Election Day Statement

Coalition of Directly Impacted Grassroots Advocates in Wisconsin Calls for the Next Governor and Legislature to Enact Policies to Depopulate, Close, and Demolish the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF)

Statement from Mark Rice, #CLOSEmsdf Campaign Coordinator

“Today, the #CLOSEmsdf coalition held a press conference in Madison to increase pressure on all candidates on the ballot throughout Wisconsin. Launched in 2017 by people who have been directly harmed by the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, this coalition is how we bring our experiences to the forefront of a national movement demanding bold overhaul of the carceral system and transformative change in our communities. Against that backdrop, we demand that the next Governor and Legislature enact policies that will lead to the depopulation, closure, and demolition of MSDF.


“Since it was built in 2001, MSDF has claimed at least 17 lives. It is an irredeemable torture chamber that costs Wisconsin taxpayers $40 million per year and that inflicts incalculable damage on our communities. The inhumane conditions in this prison harm thousands of people every year. The extreme heat in the summer is overbearing, adequate ventilation is nonexistent, and there is no access to outdoor space, direct sunlight, or fresh air. Many people there are in lockdown for at least 20 hours a day, and in-person visits are forbidden. It is unsafe for anyone, including the people who work there. Even worse is the fact that MSDF was built solely to cage people accused of violating conditions of their post-prison supervision. The misguided policies and practices that force people to be detained at MSDF are tearing families apart and draining resources that could instead be used to build safer, stronger, and healthier communities.


“Wisconsin’s post-prison supervision rate is already 50% higher than the rest of the country, and the harm it causes is enabled by this state-sanctioned abomination. Leading candidates for Governor committed to working with the #CLOSEmsdf coalition to decarcerate Wisconsin and close this prison. Anyone who wins election today has a moral obligation to act on that commitment. It’s long past time to shut down MSDF, and redirect the money being wasted there into our communities and community-based support services, instead.”

Nationwide Prison Strike Aug 21-Sept 9

Add your organization to the list of those endorsing the national prison strike.
It’s easy, just fill out the form at the bottom of this page: http://sawarimi.org/national-prison-strike
Here are some of the reasons this is important.
1. The strike is calling for workstoppages, hunger strikes, sit-down strikes, and boycotts of the commissary. Not all of these tactics are legally protected for prisoners to engage in, but they are all unquestionably ethically righteous and ought to be protected rights. The National Lawyers Guild has endorsed the strike and has a network of lawyers (Prisoner Litigation Advocacy Network) actively working to defend strikers and expand their rights and freedom to protest.
2. The demands are broad and ambitious. This is intentional. The strike will occur from August 21s – September 9. The goal is not to bring prisons and decision-makers to the table for immediate relief within that time period, but rather to use those weeks to demonstrate power and advance the demands as a platform for nation-wide change. This is a strong next move in a long struggle.
3. The prisoners are aware of the risk, and need us to defend them. Some people might be cautious about endorsing the strike, fearing that they will incite prisoners to take action that invites severe retaliation. Resistance within prison is constant, often spontaneous and individual, action taken as desperate last resort. Reprisals and repression, including violence from guards are also constant. When prisoners coordinate and take action together it not only makes their efforts more likely to succeed, it also helps protect them from facing the full force of reprisal individually. When outside support is shining a light on the issue, it stays guards’ hand. Your endorsement is less likely to incite participation, than to protect prisoners who have already chosen to participate (or will upon hearing about the strike).
Please fill out the form and join the list of endorsers for the strike.

Local Artists Mount Impromptu Public Performance at Bastille Days

July 14, 2018 [Milwaukee, WI] – A group of Milwaukee performance artists descend tonight upon the annual Bastille Day’s crowd, promoting positive body awareness clad only in latex body paint, and generally embodying the spirit of the 17th century revolutionaries through their performances. Their message is delivered through historical re-enactments, clever costuming, and public rally cries to “storm the local Bastille” (Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility).

More information about Milwaukee’s own Bastille can be found at https://closemsdf.org/

For live updates and photos from the event: #StormBastilleDaysMKE


De-carcerating Wisconsin makes sense

Mark Rice, JustLeadershipUSA campaign coordinator of #CLOSEmsdf on Devil’s Advocate Radio Program:
Despite Minnesota and Wisconsin having similar crime rates, Wisconsin has consistently incarcerated people at twice the rate of Minnesota for decades. Our goals are to decarcerate Wisconsin and close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. And the national goal of JustLeadershipUSA is to cut U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. Other states are successfully de-carcerating and reinvesting funds to build stronger healthier communities. States that have decreased prison populations are also seeing a decrease in crime rates.
Most of Wisconsin’s Democratic candidates for governor are coming on board and recognizing this as a winning issue and calling for an end to policies and practices that drive mass supervision and mass incarceration.
Listen to the entire July 9 Devil’s Advocate program with Mark Rice here:

Press advisory: SUICIDE ATTEMPT REPORTED AT MILWAUKEE SECURE DETENTION FACILITY (MSDF): #CLOSEmsdf Campaign Demands Answers as Temperature Inside the Facility Reaches a Dangerous 100 Degrees


FOR INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Rice 608-843-0171 or Alan Schultz 414-366-9116


MILWAUKEE – The #CloseMSDF campaign, a coalition of local, state & national organizations calling for the closure of Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), are asking for answers to reports coming from inside of MSDF that a detainee being housed on the 7th floor attempted to hang himself late Sunday afternoon.

MSDF Leadership released the following statement:

“It was reported to #CLOSEmsdf organizers beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evening that a suicide attempt had taken place inside of MSDF. As temperatures outside hovered around 90 degrees this weekend the temperatures inside of MSDF were over 100 degrees. #CLOSEmsdf organizers were monitoring the heat inside MSDF with the help of detainees and their families, when the report was made regarding a suicide attempt. MSDF and the Department of Corrections Leadership have yet to address the issue.”

“We ask the public to contact your State Elected Officials including the Governor and demand transparency regarding this and other suicide attempts within MSDF. 62% of the detainees inside of MSDF suffer from a mental health issue.  The inhumane conditions inside of MSDF do not promote best practices in supporting people suffering from mental health issues and instead, further deteriorate peoples’ mental state.”

“Best practices in mental health dictate that the least restrictive setting be used to treat people with mental illness. #CLOSEmsdf denounces the conditions at MSDF – a building constructed inside of a building with poor ventilation, extreme heat, no outdoor recreation, no windows, 22 hours of lockdown a day, poor medical treatment and no in-person visits. We demand the state take steps to close this facility and move detainees with mental health issues into proper placements in the community.”

“It should not take people attempting suicide or dying to get humane treatment. It is #CLOSEmsdf’s position that this facility should be shut down and that individuals needing treatment or programming to assist with their success on probation/parole should be allowed to do so in the least restrictive setting in their community where their support system is the strongest and they have the greatest chance for success not in a facility that mimics continual solitary confinement.”

“We demand that Wisconsin’s elected leaders including the Governor address mental health needs of MSDF detainees and provide relief immediately due to the inhumane conditions due to life-threatening conditions, especially for people with mental health issues.

For more information on the #CLOSEmsdf Campaign please visit closemsdf.org

Marking progress and renewing the call to action at the 1-year mark of the fight to close Wisconsin’s torture chamber

The forces and friends driving the Campaign to Close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility gathered last night at Hephatha Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, to mark their successes in the fight to close this sweat box unfit for humans.

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

This campaign has shifted the conversation in Wisconsin. Since we launched the campaign a year ago:

  • 5,000 people have signed the petition
  • 8 candidates for governor publicly supported the idea at a forum attended by 700 people in Waukesha last month
  • 40 coalition local, state and national partners committed to working with us
  • Other righteous campaigns nationwide (for example, #closeRikers, #closetheCreek) are making great strides against similar inhumane institutions

Last night at the 1-year anniversary event, people witnessed to their experiences of wrongful incarceration by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and coalition members stated their commitments, plans and demands. Continue reading “Marking progress and renewing the call to action at the 1-year mark of the fight to close Wisconsin’s torture chamber”