Letter to Governor Evers

On Tuesday March 26th, CLOSEmsdf member organizations and allies will deliver a list of initiatives we expect Governor Evers’ office to act on to reduce and repair the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. We’re seeking more organizations to sign on to the letter and participate in the delivery action. Please contact Ben Turk, chair of the strategy and outreach committee at insurgent.ben@gmail.com if your organization wants to sign on. Find the full text of the letter here.

Why take this action?

We already gave a version of this document to the transition team back in January, it includes many things Evers promised to do on the campaign trail, but so far, we’ve been disappointed. For example:

Continue reading “Letter to Governor Evers”

Actions Governor Evers must make to reduce and repair the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Download PDF version.

On the campaign trail, Governor-elect Tony Evers said he would reduce prison population by 50% and close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. His opponent ran on trying to portray those goals as foolish and unsafe, then lost. The people of Wisconsin have spoken in favor of direly needed reform of the Department of Corrections. We, the undersigned organizations, expect the incoming administration to take immediate action to this end. These actions can be taken regardless of legislative cooperation or approval. Law changes like marijuana legalization are valuable, but the following actions can, and must be taken by executive action.

The DOC is the single largest line item in our state budget, and deserves significant attention and a bold vision for reform. It also has an immeasurable human cost that has gone unrecognized for far too long. We must:

Continue reading “Actions Governor Evers must make to reduce and repair the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.”

Reentry Council joins CLOSEmsdf.

On February 27, over 20 members of the Reentry Council, a standing committee of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council, nearly unanimously endorsed all of the recommendations from the Milwaukee Community Corrections Story report, including closing MSDF. The endorsement will be sent to the executive committee of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council for their consideration.

Sharyl McFarland, JustLeadership USA’s Campaign Coordinator released the following statement about the endorsement:

“As members of the #CLOSEmsdf campaign, we commend the overwhelming majority of Milwaukee Reentry Council subcommittee members (of the Milwaukee Community Justice Council) for their leadership this week in voting to endorse closure of the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) and supporting recommendations to fix the crisis of people on correctional supervision. MSDF was built to warehouse people alleged to have violated rules of probation or parole – infractions like missing an appointment or being late for curfew. Individuals confined in MSDF are subjected to: human rights violations; unsafe and unsanitary living conditions; overcrowding; abuse; and lack of access to medical care. Seventeen people have died there – it is an irredeemable torture chamber. We now call upon the Milwaukee Community Justice Council to fully accept the Reentry Council’s endorsement to #CLOSEmsdf and to adopt recommendations regarding community supervision as outlined by the #CLOSEmsdf campaign.

I have lived in Milwaukee all my life and many of the men in my extended family including my son have been incarcerated in Wisconsin including in MSDF. Our #CLOSEmsdf campaign is led by people who have been impacted and harmed by MSDF. We are committed to ending crimeless revocations, closing MSDF, and reinvesting the money saved to build safer, stronger and healthier communities. We reassert our demands to Governor Evers, Secretary Carr and the Legislature to address our campaign demands:

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 like Project RETURN that connect formerly incarcerated people with jobs, housing, peer support, treatment programs and other needed services.”


Demands from the #CLOSEmsdf Campaign Based on Newly Released Parole & Probation Report from Justice Lab at Columbia University: The Wisconsin Community Corrections Story

Demands from the #CLOSEmsdf Campaign Based on Newly Released

Parole & Probation Report from Justice Lab at Columbia University:

The Wisconsin Community Corrections Story

On January 22, 2019, the Justice Lab at Columbia University released a scathing report commissioned by #CLOSEmsdf Campaign partner JustLeadershipUSA, entitled The Wisconsin Community Corrections Story. This vital report adds quantitative and qualitative analysis to support what directly impacted people and low income and people of color, especially Black and Native American, have known for decades: there is deep harm, and racial and economic injustice embedded in Wisconsin’s probation and parole policies which exemplify and fuel incarceration.

10 KEY FINDINGS FROM JUSTICE LAB AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

In Wisconsin:

  1. 1-in-8 Black men, and 1-in-11 Native American men, are under supervision.
  2. Black women are supervised at 3 times the rate of white women.
  3. Native American women are supervised at 6 times the rate of white women.
  4. MSDF imprisons white people 12 percentage points lower, and Black people 24 percentage points higher, than the Wisconsin average.
  5. Wisconsin incarcerates Black people at 11.5 times the rate of white people, ranking Wisconsin’s imprisonment racial disparities fifth in the nation.
  6. Wisconsin’s post-prison supervision rates, average lengths of stay on post-prison supervision, and rates of incarceration for technical violations are much higher than the national average and set Wisconsin as an outlier in the Great Lakes region.
  7. 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.
  8. Over one-fifth of all adults incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons were incarcerated without a new conviction.
  9. This massive expansion of Wisconsin’s criminal legal system resulted from truth in sentencing laws that cost Wisconsin taxpayers $1.8 billion.
  10. All of this harm is the product of deliberate policy choices over the past three decades.

#CLOSEmsdf DEMANDS SUPPORTED BY REPORT FINDINGS

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 like Project RETURN that connect formerly incarcerated people with jobs, housing, peer support, treatment programs and other needed services.

 

About #CLOSEmsdf

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. Individuals confined in MSDF are subjected to: Human rights violations; Unsafe and unsanitary living conditions; Overcrowding; Abuse; Lack of access to medical care.

To learn more about the campaign or to get involved,

visit www.CLOSEmsdf.org or email mark@justleadershipusa.org.

Take Action in December and January!

Powerful organizing led by organizations that are part of the #CLOSEmsdf Coalition pushed Governor-elect Tony Evers and candidates across Wisconsin to take a stand for decarceration this year.

Here are some opportunities to help #CLOSEmsdf continue to build momentum in December and January.

1. #CLOSEmsdf Coalition Monthly Meeting:  Join us on Tuesday, December 18th at 6 pm to help guide the work of the campaign. The meeting will be at Suite 108 of the Welford Sanders Enterprise Center (2821 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212). Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/2157199731197653/ for information and to RSVP.

2. #CLOSEmsdf Monthly Picket:  Join us on Thursday, December 20th at 11:30 am for the monthly #CLOSEmsdf Picket at the Milwaukee County Courthouse (901 N. 9th St., Milwaukee, WI 53233). Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1959768317411924/ for information and to RSVP.

3. Community Discussion on Excessive Supervision in Wisconsin:  Join us for this special event on Wednesday, January 23rd that will include a presentation on Columbia University Justice Lab’s paper on mass supervision in Wisconsin and the testimonies of people who have been directly impacted by Wisconsin’s horrific, racist system of mass supervision. This event will start at 10 am at the North Hearing Room at the State Capitol in Madison.
The presentation will be followed by a state budget advocacy training led by organizers with WISDOM, EXPO, JustLeadershipUSA, and the ACLU of Wisconsin at Grace Episcopal Church (116 W. Washington Ave., Madison, WI 53703) which is across the street from the State Capitol.

Lunch will be served at Grace Episcopal Church.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/718721911846976/ for information and to RSVP.

4. Community Forum on Excessive Supervision in Milwaukee:  Join us for this special event on Wednesday, January 23rd that will include a presentation on Columbia University Justice Lab’s paper on mass supervision in Wisconsin and a panel discussion featuring people who have been directly impacted by Wisconsin’s horrific, racist system of mass supervision. The event will start at 5 pm at the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center (3020 W. Vliet, Milwaukee, WI 53208).

The community forum will be followed by a state budget advocacy training led by organizers with WISDOM, EXPO, JustLeadershipUSA, and the ACLU of Wisconsin.

Supper will be served after the community forum.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/224141771819172/ for information and to RSVP.

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.