Prison Reform

House of Corrections victory in Milwaukee County

Congratulations to everyone involved in our successful take back of the House of Corrections!  An action alert from WNPJ member group the Benedict Center requested calls to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele urging him not to veto the Harris Amendment, which restored funding for a superintendent position for the Milwaukee County Correctional Facility - South (CCF-S).

The CCF-S superintendent will improve public safety by implementing programs to reduce recidivism, including AODA treatment, employment training, and community based alternatives like electronic monitoring, the Huber Facility and the Day Reporting Center.  On November 14, we received the news that Abele declined to veto the amendment. Thank you to all who called and the Benedict Center, Wisconsin Community Services, MICAH and Disability Rights for spreading the word.

WI denies Shakespeare behind bars

Prisoners Study and Perform Shakespeare"The Department of Corrections has rejected a proposal to restart a Shakespeare Behind Bars program that operated successfully in a Racine prison for four years," reports WI Public Radio.

While DOC officials claim there is no evidence the plays reduce recidivism, director Dr. Jonathan Shailor disagrees.  If DOC's criterion of "evidence-based practice" was applied to all prison activities, then the prison's softball games and poetry readings would also be cancelled, he says.  Moreover, 80% of the inmates at Racine Correctional Institution were not involved in education programs last year, even though there is overwhelming evidence that education in prison leads to lower rates of recidivism.

States rethink Supermax prisons

States across the country are taking a hard look at "Supermax" prisons and the widespread use of solitary confinement at those facilities, citing high costs, lawsuits and new research that shows that the Supermax model doesn't reduce prison violence. Illinois will be closing its Supermax facility, saying $26 million cost of the prison - about $62,000 per inmate per year - could no longer be justified in a time of budget crisis. Mississippi has cut the number of prisoners kept in solitary confinement by nearly 90 percent, and Colorado reduced the number of prisoners in solitary by half in the past year and will shut down a Supermax facility that is only two years old. In Maine,

Connecticut Senate votes to end death penalty

Connecticut is on track to the the latest state to abolish the death penalty, after a 20-16 vote by the State Senate in favor of a death penalty repeal bill. The bill now goes to Connecticut's House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass, and then to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has said he would sign it into law. Senator Edith Prague, who voted for the repeal bill, said, "I cannot stand the thought of being responsible for somebody being falsely accused and facing thedeath penalty. For me, this is a moral issue and realizing that mistakes are obviously made." In the last five years, four states have repealed the death penalty — New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. Wisconsin is one of 16 states that do not have a death penalty.

Hundreds win release after reform of sentencing rules

More than 500 federal inmates won release from prison last week, due to a change in federal sentencing policy which brought sentences for crack cocaine closer to the penalties for powder cocaine. (Photo: Susan Cardwell hugs her brother Darryl Flood as he arrives at a bus station in Woodbridge, Va., after his release.) The disparity in sentences for crack versus powder had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. The Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama reduced the disparity for future cases, and this summer the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets federal sentencing policy, decided to apply the act to inmates already serving time. The releases are the result of months of work by public defender offices around the country, which reviewed hundreds of files of potentially affected inmates.Gil Halsted of Wisconsin Public Radio reports...

Earned release supporters speak out

As the Wisconsin Assembly considers a measure (already passed by the Senate) to end the state's earned release prison program, its supporters are speaking out.

Ronna Swift, who taught high school classes in the Oshkosh prison and volunteers with WNPJ member group Fox Valley Peace Coalition, told Wisconsin Public Radio why earned release should continue.

Illinois Abolishes Death Penalty

In a victory for justice that has been 20 years in the making, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law SB 3539, a bill that adds Illinois to the ranks of 15 other states that have abolished the death penalty. Quinn's predecessor, Governor George Ryan, placed all executions on hold after a series of high-profile cases in which death-row inmates were found to be innocent or the victims of police wrongdoing. Explaining his decision to commute the sentences of 15 death-row prisoners to life in prison without any chance of release, Quinn told the Chicago Sun Times that "once the decision was made to sign the law abolishing the death penalty, it should be abolished for all." The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has set up an online form here to allow you to send a message of thanks to Governor Quinn and the bill's sponsors.

Save Wisconsin's Earned Release Program

For WNPJ's 20th anniversary, a grassroots lobby day was held on February 23, 2011.  One of the focus issues was the opposition of Arizona-like Anti-Immigration Policies.  Below is information that was created for the lobby day and to help with on-going advocacy.

Issue Backgrounder: Earned Release Program

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