Friday, March 27, 2020

Open letter to Governor Evers - look to your prisons

Governor Tony Evers
PO Box 7863; Madison, WI 53707                                           

Dear Governor Evers,
 I  join with many others to ask you to act quickly to save lives. Contrary to claims by the WIDOC, messages coming directly from incarcerated friends and relatives state that COVID 19 protocols are being inadequately followed to varying degrees in all prisons. In WCI and CCI, the inadequacies seem obvious and dangerous.  Prisoners are in many ways the most vulnerable members of our community because THEY CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES unless we give them the tools.

Many prisoners have been contacting members of activist groups. They state emphatically that prisons not allowing prisoners to have their own sanitizers/ or the solution in the sanitizers are so weak as to be ineffective. . This is a basic requirement whenever there is the threat of community disease transmission. In addition, indigent prisoners are given used soap, unwrapped and often filthy, and segregated prisoners are given tiny plastic packages of soap (size of mustard package) that is supposed to last days. DOC has misinterpreted a legislative action ( act 355) so even those who do have incoming money are often kept nearly penniless. All indigent prisoners and prisoners who request it,  should therefore get new, wrapped and effective soap in adequate amounts..
Additionally, in WCI and CCI where staff have tested positive and the virus is spreading, woefully inadequate measures are being taken to reduce the possibility of transmission. Prisoners at the most risk are clearly afraid. At the end of this letter is a list of some of the latest testimonies from WCI , CCI , SCI and PDCI . A dramatic statement statement from Harlan Richards, fine writer and litigator, speaks for Stanley but is true for all our prisons:
Stanley is a ticking time bomb of disease, infection and death. There are hundreds of elderly and immune-compromised prisoners in Stanley, those most likely to die from COVID-19. How many will be left in cells to live or die by the strength of their immune system? There are not enough hospital beds in this rural area to meet the needs of free people. You can be sure hundreds of infected prisoners will not be transferred to hospitals for treatment. It is simply not feasible even if there was adequate bed space.
The only answer is to implement restrictions before COVID-19 comes to Stanley because once it does, it will be impossible to manage."

Prisons are each handling the virus in dramatically different ways. Prairie Du Chien seems to be most on track to reduce or prevent infection. In contrast, after staff at WCI and CCI  tested positive, it is feared that the guards  may be spreading the virus to the cells, then going home to spread it there. As of this writing, a small amount of testing has been done but results are not in. We are told there are many prisoners sick and showing covid like symptoms. One prisoner told us there are 3 quarantined prisoners at the end of his hallway. Without increased testing, covid 19 infection cannot be identified. Are illness and death within the prisoner population going unreported? If so. I fear this is intentional. When the public is in the dark about seriousness of what is happening in the prisons, DOC is not forced to answer outside questions and respond to outside demands.

Governor Evers, many people have contacted you individually and I understand that WISDOM and ACLU had an interview with you in early March. Now that we all see more clearly just how serious this pandemic is, I feel this is the time for urgency.
Here are links to FFUP reports, reports by prisoners and a scroll down sampling of prisoners at greatest risk. Please take a look.

4) Report on how we got to this level of overcrowding and understaffing and loss of mission
                  and the way back TORTURE IN WI Prisons

  All this and more can also be found on our blog: 

I appeal to you to take action on the following items:
1)Please act now to release those prisoners who are most vulnerable to the ravages of the virus because of age and or preexisting health problems. This includes prisoners over 58 and/or have prexisting conditions that make them extra vulnerable-
Most have families to go to who are waiting. For those that don’t ,volunteers can help do the phoning and internet work to make sure the soon to be released prisoners have healthy and stable place to go.
Studies show that people in prison age about ten years faster than those outside  making 58 “inside” equivalent to 68 “free”.
            1)Scroll down Blog post of a sample of prisoners art most risk:link to wordpress
2) All  prisoners need sanitizers in their cells to use on material coming into the cells and surface cleaning ( 70% alcohol in a spritzer- very cheap or its equivalent) and good soap ( unused and wrapped).Those deemed unable to handle such material because of mental illness should be denied only with due process.

3) All indigent prisoners need to receive unused, wrapped soap. Also anywho request effective wrapped new soap should receive it,   

4) At minimum: test all those reporting symptoms of the virus and test all inmates in prisons where the virus has been confirmed in staff- WCI and CCI

5) Public disclosure of all who are ill with Covid like symptoms where there is no testing , of all who test positive where  there is testing, all who go to the hospital and all who die.

6) Serious consideration taken of prisoners’ complaints of Guard abuse of protocol. Deploy National Guard  to oversee guards  in prisons where abuses continue.

7) Release ALL prisoners over 58 and/or have prexisting conditions that make them extra vulnerable-
Most have families to go to who are waiting. For those that don’t ,volunteers can help do the phoning and internet work to make sure the soon to be released prisoners have healthy and stable place to go.

8) REAL DISCUSSIONS on ending the overcrowding and understaffing that makes this virus so dangerous must begin with focus on releasing all those eligible, ending revocations without felonies and creating an environment that makes prisons an attractive place to work for people who want to help.

Governor Evers, I know from hearing your campaign speeches that you are aware of the need for improved conditions in our prisons. I ask you to help, for there is urgent need to protect the lives of prisoner. You and possibly DOC Secretary Carr, are the only people in state administration who can act with necessary speed. Prisoners are in prison for punishment. This was not supposed to be a death sentence. These are abandoned and forgotten people. Even with all safety measure in place and wise releases, the virus will take its toll. We do not have to add to the numbers and heartache with negligence.

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