Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bill Proposal for Rejuvenating Wisconsin's Failed Corrections system

Proposal for rejuvenating Wisconsin’s Failed Correctional System

Intro- the need for deep change
changes needed
Charts and explanations explaining need and why our proposals will work, keep us safe and reduce prison population at least by half.

 PREVIEW: links to proposals alone 
1) Parole rules:
2) ending revocations for non felonies -to be worked out, at this time can be bipartisan study group/

Washington State may be a good template/links to docs below.
3) Mental  Health Treatment Center modeled after the one court ordered for the women's prisons 
4) Support grants
   a)Busing to the prisons-here is proposal:
   b) POPs program- template from CA - this could be used for Old Law Prisoner and TIS prisoners
   c) refuge/self sustaining homestead for post incarceration-this is overview, details coming


The Following is for General Education and Has Details and    Arguments for our Proposal                           

REDUCE population/build a treatment center/ 
        build support systems that work

      This essay and bill proposal is written in response to the growing call in Wisconsin for building a new prison because of concern over violence in the juvenile prisons, lack of staff and extreme overcrowding and tension in the adult prisons.One of the proposals of the The DOC has been to build a prison for the elderly and handicapped and those with special needs. This same proposal was made for the building of the last new prison, New Lisbon Correctional Institution(NLCI) and as soon as it was built, the needs of the bulging correctional system overruled the need for the new building original purpose and NLCI became just another prison. The system is even more overcrowded and understaffed now.

        Whole prisons routinely go on lock down  because of staff shortages and the already sparse programming and treatment hits near zero. Particularly concerning for prisoners in general population is the frequent cancelling of rec, library, and outdoor time. All the rehabilitative tools vanish in this environment and staff shortage, particularly professional shortage of professionals ( psychology staff, health staff)are felt everywhere. The guards that remain are forced into 2 , sometimes three shifts overtime. According to An article by Pat Marley in May 2018, taxpayers paid 40 million in overtime  last year alone. The prisoners are stuffed into every crevice- often two in a single solitary cell where one person has to sleep on the floor next to the toilet. We know of three suicides and one suspicious death in the last three months in the solitary confinement units and the public is not notified, the prisoners themselves that strive to get the word out. Conditions are horrific.  
       One wise legislator said “ We are not going to build our way out of the present crisis” and he is right. Those who want the new building without changing how the DOC is run, are reveling in taxpayer money that an increasing prison population brings to their individual bank accounts.
                           We need to look at who we are holding and why

         In our view, The WI Department of Corrections is neither rehabilitating offenders nor keeping the public safe . Starting with the prison boom around 2000, the DOC powers decided to increase population at all cost in order to receive federal dollars and since has abandoned its mission completely. Now the fact of serious overcrowding and lack of staff makes any healthy DOC mission a joke. And it is this overcrowding, and resulting lack of staff ,lack of training and treatment for prisoners that needs to be addressed. This is a critical issue for taxpayers also because the funds for this boondoggle come directly from funds that used to support education and other community needs.
           We are holding over 2000- ready to be released Prisoners, all over thirty when for most crime ceases and nearly 50 percent of our prison population are there for rule violations made while on supervision or parole-non felonies! Add to this  the fact that each year the DOC is forced by law to release thousands of truth in sentencing(TIS) prisoners, mostly young men under 30, and they are almost literally dumped on the street with no treatment or training , in far worse shape  than when they entered the prison. In short, we need to look at who we are holding and why and see that only those who need to be separated from society and held in our prisons. Those who remain in prison need to be treated humanely and wisely. IF we do this, we will have system where people want to come to work, where prisoners will get the treatment and training they need. And the public will be safe while having their once incarcerated love ones back home and participating .


Here are our proposals the following charts and writings will try to explain:

A.) Reduce prison Population by Paroling those eligible and ready for release and ending  reincarcerations for non felonies.
      We have parole rule change proposals that would ensure that those that are truly ready for  release would be allowed to go home. ( click link to see rules)
Theses rules will work and as they are true to the intention of the parole rules before truth in sentencing and the prison boom came to town. Most prisoners were released after serving one quarter of their time and they did receive training and treatment and in many cases, college degrees while in prison. These proposed rules will ensure that those prisoner s that are ready will be release. All old law prisoners are over 30, many in their 60’s and 70’s and are long past any inclination to commit new crimes.
  B.) Install a real compassionate release policy for Old Law prisoners by making the executive order 31, which is disregarded by the DOC, into a statute that must be followed. The WISCONSIN prisoner system is filled with the aged and sick that should not be there, are treated poorly and pose no risk to society. Click here for Executive Directive 31
A few  years ago FFUP submitted a compassionate release application for three prisoners. It was not serious considered . We were told that they did not  meet the criteria and sited the compassionate release standards for TIS prisoners. Since then our multiple tries to get this executive order honored have failed.  These are good standards and need to be put into law in a form that cannot be ignored by the DOC. Perhaps another application submitted by all our groups is in order as it would certainly be a good education tool .
C.)End Revocations for non felonies- around half of new admissions each year are for rule violations-no new charges.( see DOC chart Page 3  ) We agree with prisoners that the system sets the prisoners up to fail- they provide no treatment and little training while in prison and then grab them back for the rule violation, ensuring taxpayers funds keep rolling in seamlessly.  

      We are working on this part of the bill and want something that not only ends revocations  without felonies but set up viable alternatives. Perhaps one approach is to have a study committee set up. The Washington state has a program we are researching which sounds promising.

Here are links to what we have now:
 1) present parole rules:
3) which brought about the 2016 guidelines which we believe are too vague and as voluntary guidelines, are generally not followed :      
 Washington State has a program that is worth studying:
1)2014 Introduction: How Swift and Certain Sanctions Changed Community Supervision in Washington State :

2)And this is an evaluation of Washington’s program:

D)Build a mental health treatment Center like the one court ordered at Taychedah  Correctional Institution ,the women’s prison in Fond du Lac and reinstate rules that bring rehabilitation back to our “Correction” system. Wisconsin knows the way to reinstate real treatment. This Treatment Center was once put in the budget to be built at CCI ( Columbia Correctional Insitution in Portage). Here are templates:
E)Eliminate Long term solitary confinement. A good model for us is the Colorado system. Rick Raemisch, former DOC secretary, now heads that system and has eliminated overuse of solitary. Solitary for more than 15 days is banned. – rules for a safe, fair , rehabilitative system are on their website:.

Note: Most of FFUP ‘s  Work is with solitary confinement prisoners and we have a multi-plaintiff lawsuit going painfully through court now. Please consider allowing us to be part of your work on this issue. We do have the data, stories and solutions. Prisoners and FFUP have worked out rules and policy changes that we feel are practical and safe.

 F)Other supports for prisoners and their families that make a successful reintegration into society more certain
          Support for prisoners soon to be released and released, projects that connect prisoners and community better/
Funding for busing coordinator and a fund to help pay for families who cannot afford fare. We have been told by 2 van owners that fares will be reduced if vans are filled and that will be coordinators main job.

        2)Ask for funding for Project patterned after POPS program CA- one paid coordinator, rest volunteers, and funding for materials/Volunteers line up supports for prisoners, help them in transition, find mentors while in prison- probably good to have someone funded who works at Project Return or with EXPO- should be an ex-prisoner. ALL old law prisoners would be eligible for program, and TIS as they come up for release. /could possibly be part of UM LAIP or WIP-or an adjacent program. Will talk to them if you agree.
         Prototype:  and here:

        3)Funding for grant writer research for many projects proposed by prisoners and their families/ others
A particularly popular one is a place of refuge for prisoners after release- some would stay temporarily, some would build their future from here- the plan is for a sustainable community. There are many of these proposals, this one, spiritually based, is the most recent:This is the vision of two prisoner, they are sending a more down -to earth plan/summation.

Why theses changes are needed, how we got here and Why they will work
 A look at the money
Taxpayers money used to support our schools and public services. In the 1990’s we had 7000 prisoners and they were sentenced by the judge knowing that they would serve 25 % of their time and after that, if their behavior was good, they would be released. All that was nixed with the prison boom and incoming truth in sentencing(TIS) . Paroles slowed to a trickle and laws made felonies out of former misdemeanors and nonfelonies and drug laws were made to target the poor communities. The prison population soared to 23,000 in WI. And we became the state with the highest black incarceration rate in the nation Here is a 2008 chart of the growth in incarceration rate done by the non profit WISTAX

Wisconsin spent $1.08 billion on corrections in 2008, compared to $460 million in Minnesota. MI has 12,000 fewer prisoners than WI with similar populations. MN puts its funding into community programs and probation, and has the same crime rate as WI. Per capita spending here was 23% above the average for the 11 states with violent crime rates comparable within 10% of Wisconsin’s ( wistax)

All this tax money spent goes to what we call “the prison industrial complex”- all the corporations and economies that feed on incarceration, and it is taken from schools and public services, treatment centers and community self help projects.

THIS is the reason our college kids reel under tuition debt- in state university tuition was around 200 dollars a semester in `the 70’s when many of the baby boomers went- Now?? 10,000 a year? Look at chart above- this is why: THIS is where is your tax money going?

Our kids reel under the burden of student debt largely because we support the corrections industry and not education. While the budget for the DOC rises (7%) in graph above for 215-17 , budget for k=12 drops by 14% and the UW system drops by 21 %. WHY? Look again at the prison population graph above: When the prison book started, around 1990, WI had about 7000 prisoners. Today it has 22,000. That is where our taxpayer money is going.

Below :An overview of Wisconsin’s shame: Highest incarceration rate of African Americans in the nation. Black men especially are funneled into our prison system- all factors exaggerate this trend l and a study by the UW Wisconsin Budget Project ( chart below) shows that  over incarceration actually causes crime. We who deal directly with prisoners often here that the younger prisoners, those on truth-in-sentencing, often never knew their dads  except on prison visiting days. The communities that were main support are broken and gangs are what these kids turn to  survive. Once out of prison, the revocation policies and lack of support make staying out a real challenge.

SO HOW would our proposal work?
       1)RELEASE PAROLE ELIGIBLE Prisoners who have shown themselves ready to be contributing members of society
       2)Reinstate real compassionate release 
       3)Stop incarcerating people on parole and community supervision for rule violations
       4)Put  money and energy saved into treatment and training and community support, make the WI DOC Fulfill its mission to rehabilitate offenders and keep citizens safe. IT does neither now.

Here are some graphs that help illustrate the problems and solutions
1  1)      We are holding people in prison long after they pose any danger to society
Crime Declines Precipitously With Age for ALL Crimes

Research has conclusively shown that long before age 50, most people have outlived the years in which they are most likely to commit crimes.  The figure below shows the percentage of individuals arrested nationally by age in 2004. Less than 6% of individuals ages 30-34 were arrested, whereas a little over 2% of individuals ages 50-54 were arrested and almost 0% of those age 65 and older were arrested. This trend of decreasing crime rates from adulthood to old age has held constant over time, as shown by the 1979 arrest curve .

Here is justice department in recidivism by age:

WI Old law inmates are all over thirty and in the main are not dangerous.
      In sum:  Studies show that most non corporate crime is committed by people under thirty. Period.  A recent and incredibly detailed study by the ACLU went state by state to get data and found that after 30, the percentage of prisoners to reoffend  was 6 %, after 55 it dropped to zero. This and studies by the FOB and other organizations  showing similar findings  need to be given much consideration when deciding whether an mature or  elderly inmate, once violent, is still a danger. People change. All old law prisoners are over thirty (crimes committed 15 plus years ago) and about a third of our nearly three thousand old law prisoners are over 55. Many are fathers, grandfathers.
We have over 2000 prisoners called ”OLD LAW”prisoners , These are people sentenced before Truth in sentencing(TIS) came to town. They were eligible to be release after serving 25 percent of their time. The judges, knowing this, would give long sentences knowing the then kid would only serve 1/4th of it if he behaved well. This worked well for decades but it the early 2000, when the federal government paid states big big bucks to keep prisoners in, The old law prisoners stopped getting paroled- the rate dropped to a trickle . It is quite a story of subterfuge and shenanigans. Follow it here:

2)Another thing to keep in mind is that our parole rules ensure that only those who have shown to be ready for release into the community are paroled.
here is a link to our proposed rules again: 

In sum: We are spending our tax dollars incarcerating people that do not need to be  there and the excuses for keeping them are usually, as stated above:
1)release at this time would involve  an unreasonable risk to the public;
2) you have not served sufficient time for punishment."

The intention of the parole statute these prisoners were sentenced under was that 25% was the time for punishment.
Our rule proposals use that marker and after that release or not depends on behavior.

Our society has not come to grips with the human rights violations and sheer inhumanity of holding the elderly in prisons, which are built for able bodied people. We are incarcerating people longer than ever before in history. Here are two excellent studies that seek to bring us to awareness.

At America's Expense, the Mass
Incarceration of the Elderly

Old in Prison by Human Rights Watch 

3)But the disaster only begins here: We are spending our tax dollars incarcerating people that do not need to be there while we neglect the treatment and training  of those that really need help- the truth in sentencing prisoners. It is a heart rending contradiction:Truth in sentencing (T-I-S) prisoner are given an out date the DOC must follow. These are mostly kids . While the DOC is spending all its resources on keeping the Old law prisoners entombed and the overcrowding has reach crisis proportions, there is no training or treatment for the vast amount of truth in sentencing prisoners. They come in drug addicted and go out drug addicted and traumatized. Our society  does not provide treatment for its mentally ill anymore unless they have big bucks so they are funneled into the prison system also. Over a third of prisoners are mentally ill we are told. And they are literally dumped on the streets with little or no support on their  law mandated release, most to be whisked back in for a rule revocation.   

Putting OLD LAW and TIS together = The DOC maintains their overcrowded prisons, and staff quitting in droves because forced overtime and rising tensions – it maintains the dysfunction with relative ease because of the policy of reincarcerating prisoners for non felonies. Some parole agents, we are told , brag of their zero success rate. What most released prisoners get: a  three month temporary room, no money , no bus pass, no phone, they get food stamps from the government and a state ID  and they get a strict curfew. Those prisoners who do have people who want to take them in are often denied for various reason- most end up in these TLPs and from there they are supposed to get a job pronto. Transportation to jobs? Phone? The activist community is working hard to connect these stranded folk with outfits that help but the need is great and the help is fledgling.

Look at this chart below, finally. Look at the second to last line: 3652 people admitted without new charges- rule violations as small as going out to get a package on the lawn after curfew or being late to an appointment.  One man was revoked for screaming “I am going to kill myself” after he was not given his medications . That screaming was labeled an “assault”. Because these people are poor and without lawyers they are putty to the justice system. 
2013-2014 had 7,071 new entries- OVER HALF, 3,652 were revocations without felonies. ( above) 


 Summation: Our dysfunctional correction system poses a real danger to society. Physical and mental abuse is rampant and although many prisoners do rehabilitate themselves , they do this in spite of the system, not with it's aid. like these men, Nelson Mandela came out of 27 years of abusive conditions as a loving man and share with the world the poem that kept his soul alive:"invictus":

This is a Poem 'Invictus' (Unconquered, Undefeated) by William Henley. Great South African
 Leader Nelson Mandela (Madiba)  was inspired by the poem, and had it written on a scrap
of paper on his prison cell while he was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,                    

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The DOC  knows the public would not stand for a any disruptions by newly released prisoners
so  they  whip them back as soon as they can for as little as they can. It’s a neat little system and now
with overcrowding the DOC, Alex Corporation and whole prison industrial complex monster are
 poised to convince us that we need a new prison,the situation is dire- the conditions are so bad
that there will be violence. 
       But crack downs and more torture will not help and neither  are new buildings without fundamental change-
 the WIDOC needs to be redirected. strongly redirected- it used to heal –  Old law prisoners got
college degrees and got out after 25% of their sentences. Rehabilitation was taken seriously and it
was a good place to work . There were resources for treating the mentally ill and sick and the
 public was welcome, families were  welcome. I am told that there used to be monthly
 pot lucks with families in the maximum prisons! And there were free buses to the prison!
       The lack of ability of poor families to get to their love ones has devastated families and
communities and all support from the outside has become ever harder  because of rules that
discouraging contact.
         Lets us think broader and deeper- punishment only does not work—it needs to be balanced
with  treatment, training  and  understanding. We, the public, are the employers of the DOC. It is
 our mission they need to implement and we say punishment needs to be balanced with
 rehabilitation and real public safety. .



          2008 rally by families of prisoners in front of the WI DOC headquarters                    FAMILIES for a  SECOND CHANCE   WE invi...