Monday, May 25, 2020

Open Letter to Governor Evers' Office


Below is an email sent to Governor Evers' policy advisor, Katie Domina. Katie has told us that she is the go-to person in the Governor's administration for prison related issues, but every time we've gone to her, we get the kind of non-answers we've gotten about our clemency waiver requests.

Tony Evers is the governor of the state with some of the hottest incarceration hotspots in the world, as well as the greatest racial disparities, and some of the most restrictive and abusive criminal legal policies and practices. Wisconsin is a dramatic outlier, and the Governor needs to have a specialist in the role of addressing these problems. He must appoint someone to take a singular focus on the prison system, someone with expertise and direct experience.

Everyone touched by the Wisconsin's horrific prison system should demand nothing less.


Hello Katie,

We are aware that the governor created pardon / clemency criteria that exclude all currently incarcerated people. Those criteria are unacceptable, and the governor can change them with the stroke of a pen. What I want to know is what is happening with the clemency waiver requests that we've sent to his office. Do those requests ever touch his desk, or do you file or discard them because they do not fit his heartless criteria?

We have also published the requests, in two batches and have been holding biweekly online press conferences (on April 21, May 5, and May 19) where we share stories and testimony from the people who you all are disregarding as unworthy of even consideration for release. Journalists have been attending these events and writing about the governor's failure to take ethical action. See articles in The Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, and The Wisconsin Examiner.

It has been obvious from the start of your administration that you all in the governors office do not care about criminalized people. Wisconsin has some of the highest incarceration rates and racial disparities in prisons nation-wide. National-level prisoner advocates, and people held on interstate transfers have told us that conditions in Wisconsin prisons are more restrictive, racist, and abusive than most states.
Mass incarceration has been a crisis since day one of Tony Evers’ administration, one which he promised to address on the campaign trail, and which he continues to demonstrate a lack of concern or even substantive awareness about. As his policy advisor, you share a responsibility for these failures.

I am surprised by the new depths of animosity from your office, though. The willingness to allow immune compromised elderly people to languish in overcrowded prisons where you refuse to provide testing to sick people during a pandemic is abominable. I am not asking you to clarify the rules Governor Evers made. I am asking you how he and his office justifies your racist and horrific policy choices.

The waivers we sent were written by prisoners and their families. Wisconsin residents who trusted Governor Evers to give them fair hearing. They thought the waiver request in the clemency application would be honored. Instead, it appears it was removed.

I end with the question I began with: has Governor Evers read these requests? If not, I demand that he do so, and give us a direct response.

Thank you for your time,

Ben Turk

CC:
Governor Tony Evers
Publicly posted at PrisonForum.org



Previous correspondence:
On Wed, May 13, 2020 at 10:49 AM Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov> wrote:

Hi Ben,
Thanks very much for resending. Individuals applying for clemency must use this application: https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/PardonApp_July2019.pdf. Here is the eligibility criteria from the application:
Eligibility: You are eligible for a pardon only if all of the following conditions apply to you:

You are seeking a pardon for a Wisconsin felony conviction.
You have completed your entire sentence at least five (5) years ago. This means you:
Completed all confinement; and
Completed supervised release (e.g., probation, parole, or extended supervision).
You have not been convicted of any new criminal offense since you completed your sentence, and you are not currently subject to any pending criminal charges. This includes offenses and charges in any jurisdiction.
You are not currently required to register as a sex offender under Wis. Stat. § 301.45.

The Pardon Advisory Board will deny, without a hearing, any applications that do not meet the above criteria. Eligibility criteria are mandatory are cannot be waived. Here is a website with additional information: https://evers.wi.gov/Pages/pardon-information.aspx.
It sounds like you are talking about individuals who are currently serving sentences in institutions, and would not meet the above criteria. Here is information from DOC regarding release:
Is DOC releasing individuals early?
The Department of Corrections is exploring all options to reduce the prison population. It is important to note that DOC has limited authority to unilaterally release adults in custody before their mandatory release date. The only mechanisms under which DOC has sole authority to grant an early release are Special Action Parole releases for persons sentenced for offenses committed before December 31, 1999 pursuant to § 304.02, Stats., for the purpose of relieving overcrowding, and Certain Earned Release which allows early release only to nonviolent inmates, as outlined in Wis. Admin. Code DOC § 302.35, who are within 12 months of release from the confinement portion of a bifurcated sentence imposed between 2009 and 2011. Additional release mechanisms include the following:

Petitions for early release for certain inmates who are either elderly or suffer from an extraordinary health condition, pursuant to § 302.113(9g), Wis. Stats. These petitioners must first obtain DOC's approval. If DOC supports early release, DOC refers the inmate's petition to the sentencing court which will hold a hearing at which the victim and District Attorney may be present. Early release under this statute requires the approval of a sentencing judge.
Parole release under extraordinary circumstances pursuant to § 304.06(1m), Wis. Stats., which is available only to certain persons sentenced for offenses committed before December 31, 1999. The decision to grant early release pursuant to this statute is made by the Parole Commission.

Thank you,
Katie
--
Katie Domina
Policy Advisor
Office of Governor Tony Evers
Email: katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov
Phone: (608) 438-6139
Like Governor Tony Evers on Facebook | Follow Governor Tony Evers on Twitter
cid:image001.png@01D5E259.8D23AD70
http://wicount.wi.gov
From: BEN TURK <insurgent.ben@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2020 12:53 PM
To: Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov>
Cc: Peggy Swan (pgswan3@aol.com) <pgswan3@aol.com>
Subject: Re: Follow up
Hi Katie, Sorry about that. The application we have is attached and also linked here.
https://ffupstuff.files.wordpress.com/2020/05/clemency-app-all-.pdf
On Mon, May 11, 2020 at 2:11 PM Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov> wrote:

Hi Ben,
I’m sorry – Your attachment didn’t come through. Can you resend? I just want to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing.
Thank you,
Katie
--
Katie Domina
Policy Advisor
Office of Governor Tony Evers
Email: katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov
Phone: (608) 438-6139
Like Governor Tony Evers on Facebook | Follow Governor Tony Evers on Twitter
cid:image001.png@01D5E259.8D23AD70
http://wicount.wi.gov
From: BEN TURK <insurgent.ben@gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2020 1:32 PM
To: Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov>
Cc: Peggy Swan (pgswan3@aol.com) <pgswan3@aol.com>
Subject: Re: Follow up
Hi Katie,
So, are you saying that the attached document (with waiver request in the last pages) has been wholly replaced with the new application?
If so, what are you all doing with the waiver requests we sent? Are they being reviewed at all, or just trashed?
Many of these are elderly, highly at risk people, and by ignoring these requests, the Governor is, in effect sentencing them to death.
Thank you
Ben
cc Peg Swan, founder FFUP
---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov>
Date: Mon, May 11, 2020 at 8:25 AM
Subject: RE: Follow up
To: BEN TURK <insurgent.ben@gmail.com>
Hi Ben,
At this time, the Governor’s pardon criteria has not changed and can be found here: https://evers.wi.gov/Pages/pardon-information.aspx. Eligibility criteria are mandatory and cannot be waived.
Thank you,
Katie
--
Katie Domina
Policy Advisor
Office of Governor Tony Evers
Email: katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov
Phone: (608) 438-6139
Like Governor Tony Evers on Facebook | Follow Governor Tony Evers on Twitter
cid:image001.png@01D5E259.8D23AD70
http://wicount.wi.gov
From: BEN TURK <insurgent.ben@gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, May 7, 2020 4:12 PM
To: Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov>
Subject: Re: Follow up
Hi Katie,
Thanks for replying. Will the governor be seriously considering those waiver requests? Did they get to his actual desk?
Thank you
Ben
On Thu, May 7, 2020 at 10:49 AM Domina, Katherine - GOV <katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov> wrote:

Hi Ben,
I hope you are well. I apologize that I missed a couple of messages from you – I’m having an issue with my desk phone forwarding to my cell phone. I’m always available via email or on my cell: (608) 438-6139. We did receive the clemency requests you asked about in your message.
Thank you,
Katie
--
Katie Domina
Policy Advisor
Office of Governor Tony Evers
Email: katherine.domina1@wisconsin.gov
Phone: (608) 438-6139
Like Governor Tony Evers on Facebook | Follow Governor Tony Evers on Twitter
cid:image001.png@01D5E259.8D23AD70
http://wicount.wi.gov

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