prisoner or his/her attorney. Also, the ERD may find during their investigation that the employer did in fact discriminate against you because of your past. Many employers try to cover it up by listing some false reason for refusing to employ people but still many employers will admit that they “Do not hire felons” or “Will not consider non-competitive (felon)” applicants. Either way, we need to make sure that these employers are held responsible for their violations of the law and crimes against the public.

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Census Bureau counts Wisconsin prisoners in wrong place; access to state and county government distorted
Prison Policy Initiative

The federal Census counts state and federal prisoners as part of the local population, and that creates big problems for state and local government, charges a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative.

“Governments rely on the Census to count the population so they can update legislative districts,” said Prison Policy Initiative Executive Director and report co-author Peter Wagner. The Supreme Court’s “One Person One Vote” rule requires that legislative districts each contain the same number of people, so that each person has the same access to government. “Unfortunately, the Census Bureau has counted 20,000 prisoners in the wrong place,” said Wagner.

Historically, Wisconsin’s state legislative districts are drawn by federal judges and far more equal in population than in most states. “Only 4 states drew more perfect districts” said report co-author John Hejduk. “But we found a district where 10% of the population is prisoners; that’s a problem 5 times larger than what the federal judges who drew the districts were trying to avoid.”

“The problem is even larger in some rural areas,” said Wagner. The report, Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin, finds rural county and city government districts that are as much as 79% prisoners. “This allows the real residents of a district with a prison to unfairly dominate their local government.”

The report calls on Wisconsin to lobby the Census Bureau to change how prisoners are counted; and urges counties and cities with prisons to follow the lead of Michigan’s counties and draw legislative districts that are not based on flawed Census counts of prisoners.

Counting incarcerated people as residents of prison towns skews demographic data

Counting incarcerated people as if they were residents of prison towns leads to misleading portrayals of such communities.

Wisconsin has the second highest Black incarceration rate in the country,[4] and the fifth highest racial disparity in incarceration,[5] with Blacks 10.6 times as likely to be in prison as Whites. Counties with large prisons, though, tend to be disproportionately White: 87% of the state and federal prison cells are located in counties that are have a larger White population than the state as a whole. In Dodge County, 89% and in Marquette County, 91%, of the Black population reported in the Census is not residents, but prisoners.[6]

The prison communities also tend to be small enough that incarcerated populations are a significant portion of the total “residents” counted by the Census. Twenty-four percent of the population reported in the Census for Waupun City (in Dodge and Fond du Lac Counties) is actually prisoners at the Waupun, Dodge and John C. Burke Correctional Facilities. About 5% of the “residents” counted in Dodge and Jackson Counties are actually prisoners. In Marquette County, more than 8% of “residents” are incarcerated.[8]

There is also a geographic disparity in who goes to prison in Wisconsin. The residents of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Rock counties are much more likely to be incarcerated than the residents of other counties. The residents of Milwaukee County are more than twice as likely to be in prison than the average resident of the state, and more than 7 times as likely as the residents of prison-hosting Dodge County. Milwaukee County contains 18% of the state population and is home for 42% of its prisoners.[7]

The Census Bureau’s practice of counting prisoners as residents of the prison location complicates using the Census for demographic analysis of rural communities, but this problem is overshadowed by the serious damage the prisoner miscount does to state and local democracy.

Redistricting and “One Person, One Vote”

The basic principle of American representative democracy is that every vote must be of equal weight. When governments draw districts with equal populations, they ensure that each resident has equal access to government, no matter where she or he lives. When districts are of substantially different sizes, the weight of each vote starts to differ: in underpopulated districts, each vote is worth more, and in overpopulated districts, a vote is worth less.

The U.S. Supreme Court first declared that the “One Person, One Vote” principle applied to state legislative redistricting in the 1963 landmark case Reynolds v. Sims.[9] The Court struck down an apportionment scheme for the Alabama state legislature that was based on counties and not population. In 1960 Alabama, Lowndes County, with 15,417 people, had the same number of state senators as Jefferson County, with 634,864 people, giving the residents of sparsely-populated Lowndes County 41 times as much political power as the residents of densely-populated Jefferson County. The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause required that districts be drawn to be substantially equal in population.

Subsequent U.S. Supreme Court cases defined the limits of “substantially equal.” In White v. Regester, the Court ruled that the State of Texas was not required to justify how it drew lines resulting in an average district deviation of less than 2% and a maximum deviation of 9.9%.[10] Today, most states draw their districts so that the smallest district is no more than 5% smaller, and the largest no more than 5% larger, than the average district. This keeps the difference between the largest and smallest district within 10%.

Wisconsin has historically applied a much higher standard, drawing districts with a maximum deviation of less than 2%. Only four states currently have districts that are more equal in population than Wisconsin’s.[11] For three decades, federal judges have drawn the state Assembly and Senate legislative district maps. In 1982, at the first redistricting since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas to have a population deviation of 10%, the federal judges who drew Wisconsin’s districts set a higher standard, explaining that “We believe that a constitutionally acceptable plan should not deviate as high as 10%, and should, if possible, be kept below 2%.”[12] The plan they drafted met even that high standard: “The deviation in our plan is a scant 1.74%.”[13]

In 1992, the court drew a plan with an even smaller total deviation from exact population equality: 0.52%.[14] In 2002, the court drew a plan with a deviation of only 1.48%, still within the 2% threshold established in 1982.[15]

Wisconsin rightly prioritizes population equality when drawing districts, but the Census Bureau has undermined these efforts by crediting thousands of prisoners to the wrong place.

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Freedom
by Phillip Torsrud
WCI, Waupun, WI

Many entities like taking credit for the freedom that the American people have. Politicians, the military, even the media at times use the mantra, “fighting for our freedom”. It’s a surprise that the scientists and engineers who develop our weapons don’t feel the need to explain that if they didn’t invent the atom bomb, stealth bomber, M-16, etc…, we would not be the “leader of the free world”. Perhaps the billions of dollars we spend on our weapons industries keeps them from wasting time explaining how much we need them to maintain our freedom.

The problem is that a free country cannot remain so if people believe that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide them with their freedom as though it were a service. The justification for personal freedom is that people have a conscience that makes them aware of the significance of being free and the faculties to exercise that freedom responsibly. When people lack a conscience or are irresponsible, they are sanctioned through a loss of freedom. This can range from taking away someone’s driver’s license to putting them in prison.

While sanctions have always existed, the current trend of legislating away personal freedom is a reaction to a tremendous number of irresponsible people who abuse their freedoms. Rather than do the real work needed to develop’ a society of educated, fully developed adults who can function in a free society, people are satisfied with simply reiterating the sanctions we’ve always had by passing a new law. This is an offered service, which only results in empowering the government. Does this address the dysfunctional nature of the people who abused their freedom? Empowering the individual to take responsibility for their community and self is the only workable solution in a free society.

Freedom is a revolutionary idea, and only in recent history became a social norm. As societies constantly organize and reorganize, whatever party takes on the power of the establishment in our ever shifting political landscape will try to control people, markets, ideas, etc… to serve their agenda. Therefore, the individual is always faced with the dilemma of conforming, or staking out their values against the herd of sheep who will trample over their own freedoms in pursuit of a leader who promises to do their work for them. Free societies depend on individuals with the backbone to reject these false promises and thereby manifest their identity and maintain their culture.

Today, Americans have a false sense of freedom that is manifested in style, not substance. Through the clothes they wear, the way they talk, tattoos, body piercing, or even riding a motorcycle, Americans like to present a facade~ of having a rebel mentality, implying how deeply they value freedom. Yet when a problem arises, the first institution they call on to solve it, is the government. No matter what the cost in freedom or money, only the government is thought of as having any problem solving ability.

In France, there are 63,000 inmates in prison, and 1,100 are for terrorist related activity. That works out to almost 1,000 inmates for every million people. Wisconsin would have around 5,000 inmates at those rates, but instead has over 23,000 inmates, and zero for terrorist related activities. Paris itself has more people that all of Wisconsin, and has more visitors per year than any place on earth, some of whom commit crimes.

After liberating France from the Germans, the French now value freedom more than Americans. In France, incarceration is only used when absolutely necessary. Why is it the last option? So that the government can invest in an educational system that is far better than ours, national health care, and an infrastructure that makes people want to go there to live or travel. It’s called having your priorities straight. Since the French are educated, they would never allow their politicians to use fear to turn their nation into a police state. Only people with a slave mentality would sacrifice their future by wasting so many precious resources on institutions that only offer the illusion of safety.

Freedom starts in the mind. it is an idea that once embraced becomes an attitude. When a sufficient number of people adopt that attitude it becomes a movement. When that movement is successful, a society begins to have institutions that reflect that attitude in their policies. The reason that America’s national anthem ends with, “in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” is because freedom and bravery go hand in hand. The freedom to live a worthwhile life will never be risk free. America will never be a free country until it stops living in fear.

**********

The Day My Mother Was Sent Away
by Wenona Thompson

The day my Mother was sent away

The day my mother was arrested was the beginning of my life’s destruction.

No one will ever actually understand me until their mother is legally separated from them.

I know what my mother did was wrong, or against the law, but I already don’t have a father now they done took away my mother.

I can’t seem to understand this, for where is my mandatory love, attention, discipline, understanding, and home education gonna come from?

A lot of people assume that my mother is the cause of these changes. But regardless of who cause such problems, the consequence are not solving them.

For so long I tried to make sense out of these state rules and regulations, but for some reason I can’t understand why there isn’t any alternative punishment for crime-convicted mothers with babies.

I know this may not be true, but is the state trying to rectify the problem, prolong it, or maybe just create something totally new? Hmm, I truly don’t know.

I’m now an older lady with children of my own, facing many issues not only within myself, but also the issues of my mother, who I impatiently await to re-meet.

I sometimes ask myself if this punishment my mother and I are receiving is accurate. In all honesty I say it is not, for this was my mother’s first offense and the crime was not violent.

But still, the state changed my life goals and also the goals of my mother, my children, and my sisters and brothers the day my Mother was sent away.

This story is one of many wonderful, heartbreaking stories excerpted from the zine:

WRITERS BLOCK: The voices of women inside

available from:
Women and Prison Program
c/o Beyondmedia Education
4001 N. Ravenswood Ave. #204C
Chicago, IL 60613

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Gil Scott-Heron -1975

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

*******************
Et Cetera

Secondhand Hearsay

The editor of WPW was with a lawyer supporting a lawsuit initiated by an ex-prisoner. The lawyer mentioned an interesting story, as follows: He was at a dinner party with some muckymucks (judges, DAs, lawyers, etc.) including a high ranking member of the DOJ. The DOJ official told him that he knows the DOC is corrupt and they (the DOJ) were silently pleased that a few good lawyers and prisoners were bringing some of the abuses to light so the corruption can be weeded out. This story should be a shout out to all jail-house lawyers – give yourself a pat on the back! The work you are doing does matter! There is an understanding, throughout the system, that the DOC is out of control. Keep up the good work!

********

Institutional Inertia or, On the Job Training

A prisoner at WSPF created a disturbance at his cell door when he knocked his meal tray off the door trap, into the hall. Two guards were at the scene, a new guy and a long timer. After some words, the long timer kicked the trap shut. A day or two later the CR arrived indicating how the prisoner had misbehaved. Later, the prisoner asked the new guard why there was no mention of how the other guard had kicked the trap shut. The new guard said, “I included that in my report but the white shirt had me rewrite it, leaving that part out.” Lesson learned.

********

For Some, Rules Apply

Our friend Matlock sends us word from KMCI that Deputy Warden Beck went on a foul mouthed abusive tirade directed at a group of prisoners. This kind of behavior is specifically NOT ALLOWED and is unprofessional, so Matlock went looking for an Inmate Complaint form and discovered that retribution and cover-up are swift and sure. He received 4 CRs – inciting a riot, group resistance, failure to obey an order and, disruptive conduct. He was thrown in the hole and kicked out of his required program with only two weeks to go. After sending letters to the press and legislators and outside supporters, the two major tickets were dropped and he was offered a chance to start his programming over next month. The two tickets that remain are being contested and if we know Matlock, a lawsuit against Beck is smoking in the typewriter.

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PRISON ACTION WISCONSIN
P.O.Box 05669
Milwaukee, WI 53205
prisonactionwisconsin@gmail.com

Parole Commission Chair Alfonzo Graham
Wisconsin Parole Commission
3099 E. Washington
Madison, WI 53707

Dear Chairman Graham,

Our group has developed the following five points to express our deep frustration with the policies of your office. A clear response to these points would help us begin to understand how the Commission functions. Many of these concerns were expressed with our signs and chants in front of your office on September 22nd but we wanted to more clearly articulate these concerns and offer you an opportunity to respond.

Thank you
PAW steering committee

What we Believe, What we Want

1. We believe the Parole Commission is keeping prisoners longer than the intent of the legislature and sentencing judges. We believe the Parole Commission is keeping prisoners longer than is good for them, their families, and the community.

We want serious and realistic parole consideration at the legislatively mandated parole eligibility date.

2. We believe the Parole Commission is ideologically driven and making parole decisions based on politics.

We want the “tough-on-crime” mentality within the Parole Commission to end and parole decisions to be made on the basis of what is good for the community and good for the prisoner.

3. We believe the Parole Commission operates in a capricious and irregular manner.

We want consistency, predictability and transparency of process. We want prisoners and prisoner families to know and understand exactly what needs to be accomplished by prisoners for a meaningful parole consideration.

4. We believe the parole criteria, “has not served enough time for punishment”, is too subjective, arbitrary and beyond the scope of the Commission.

We want that criteria eliminated, as the punishment time was determined by the sentencing judge who was aware of all the facts of the case and who was guided by legislative intent.

5. We believe the criteria for meaningful parole consideration are ambiguous and the commission has no “standard” for measuring a prisoner’s success.

We want the Parole Commission to develop a standard model of criteria that gives guidance to parole commissioners, prisoners and DOC staff on the “parolability” of individual prisoners.

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Hunger Strike Continues
by Warren Lilly #447655
New Lisbon Correctional

A friend of mine, upon hearing that I’d been maced and tazered by the guards at New Lisbon prison, urged me to “make them earn their pay” by continuing my hunger strike. I appreciate the support. I’ve refused prison food and authority for over four years and will not bow down, even to escalating violence.

However, something bothered me about my friend’s statement of support. That something was his unwillingness to “make them earn their pay.” During my four years of hunger striking I’ve met hundreds of prisoners who’ve stood behind my strike, way, way behind it. So far behind that they actually became invisible. I could still hear their distant and muffled shouts of “Go for it!”, but I just couldn’t see who was shouting it.

Such distant support makes it impossible t fight anything but a very lopsided war. One where the enemy, the Justice system, freely and purposely destroys our lives while we, the prisoners, just as freely give up our lives and freedoms.

We cower in the face of the imagined indestructibility of our enemy. We make it easy for our enemy to scorn, despise, and abuse us. We believe their propaganda that says we we are worthless and powerless, and that they have the right to control and waste our lives.

We fear to take even the riskless chances to fight for freedom and life or to assert our personhood. Less than a hundred of the twenty-two thousand prisoners answered my call to fast with me on Sundays then to send our moralless governor a letter demanding change.

To those who fasted I send my heartfelt thanks and ask you to continue fasting and recruit others. Hold a “fast-in” after the skipped meals to gather and write letters of support for the cause and protest of imprisonment to the governor.

To those who fear to fast, I ask what risk is there in forsaking a meal in support of a stand, or writing a letter of protest? We have let our fears conquer our personhood and rule our reason, and by doing so have abandoned life and liberty in favor of the false safety of cowardice.

I’m reminded of the time in my youth when people would say “when the revolution comes I’m gonna…” Well, the revolution never came because no one brought it forth. Now, like then, people sit and wait for others to blaze the trail so that they can travel it without sacrifice, without difficulty, without personal strife.

I waited forty years for the revolution to come. I let the world go from bad to worse, and now at nearly sixty years of age, the truth has dawned on me, a very simple truth: If it’s to be, it’s up to me.

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me”. So powerful a revelation in such a simple and yet painfully obvious truth. A god is not coming to save me or make right the wrongs of others, good is not about to spring from bad nor virtue from evil, and the only thing that will happen to those who treat me cruelly is that they will prosper upon my misery. Those are the lessons of life. Another lesson, a hope filled one, is that those who strive for justice and peace and freedom achieve it.

The revolution is here, the revolution is now, do something to sustain it, stand up for something. Begin by reading the letter to the governor and understanding this protest, then hold a “fast-in” and get those letters mailed. Find a non-violent way to “make them earn their pay”.

Stop buying the propaganda that your life is worthless, that you are powerless, and that they have the right to control and waste your life. Stop cowering before the paper tigers and giant shadows cast by imperious runts. Abandon your fears, be driven by the simple truth, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”.

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REVOCATION: The Life Blood of Corrections
by Mike Weston #000155
RCI, Sturtevant, WI

Late in his tenure as secretary of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Michael Sullivan said on television that men would “No longer be sent back to prison for rule violations”. The sole exception to this radical mandate would be failing a urinalysis test, implying possession and use of forbidden head candy.

Given that the never-ending flow of humans returned to the doc as rule violators never ended, it is eminently logical to hold that king Tommy Thompson promptly called Sullivan and demanded of him a reply to “ What the hell are you doing!?” The new policy was silently rescinded…..

The king was erecting his prison empire and here one of his lap dogs was attempting to abort the birth by terminating the death march from liberty to the slow death chambers of the DOC.

Since some 54% of the prison population is comprised of probation and parole (P+P) violators, it is uniquely self-evident that the system would collapse were the DOC’s division of community corrections (DCC), under whose egis exist the apparatchiks of P+P, the agents, indeed ordered to cease revocating all those who have not violated a statute (and releasing now all those returned for violations).

When one rationally presumed sanity might crawl out from ‘neath the detritus of the king’s reign with the ascension to the throne of Jim Doyle, an alleged democrat who, erroneously it appears, was touted as left-to-moderate on social issues, all that really eventuated is that Doyle is the mirror-image of his supposed arch enemy and nemesis, King Tommy.

When it comes to “corrections”, both willingly sacrifice lives and untold wealth from the pockets of citizens. So as to maintain the prison empire at its artificially inflated state of over 22,000 prisoners.

Tommy did it deliberately, Doyle is too afraid to end the farce which has the DOC at least twice the size it should be by all rational and realistic determinants. For example, Minnesota’s prison population is 7,000. Wisconsin and the Gopher state are virtual clones in that all of the relevant demographics are mirror-images of one another.

The populations are the same, numerically, racially, economic status, education and the like; crime rates and offenses categories match well as do arrests and convictions. And yet, Minnesota knowingly incarcerates two-thirds less people than “wonderful WIsconsin”. Why here?

Indeed, on a per capita basis, Wisconsin is a “leader” in locking way human beings, despite the fact that our crooks, as a rule, are virtual “pussycats” compared to criminals in most other states! For instance, which Wisconsin warden would “trade” his prisoners one-for-one with the warden of San Quentin? Again, why here?

In the December 2007 issue, in their article on parole and politics in WIsconsin, the authors provided the answer by quoting U.W. Law professor Walter Dickey’s public statement; “men are being kept in prison because of money and politics”. Obviously, they cannot be kept there if not first sent there…. and remember, Professor Dickey was the first DOC secretary, he knows of what he speaks – while Doyle and State and Federal Justice personnel ignore the criminal activity implicit in Dickey’s charge.

The criminal justice” and “corrections” systems are growth industries and are subsidized by Wisconsin and federal funds flooding law enforcement and corrections like hurricane rains. No other industry has the stability, money and growth potential of the DOC – the fat sow at the public trough gulping down more tax dollars than any other element of Wisconsin government.

The plethora of “correctional” facilities planted throughout the kingdom by Tommy are the cash cows for the locales in which they fester. Tommy gained power and support from weed beds as well as “rewards” from the Federal government for locking up everyone in sight, i.e., the poor and minorities, and bribes from construction companies and others building and equipping the prison empire: they donated millions to Tommy’s campaign, to his puppet successor, McCallum, and to our “enlightened” current governor, remember “money and politics” rule in sending people to and keeping them in prison…

There is a distinct racial factor in all of this: Milwaukee and Racine, more than other counties, deny legitimate opportunities to minorities and then jail them at record rates when they rebel at being suppressed and denied their humanity.
It is fully documented that WIsconsin owns the nation’s highest incarceration rate of minorities: further, over two-thirds of Wisconsin prisoners are African American. Another effect of racism is that many lack educational levels commensurate with their ages. This debilitation is both aggravated and reinforced by the deficient, nickel and dime DOC education system which is little more than a mill grinding out “graduates” now blessed with a GED certificate signifying nothing of merit.
These “programs”, completely devoid of substance and depth, are offered under the guise of “rehabilitation”, but are either debilitating or serve simply to reinforce the criminality they purport to treat.

The manifest and cumulative results of incarceration, ever demonstrable, are in fact the stated reinforcement of criminality leading to the DOC’s egregious failure to redirect the lives of prisoners. The goal of the DOC (it is clear), its very raison d’etre (reason for existence), is infact to ensure recidivism.

The methodology is simple: The economic and political systems create criminals, their “criminal justice” system sends the felons to the DOC which later sends those people to the DCC who then seek out petty, trivial or false “reason” to revocate one’s liberty. The DCC files revocation papers with the third leg of this eternal triangle, the department of administration’s division of hearings and appeals who send the violators back to the DOC!

Once the revocation process begins, fughetdaboutdit! administrator David Schwarz rarely reverses a verdict to revoke liberty: he and his boss, DOA secretary Mike Morgan, are also Doyle lap dogs ordered to revocate as many probationers and parolees as possible to maintain the inflated prison population.

The system is clear: send people to the DOC, reinforce their problems, send them to the DCC, find “reasons” to revoke, send them to DOA’s hearings and appeals who then ship them back to the DOC – round and round she goes, where she stops is the permanent count of 22,000 humans in prison on a daily basis.

Doyle prides himself on adopting two African American boys and on his support for Senator Obama, while he oversees a racial disaster in the state and in the DOC – his DOC.

Doyle and his crew fear that if the river to nowhere ended, half to DOC would shut down: that is not true. Every facility is overcrowded, if all rule violators were released each facility would still have all their beds filled when they go from the current four, three or two in a room to single man rooms.

This would free up the people, time and resources to truly attempt to help those in prisons sent by the courts, not DCC and DOA for a rule violations.

Governor, implement Sullivan’s aborted policy to not revocate for rules violations…

**********

WANTED – ARTWORK BY PRISONERS

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners was the recipient of a powerful set of posters created by 20 printmakers from the JUSTSEEDS Visual Resistance art collective. These posters were created in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of Critical Resistance, a prison abolitionist movement, and call attention to the human rights catastrophe in U.S. jails and prisons, and the use of policing, prisons and punishment as a “solution” to social, political and economic problems.

The posters and artwork by prisoners will be displayed at a gallery in Madison –mostly likely in February of 2009. Art that addresses the condition of prisons and the daily drudgery and cruelties of prison life would be particularly appreciated.

Please do not send anything that you want returned or is not copyright free. Also, please let us know how you wish to be (or not be) identified. Many thanks in advance to those who make contributions to this event.

****************************
Inmates Bring Civil Rights Class Action Against Becker County

Becker County, Minnesota and several of its law enforcement officials are facing a civil rights class action lawsuit. The suit, brought by inmates at the county jail, alleges that the county illegally monitored and possibly recorded confidential and privileged telephone calls between inmates at the jail and their attorneys.

According to the suit, the inmates of the jail and their attorneys are informed in writing that attorney/client telephone calls are confidential and consequently not subject to monitoring or recording. However, the suit alleges that illegal monitoring of telephone calls to discuss inmates’ cases has taken place, and the information gained has been used against the inmates during prosecution.

Editor’s note – This article caught our eye because we heard from a comrade at WSPF who discovered that a privileged phone call made to his attorney had been recorded. We called the warden who confirmed that “all day room phones are monitored and prisoners calling their attorneys from those phones should not expect privacy”. He also said that “we are going to post this information at those phones.” The signs were not yet posted a week after our conversation with the warden.

page 6.