Sunday, October 13, 2019

Advocacy meetings with legislators

FFUP is currently setting up meetings with State Senators and Assembly Representatives on prison-related committees, or who represent areas that are targeted for mass incarceration.

We've researched the current legislative agenda and made the below call to action we will press on these lawmakers.

First, we are deeply concerned by the lack of any proposed legislation to address the humanitarian crisis occurring in Wisconsin's prisons. Please see our "Staffing Crowding and Death" report for an in-depth look at these conditions and their causes. For an update with recent stories, please see our October Intake Report.

Second, we've heard that there is interest in making laws that will reduce the incarceration rate and address overcrowding, which is a major contributor to poor conditions. The only law related to this which has been introduced is a marijuana legalization bill. Meanwhile, there are 20 bills that will increase incarceration by criminalizing more activities, expanding penalties and scope of existing laws or eroding protections for people targeted by the system.

Finally, we're also calling on elected officials to support three campaigns FFUP is active with, by making public statements and signing these petitions:  the CLOSEmsdf petition, the Parole Rules change petition and the Free Chrystul Kizer petition.

Read the full call to action below...

Call to action for elected officials in Wisconsin

Forum for Understand Prisons (FFUP) has been doing research on Wisconsin’s prisons and advocacy for captives held within for over 15 years. We have seen conditions degenerate into a humanitarian crisis. This is an emergency situation that every politician and government official in Wisconsin has an urgent responsibility to address.

Wisconsin prisons are incredibly over-crowded and expensive. They are staffed by people who hate their jobs, neglect their duties and abuse their captives. Wisconsin's prison system relies heavily on solitary confinement to terrorize and coerce incarcerated people. Staff in restrictive housing units mentally break people. System-wide, incarcerated people are subject to neglect and dehumanization. Rates of self-harm, deliberate indifference, prison rape elimination act (PREA) violations, suicide and premature death within Wisconsin’s prisons are staggering.

After incarceration, the Division of Community Corrections traps people in an onerous and unfair system of mass supervision that cycles people from cages to desperate poverty and back. Community supervision results in a de facto second class status, depriving people of basic rights, respect and opportunities.

Wisconsin’s prison system is also systematically racist. It’s abuse, deprivations and terror target black, brown and indigenous communities.

Justice demands radical change.

FFUP is calling on all Wisconsin representatives and senators to commit to the following:

  1. Investigate and initiate reductions or elimination of long term solitary confinement in Wisconsin prisons. There is an almost complete lack of due process for putting people in solitary under “administrative confinement (AC) status, and it seems widespread use of AC is a method by which the DOC is attempting to manage their crises in overcrowding and high turn-over. Attached is our most recent intake report, which details conditions in Wisconsin’s restrictive housing units.
  2. Investigate and address abuse of people with mental health issues in Wisconsin prisons. The DOC routinely changes diagnoses from MH1 (serious) to MH2 (not serious). Prison staff can subject a person with the less serious diagnosis to solitary confinement, restraint chairs and other abuses, so they get treatment staff to change classification. Former staff psychologist Bradley Boivin exposed this practice April of 2017 in a article, yet it continues.
  3. Support efforts to reduce or eliminate crimeless revocations, which make up half of admissions to Wisconsin prisons.
  4. Support efforts to reduce the prison population by reversing the 1999 Truth in Sentencing (TIS) law.
  5. Support efforts to reduce the prison population by increasing the use of Treatment, Alternatives and Diversion programs.
  6. Increase support for and autonomy of non-profit service providers. Funding for a variety of treatment and re-entry services need to be expanded. People on extended supervision under TIS are in particular need of support, as the DCC practices are predatory. More non-governmental organizations need to be approved and made accessible to people returning from confinement. A person’s re-entry efforts should start the first day of confinement. For example, grants for transportation of families to visit incarcerated loved ones will go further than most DOC “rehabilitation programming” efforts. A maintained connection with family is the best way to avoid recidivism, but Wisconsin prisons have a number of practices- from mail interruption to visitation barriers that seem designed to undermine relationships and cycle people back to incarceration.
  7. Support efforts to close old, deteriorating facilities in Green Bay and Waupun. With urgently needed decarceration efforts, these facilities can close without being replaced.
  8. Support efforts to also depopulate and close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. Limiting investigation holds, changing revocation and sanction policies, and providing alternative to revocation programming in community based settings will make this horrible facility in downtown Milwaukee obsolete.
  9. Help close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake without creating new youth prisons. Existing structures close to the youths’ homes can be converted into replacements for these facilities, where children have been abused, tortured and killed. Putting children in any maximum security prison environment will never be safe. Facilities should focus programming on treatment and support.
  10. Expand expand treatment programming for incarcerated people. There are model programs at Taycheedah Correctional and the Wisconsin Resource Center which prioritize mental health over punishment and give power to mental health specialists, rather than prison officials. These programs can be improved upon and made accessible to more DOC captives.

We call on you to vote against these specific bills:
  1. SB 9 / AB 18, which increases penalties for drunk driving. Criminalization and incarceration are poor replacements for addiction treatment.
  2. SB 47 / AB 35 which expands the scope of laws against battery to include speculation about the accused person's intent.

  1. SB 185 / AB 198 which expands the scope of laws against harming supervision agents to include threatening the agents. Agents often misinterpret the statements and reactions of people on supervision. Fair and respectful treatment and re-entry support are needed, not expansions of supervision agent's power to incarcerate.
  2. SB 235 / AB 259 which expands the scope of stalking laws to include text messages and online communication. Again, incarceration is a poor replacement for counseling and treatment.

  1. SB 363 / AB 454 which expands penalties for false emergency reports or "swatting". A better solution is to de-militarize the police so they cannot be weaponized in this way.

  1. SB 368 / AB 350 which adds state law penalties for money laundering. Adding people to our prisons who would otherwise be dealt with federally increases Wisconsin’s overcrowding crisis.

  1. SB 376 / AB 334 which expands firearm restrictions to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Incarceration is a poor replacement for counseling and treatment.
  2. SB 385 / AB 365 which allows law enforcement in Milwaukee to issue tickets for traffic violations based on photographic evidence. In Milwaukee every law is disproportionately enforced against low income communities of color, expanding the police’s power to extort these communities is unnecessary.

  1. SB 386 / AB 426 which expands penalties for trespassing on energy provider property. This law targets water protectors and climate activists and will further overcrowd Wisconsin’s prisons, as protest activities against energy providers will become more necessary to protect future generations from pollution and mass extinction.

  1. SB 427 / AB 480 which expands penalties for crimes against elder people. Incarceration after the harm occurred is a poor replacement for pro-active and protections for elder people.

  1. SB 469 and SB 139 / AB 152 which expands the scope of laws and penalties relating to animal abuse. Incarceration is a poor method for protecting animals from abuse.

  1. SB 346 / AB 376 which increases the already incredible difficulty of people on sex offender registry to find stable housing.

  1. SB 5 / AB 5 which expands protective occupation classification to county jailers. This retirement classification as applied to police officers is already strangling city budgets. The danger experienced physical demands on jailers (or police) relative to other occupations is exaggerated.

  1. SB 172 / AB 191 which repeals a restriction on use of billboards to hire DOC employees. Prison jobs are toxic and harmful, luring more people into these jobs is deceitful and unethical. The better solution is to reduce the prison population so fewer hires are necessary.
  2. SB 175 / 163 which expands penalty enhancements based on profession for battery to nurses. Incarceration is a poor solution for protecting nurses, treatment and support for people requiring the care of nurses is a better solution.

  1. SB 311 / 338 which creates penalty for threat to use a dangerous weapon on school property. This law will inevitably disproportionately target youth of color. Incarceration is a poor replacement for counseling and support for troubled youth.
  2. AB 416 which creates a penalty for storing an unsecured firearm in a house where a resident is prohibited from possessing a firearm. This law will disproportionately target the families and loved ones of formerly incarcerated people and add to overcrowding and race and class targeting of the prison system.

  1. AB 419 which creates a penalty for failing to report a lost or stolen firearm. New criminal penalties will add to overcrowding Wisconsin’s prisons.
  2. AB 507 which prohibits a fugitive from justice from possessing a firearm. This law will expand sentences and can be used to stack felonies and coerce plea deals, a perversion of justice commonly practiced by prosecutors.
  3. SB 70 / AB 63 which expands laws about bringing contraband into prisons to apply to people who bring prohibited items in with intent to keep the object themselves.

We support, and call on you to vote in favor of the following bills:

  1. SB 377 / AB 220 which legalizes marijuana.
  2. SB 316 / AB 398 which prevents the use of restraints and improves the treatment of incarcerated people who are pregnant.
  3. SB 261 / AB 289 which allow people convicted of sexual offenses prior to the 2017 Wisconsin Act 174 to petition and adjust their sentence to fit the new law.
  4. AB 212 which requires the Department of Justice to destroy DNA samples from people who are not found guilty of crimes.
  5. SB 211 / AB 228 which expands the ability of sex trafficking survivors to plead self-defense.
  6. SB 348 / AB 477 which restores the right to vote to people on community supervision.
  7. AB 400 which makes incarcerated people count as residents of the district they resided in prior to being confined for congressional and legislative district mapping.

We partially support, and would like to see following bills amended as described.

  1. SB 33 / AB 27 which prevents the Division of Community Corrections from taking supervision fees until restitution fees have been paid, and expands the time when a victim can obtain restitution. We call for amendment that strikes the expansion of restitution fees. We also prefer a bill that reduces or eliminates supervision fees, and restricts supervision practices to be less onerous on formerly incarcerated people.
  2. SB 34 / AB 30 which creates certificate of qualification for employment (CQE) and provides immunity to employers. We call for amendment to this bill because CQE’s create another wasteful bureaucracy and tool for the DOC to wield power over formerly incarcerated people. By depriving targeted people of CQEs, the DOC and council will be able to set certain people up for failure. It is inevitable that this deprivation will target communities of color.
  3. SB 127 / AB 145 which creates higher standards and more funding for public defenders and prosecutors. We support the higher standards and funding for public defenders, but call for amendment to eliminate the additional funding for prosecutors. They are already disproportionately and inappropriately powerful in Wisconsin’s courtrooms.

In addition, we are asking for your support in the following efforts to influence the executive branch of state and local governments.

  1. Endorse the CLOSEmsdf campaign, sign the petition and release a public support statement.
  2. Endorse our parole rules change petition, which calls on Chairman John Tate to alter criteria for parole reviews, eliminating subjective and unfair criteria which have been used to keep parolees incarcerated for absurd lengths of time and absurd reasons. Sign the support petition and release a public statement.
  3. Sign on to the open letter drafted by the Chrystul Kizer Defense Committee requesting that Kenosha DA Michael Graveley drop the charges against Ms Kizer, who is facing life in prison for defending herself against a child pornographer and sex trafficker. Sign the petition and release a public statement.

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