Friday, March 27, 2020


 FFUP is just releasing a report that is the culmination of 20 years of work with prisoners and their families. Although it 's main focus is the torture that IS today's overuse and abuse of solitary confinement, it also delineates the history of how we evolved such a corrupt and soul destroying system and gives our suggestions for ways to heal. Here is a link to the report itself  and two recommendations . 

Click for report:

     This is a collection of extraordinary documents and information that addresses so many Wisconsin prison issues, as well as potential remedies and solutions. I was particularly struck by the WWRC - Wisconsin Women's Resource Center. This is what prisons look like, in my experience, when the focus is on the three legs of safety, rehabilitation and humanity. Far too often the focus in Wisconsin has been on punishment, forgetting that incarceration IS the punishment. Let us focus on using the shell of prison as a place where successful programs and experiences can offer growth. Other states and countries have successfully prepared prisoners to return to our communities. Isn't this what our state's "Purchase of Offender Goods and Services" budget should centrally focus on? Teach these individuals (many of whom have had horrific life experiences and daily face mental health challenges) how to function in and contribute to the world outside of prison. Flood the prisons (and release sites) with programs and services and interventions and family and humanity and caring! We would all benefit.

Judith Adrian, Ph.D.

Co-author with DarRen Morris, In Warm Blood: Prison & Privilege, Hurt & Heart (2014) Milwaukee: HenschelHAUS.


FORWARD by Bonnie Kerness, AFSC Prison Watch Program Director 1

         I have just finished reading “Torture in Wisconsin Prisons”, which is an extraordinary report featuring the work between FFUP (Forum for Understanding Prisons) and people in Wisconsin prisons. The Forum for Understanding Prison’s mandate is to act as a bridge between prisoners, their families and the outside world resulting in this crucial report for Wisconsin legislators, the media and other interested citizens. The detailed report on the Wisconsin Department of Correction’s use of solitary confinement is an important work reflecting, in an often heart breaking manner, the way in which the use of extended isolation impacts upon individuals and their family members  – and ultimately on wider society upon the release of people who most assuredly will be affected with symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

           The American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch Program has worked with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, prisoners, their families and legislators from other states for many years – all in a common effort to abolish and/or set limits on the inappropriate use of solitary confinement, and the extremely harsh and often unhealthy conditions of confinement in solitary units.

         We, in New Jersey, did succeed in passing a bill that will limit the use of solitary confinement, called the Isolated Confinement Act. 2 Advocates and legislators know that the triumph of the bill’s passage is only a first step in terms of addressing the conditions in which people are held in solitary confinement in the state. Since its passage I continue to receive letters from prisoners noting angrily and accurately that nothing in the bill alters the conditions of confinement which often includes a culture of officer abuse and humiliation, of psychiatric neglect, of the development of permanent mental health symptoms of post traumatic stress, none of which is addressed in the legislation that Gov. Phil Murphy signed.

           Along with limiting the amount of time spent in solitary which the New Jersey legislation achieves, we want to move forward to provide an environment which does no further damage either mentally or physically to the people serving legal sentences. Separation from society is the punishment for the conviction of a crime – not unconscionable heat, filth, vermin and human cruelty. I don’t ever want to speak at another funeral of a prisoner who has died from heat stroke. I don’t ever want to receive another telephone call from a mom crying because her mentally ill child has been bitten by mice, crawled on by roaches and humiliation by officers. The AFSC Prison Watch receives testimonies from throughout the country replicating complaints by people in prison in Wisconsin. It is to the credit of States like Colorado, Montana, Maryland, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Georgia that such treatment and conditions are being addressed.  

          We, the outside community of advocates and those who have survived this treatment must and will push forward to alter and eventually abolish the mercilessness of these conditions of confinement. Over the years, I have found it important to remind myself that the Department of Corrections is more than a set of institutions, it is also a state of mind. That state of mind cannot be fully altered legislatively, and is exactly what formerly imprisoned, families, advocates and legislators need to monitor and address with conscientiousness. It is we, the collective citizenry that can provide and ensure true social change. We want people who have paid for their criminal behavior coming home healed, healthy and with the ability to fulfil their promise as human beings.

       This report is an important and valuable tool helping us to understand the racism and classism that results in the mentally ill, the poor, and largely people of color living in circumstances which have been deemed cruel and unnecessary by the international community. Solitary confinement makes us all “wardens” of the worst kind and maintains us, as the public, in violation of international standards and treaties. Wisconsin’s Forum for Understanding Prisons is to be lauded and emulated for this fine report. It is a model for the rest of the country. We are hoping that the State of Wisconsin joins others which have passed or are currently considering this most egregious assault to human dignity.

1 Bonnie Kerness, MSW, program director of the American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch.
89     Market Street, 6th floor; Newark, NJ 07102
American Friends Service Committee(AFSC) is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development and peace programs throughout the world.
The American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch program empowers individuals harmed by criminal legal system policies and violence to heal and transform the conditions under which they live.  Program staff disseminate public information on human rights abuses and healing opportunities; respond to needs of incarcerated people and those harmed by criminal acts; influence individual administrators and policy makers; and provide expertise to coalitions, advocacy groups, community organizations, students, writers, and the media. Our Prison Watch Program monitors human rights abuses in U.S. federal and state prisons. In particular, the program promotes national and international attention to the practices of isolation and torture. Find more Prison Watch resources here. (
2Text of bill limiting solitary in NJ: Isolated Confinement :Act:

  And here is again link to the report :

What is needed we are told by long time rehabilitates prisoner, is  change the basic revenge forever philosophy of the WI DOC . To do that we need to build a power base. If you want to get involved on any level, Email
peg Swan,FFUP founder

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