FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mark Rice | 608-843-0171 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Scathing New Parole & Probation Report from Justice Lab at Columbia University,
Prompts Updated Demands to Wisconsin’s Elected Officials from
Directly Impacted Decarceration Advocates in the State and Nationally
REPORT COMMISSIONED BY JUSTLEADERSHIPUSA, PROVES INJUSTICE AND URGENCY OF #CLOSEMSDF CAMPAIGN
January 22, 2019 – Madison, Wisconsin –#CLOSEmsdf Campaign leaders held a press conference today with researchers from the Justice Lab at Columbia University, with campaign leaders directly harmed by parole and probation in the state and partner organizations including WISDOM, EXPO (Ex-incarcerated People Organizing), IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), and JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), to discuss report data and their updated campaign demands. The report asserts that across the country and particularly in Wisconsin, mass supervision fuels mass incarceration. Report findings and recommendations were revealed in Madison at the Capital today.
The report, titled Wisconsin Community Corrections Story, was commissioned by leading national organization, JustLeadershipUSA, as one of the organization’s key work areas for decarceration in 2019 is the issue of probation and parole which impacts its campaigns in California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. More than 4 million people live on parole or probation in the United States – twice the number of people incarcerated. In Wisconsin these forms of supervision have become much too prevalent and invasive to families and communities across the state. The Columbia Justice Lab report makes it clear that a fundamental transformation of probation and parole is necessary not only in Wisconsin but across the country.
JustLeadershipUSA’s President and CEO, DeAnna Hoskins, said,“Too many people, but especially Black and Native communities in Wisconsin, have been disproportionately harmed. Their lived experience of neglect, economic exclusion, and even death are proof of the rampant civil and human rights abuses resulting from Wisconsin officials’ reliance upon overly punitive, ineffective practices. This must end. I am confident that impacted leaders in Wisconsin together with elected officials who recognize how the system has caused economic and racial inequities, and public health harms, will #CLOSEmsdf and end crimeless revocation. JustLeadershipUSA supports all of the #CLOSEmsdf campaign demands starting with a re-imagined and well-funded community-based support system entirely divorced from punitive corrections.”
Across the country and particularly in Wisconsin, mass supervision fuels mass incarceration. As of 2017, people who had previously been under community supervision made up over half of the total adult incarcerated population in Wisconsin. Over one-fifth of all adults incarcerated were incarcerated without a new conviction. The massive expansion of Wisconsin’s criminal legal system that resulted from truth in sentencing cost Wisconsin taxpayers $1.8 billion. All of this harm is the product of deliberate policy choices over the past three decades.
The Justice Lab report is available for download at: https://justicelab.columbia.edu/wisconsin-community-corrections-story
and #CLOSEmsdf demands are available at: https://justleadershipusa.org/campaign/closemsdf/
“Our report contains troubling findings that Wisconsin is wasting money and wasting lives by supervising and violating thousands of people not for new crimes, but for technical violations of supervision,” states Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia University Justice lab and former Commissioner of New York City Probation. “Wisconsin should now follow the example of dozens of states and focus community supervision resources on those most in need of it, stop returning people to prison for ‘ticky-tack’ rule violations, and use the savings from such reforms to fund programs and opportunities that help people turn their lives around.”
PARTIAL LIST OF KEY WISCONSIN REPORT FINDINGS
1-in-8 Black men, and 1-in-11 Native American men, are under supervision.
Black women are supervised at 3 times the rate of white women.
Native American women are supervised at 6 times the rate of white women.
MSDF imprisons white people 12 percentage points lower, and Black people 24 percentage points higher, than the Wisconsin average.
Wisconsin incarcerates Black people at 11.5 times the rate of white people, ranking Wisconsin’s imprisonment racial disparities fifth in the nation.
Independent of the Columbia University Report, the following are demands to Wisconsin’s elected officials, from communities directly impacted by parole and probation organizing with the #CLOSEmsdf campaign:
DEMAND 1: Stop incarcerating people for violations of supervision,
transfer “Alternative to Revocation” beds into the community,
and end probation and parole holds. Governor Evers must appoint agency directors who are committed to ending supervision-driven incarceration.
DEMAND 2: Depopulate and close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility,
and demolish it so that it can never again be used to cage a human being. The Legislature must introduce legislation to defund and close MSDF and must support efforts to demolish the facility.
Demand 3: Repeal Truth in Sentencing, reduce probation and parole terms, cap the maximum length of those terms, drastically reduce the number of conditions of probation and parole supervision, and eliminate all supervision fees. In addition to repealing damaging laws, the Legislature must also pass laws that cap the maximum length of supervision, limit conditions to the least restrictive conditions necessary to help someone successfully complete their supervision, and eliminate all supervision fees.
DEMAND 4: Reinvest the money wasted on MSDF back into communities. Wisconsin must reinvest the excessive corrections spending into workforce development training for formerly incarcerated people, into expanded mental health services that are easily accessible, and into community-based organizations.
#CLOSEmsdf members added the following:
The findings in the Columbia University Justice Lab Report accomplish two things: they remind us that Wisconsin is not post-racial or colorblind; and they reveal how acceptance of colorblindness, papers over real suffering and the need for racial justice and decarceration. When violent systems permanently and perpetually target the removal, confinement, and deep isolation of people of color especially Native Americans and African Americans, Wisconsinites can recklessly deem their own neighbors invisible and irreparable. The crisis of parole and probation as feeders to mass incarceration can no longer be ignored.” -Robert Agnew, Jr., Milwaukee Community Organizer, JustLeadershipUSA
“The Columbia University Justice Lab report emphasizes the excessive revocations that feed Wisconsin’s prison industrial complex and rips apart families and communities. Overly long sentences, paired with a system of intense scrutiny dooms people to cycling in and out of prisons, at a tremendous human cost and costs to taxpayers. We hope the legislature studies these findings and improves our systems of probation and parole.”
– Sean Wilson, Smart Justice Statewide Organizer, ACLU of Wisconsin
‘I’ve been on probation or parole in Wisconsin since the age of 12. I’m 37 today, and still on supervision. Going back to prison can never be a distant thought in my mind. With 15 added special rules to my supervision due to my political status, it’s hard to bear in mind every rule. Crimeless revocation is a devastating reality in Wisconsin, all it really takes is an allegation to bring a screeching halt to my freedom. The mere realization of this is traumatizing daily, as the beast shadow of the system continues to lurk each morning I rise.’ – Minister Caliph Muab’El, State President, All Of Us or None, Milwaukee
“Behind all the facts in the Columbia University Justice Lab report are hundreds of heartbreaking stories, families torn apart, jobs, housing, resources lost. People are returned to captivity after working incredibly hard to earn a release, sometimes for the smallest misunderstanding or most arbitrary rule or ad hoc judgement. These are real people, really suffering. Our inside contacts emphasize Wisconsin’s abnormal and unconstitutional policy of re-setting a person’s supervision sentence after even minor revocations or sanctions. These policies keep supervision officials busy and well-paid, but keep huge numbers of disproportionately black and brown people cycling between captivity and second-class citizenship. They must end.” – Peg Swan and Ben Turk, Forum for Understanding Prisons
“Nelson Mandela once said “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” While many people are released from WI Prison System every day, they are not free, they live with the very real concern of having to successfully navigate Probation/Parole/Extended Supervision. Each year in WI Crimeless Revocation /rules violations account for higher numbers of re-incarceration than new crimes, this is unacceptable. EXPO is proud to partner with JLUSA in doing the important work to #CLOSEmsdf by creating a system which supports vs, penalizes our returning neighbors.” – Jerome Dillard, EXPO State Director
“African Americans in Wisconsin are by many measures the most racially traumatized community in the country. The criminal justice system is near the top of the list of racially biased institutions in the state. Wisconsin’s African American men suffer the highest rate of incarceration in the country and if women are included, only one state has a higher incarceration rate for our community. On top of this, the excessive supervision of those released from this system, adds an extra layer of trauma to families and individuals who are trying to live normal lives once leaving prison in the state.”
– Reggie Jackson, Rid Racism Milwaukee
Led by WISDOM, EXPO (Ex-incarcerated People Organizing), IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), and JustLeadershipUSA, the campaign to close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility(MSDF), #CLOSEmsdf, is a coalition of more than 40 organizations committed to ending crimeless revocation, closing MSDF, and reinvesting the money saved to build safer, stronger and healthier communities. MSDF is an irredeemable torture chamber. It represents how mass supervision fuels mass incarceration. It was built to warehouse people alleged to have violated rules of probation or parole – infractions like missing an appointment or being late for curfew. MSDF is taking lives and destroying communities. Learn more at: CLOSEmsdf.org.