Take Action NOW: Mobilizing to Fix the Dane County Jail System!

The MOSES Jail Task Force gave an update at the January monthly MOSES meeting about Dane County’s plans to study and invest in new jail facilities. MOSES opposes spending county money on new jail construction or on redundant studies.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW to act and mobilize others is available in four documents from the MOSES Jail Task Force:

  1. PowerPoint – explaining the discussion surrounding the Dane County Jail and MOSES’ position
  2. Mobilization Letter – to send to Dane County Board members and other officials
  3. MOSES Jail Task Force position statement with data
  4. Mobilization Actions List – detailed list of what you can do now

THIS TUESDAY: The Dane County Public Protection and Judiciary Committee (PP&J) will discuss several issues related to the new jail (see agenda here, items on final page) including additional funding requested by Sheriff Mahoney to expand the Mead & Hunt study (with little additional study on mental health) as well as a request from Supervisors Bayrd and Pan to study Criminal Justice Reform.

What can you do NOW?

**Be prepared to stay two hours or more, as testimonies and discussion about the jail proposals may take that amount of time.

In the news:

Meets 3rd Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Optional orientation for newcomers 6:00
(Sub-committee work teams have additional meetings)
St. Mark’s Church (in basement)
605 Spruce St., Madison (Off S Park St.)
Contact:  Ann Pooler, apooler@charter.net, 608-658-6847

Updates from the MOSES Jail Task Force


MOSES JAIL TASK FORCE has these 3 primary goals:no new jail 1

  1. Stop all unnecessary incarceration
    1. End racial disparities
    2. Treatment instead of jail for people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, or addictions
  2. Improve jail conditions for those inside
  3. Ensure that any facility changes promote goals 1 and 2

MOSES’ goals are ambitious and involve multiple complicated systems.  But other municipalities have already succeeded with similar goals, using evidence-based strategies.  JOIN US!

Meets 3rd Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Optional orientation for newcomers 6:00
(Sub-committee work teams have additional meetings)
St. Mark’s Church (in basement)
605 Spruce St., Madison (Off So Park St.)
Contact:  Ann Pooler, apooler@charter.net, 608-658-6847

 Background: In July, a consultant firm (hired by the County Board) recommended that Dane County build a new jail estimated to cost $135 – $141 million.  A MOSES team immediately formed to decide MOSES’ position. We studied the consultants’ 600-page report and began to attend and testify at county committee meetings.

MOSES determined that the proposal assumed a continuation of already outdated incarceration practices. We discerned that many people are in jail unnecessarily—meaning that they are not a risk to the public and are in jail only because they are waiting for a court or DOC hearing, or cannot pay fines or bail (often $500 or less).  We also found racial disparities in jail alternative programs (e.g., only 16% of those released from jail on home monitoring are people of color, compared to 51% of those in jail).

MOSES rejected the new jail proposal in a position statement we released on August 25th.  We presented this at a NAMI public forum, at numerous County criminal justice meetings, and to stakeholders and media. MOSES celebrated an advocacy win October 1st when the County Executive removed the jail proposal from the budget; but our work has just begun.

Please click here to access MOSES position statement including facts and figures about the jail population.  Feel free to share this document widely.

MOSES Official Position Statement on Proposed New Jail

Recently, the Dane County Sheriff’s office released a study conducted by Mead & Hunt recommending plans for a new Dane County Jail.  The cost to taxpayers would be close to $135M. MOSES has had conversations with Sheriff Mahoney, several stakeholders, and has done thorough review and discussion of the Mead & Hunt report.  MOSES is working hard to find the best solution to these complicated issues and is committed to working collaboratively with other stakeholders toward that goal. The following is MOSES’ official position on the new jail proposal (Click here to download a pdf).

A New $130M Dane County Jail?
The Wrong Solution to the Wrong Problem

MOSES rejects the proposal for a new Dane County jail.  Data show that a large percentage of the people in Dane County jail are there unnecessarily.  Correcting outdated and misaligned policies and practices would dramatically reduce the number of jailed people, beginning in the next few months.  This is the shortest path toward closing all or part of the unsafe City-County Building jail, reducing racial disparities, and avoiding waste of lives and money.  It is also a necessary prerequisite to making credible projections about long-term jail needs. needs.

Dane county contracted with a prison design firm, Mead and Hunt, to produce a report and recommendations for a new jail.  After studying their document, the concerned citizens of MOSES reject the proposal.  We are clear that no new jail building is needed, for the following reasons:

  1. We agree that the City-County Building jail is sub-standard, and that this must be addressed immediately.
  2. The fastest and most cost-effective solution lies not in brick and mortar, but in rapidly implementing proven new systems and policy changes to immediately stop unnecessary incarceration.  With fewer people in all three jail sites, the City-County building site can be fully or partially emptied, remodeled, and put to other non-jail use.
  3. A new jail building (estimated to cost $130-$141M) would not only be wasteful and unnecessary, but may also sustain or worsen Dane County’s excessive incarceration rate and appalling racial disparities.

In MOSES’ view, the Mead and Hunt report:

  • Assumes that Dane County’s already outdated incarceration policies and practices will continue.
  • Ignores more cost-effective alternatives already implemented and proven throughout the U.S.
  • Inflates the number of beds needed, based on questionable projections of the number of people in jail.[1]
  • Creates perverse incentives to jail more people in order to maximize staffing and facility efficiency.[2]
  • Proposes to generate revenue by incarcerating people from other counties’ jails–particularly youth.[3]
  • Assumes incarcerating the same or greater number of people with mental illness.
  • Ignores new funding opportunities in BadgerCare expansion to single individuals starting April 1, 2014.

Dane County’s incarceration rates can, should, and must be lowered by implementing new standards of practice, including treatment, alternatives, and diversions in the arrest, pre-trial detention, prosecution, and incarceration stages of the criminal justice process.  These practices are well established elsewhere and proven to be more cost- effective and better for communities.  Medicaid funds are also now more available to fund treatment alternatives.

As one example: Black people are typically 48% of the Dane County jail population but only 14% of those on home electronic monitoring.  This likely relates to inability to pay the required $20/day fee to participate in electronic monitoring.  The effect is that African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated unnecessarily.

The table on reverse side shows many examples of unnecessary incarceration, and the changes that could reduce it.  MOSES is working hard for the changes needed to correct this terrible situation in our county.

[1]Despite a decline in Madison arrests since 2004, a decline in the number of new District Attorney cases since 2007, and a large decline in the average daily number of people in jail since 2006, the plan projects future jail space need by using a starting number higher than the current average daily number of jailed people, and then projects a steady increase.

[2] The plan proposes 64-bed “pods” to maximize facility/staffing efficiency.  But each pod is only efficient if at least 90% full.

[3] The plan projects only 14 youth beds needed, but proposes a 40-bed youth unit so that Dane County can make over $1 M annual revenue housing teens from other counties.


ADP = Average Daily Population (2012 actual or 2013 estimated);
LOS = Length of stay (in days)

People in Dane County Jail% of ADPLOSProposed Alternatives to Reduce Jail Time
People who cannot post their bail bond of:Do these people need to be in jail?
< $5000.33884Establish bail payment fund, sliding scale bail, or ROR
$501 to $1,0000.08125Assist into FoodShares & other job training programs
$1,001 to $5,0000.07134Implement Pre-Trial Services Program
Effect: Jail functions as a Poor HouseCommunity service in lieu of bail
People in jail who could be released for Huber privileges (to work or school)0.236If these people are safe enough for Huber, why aren’t they completely out on supervision?
Note: No racial data provided in report.Did they ever need to be in jail?
Note: Some Dane Co. Huber participants return to jail nights & weekendsHuber participants should be on home electronic monitoring, not in jail
Need racial data and eligibility policy to ensure equity
People with DOC holds, many with rule violations, not new crime. Note: 40% of holds are dropped; see next row.0.19425.1Why so long? What systems changes could reduce or eliminate jail time?
Note: Malfunctioning DOC bracelet/GPS equipment causes thousands of jail days
People with mental illness0.02931 to 43Treatment, alternatives, diversions
to 18.4% Create Mental Health Court (Medicaid funds)
(Note: Estimates in the jail plan report vary widely)Prohibit solitary confinement for person with mental illness (except emergency segregation pending transfer to treatment facility)
Transfer to mental health treatment facility
Release to community with Medicaid services
People with admission type “amended”0.06467.5Need clarification of what this “amended” admission type means and whether there are potential alternatives to jail for people in this category.
People who are released by signature bond or ROR (Release on Recognizance)0.0414.6Why does this take 3 to 5 days?
What systems/policy changes could reduce this?
People released after “hold” dropped0.03510.1Need clarification of what these “holds” are: Does it include DOC holds, and/or other types of holds?
People who are later released on cash bail 0.0333.3Why does this take 3 to 5 days?
What systems/policy changes could reduce this?
People in jail for 24 to 72 hours0.0231 to 3Video court sessions 7days/week
·    Initial court hearings occur only Mon-FriIf safe in community, release ROR, or w/ supervision
·    Bail hearings occur only twice/weekMore staff in District Attorney’s office
Youth—16 and 17 year olds0.019Youth court, restorative justice, treatment, etc.
MOSES/WISDOM is working on legislation to reassign16/17 year olds to juvenile justice system.
People in jail for less than 24 hours0.017<1What systems/policy changes could avoid this? (e.g., diversion from arrest; diversion from prosecution; District Attorney’s policies]
Low-level drug offensesTreatment instead of jail, and/or release ROR or on supervision
Arrests on old warrants Erase old warrants (Hoover Family Foundation work)
Reduce RecidivismAssist people with access to benefits (BadgerCare, FoodShare, job programs, etc.) before release[1]

[1] The Hoover Family Foundation has trained MOSES volunteers to help people apply for benefits, and has offered funding for other ways (e.g., bail fund) to stop unnecessary incarceration.

Tell the City of Madison to #BanTheBox !

Help stop hiring discrimination based on conviction history! Tomorrow, Madison’s Common Council will vote on a resolution supporting the Ban the Box initiative.  This resolution contains language that would encourage employers to leave questionBan the Boxs regarding criminal history off of applications.  They would agree not to ask about criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made.

Click here to read the full resolution.

If you would like to support this initiative, you can come to the Common Council meeting Tuesday, September 2 at 6:30pm, room 201 at the City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in Madison.  Even if you do not wish to speak in support of the resolution, you can fill out a registration card when you get to the meeting and note that you support Ban the Box!  Also, consider emailing your alders to let them know why they should support this important resolution.

View Testimony from MOSES members at the July 9 event #ReformWiscDOCNow

Here are some video testimonies from the July 9th event at the State Capitol. Please share! Scroll down on the Home page to see more information and links to press regarding this event.

WISDOM and MOSES Call to #ReformWiscDOCNow at State Capitol July 9, 2014

On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, many diverse interfaith groups and justice advocates gathered at the Wisconsin State Capitol for WISDOM’s press conference and to speak to the State Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Speakers from organizations across the state, including Madison’s own MOSES contingent, conveyed passion and knowledge as they unveiled REFORM NOW, a campaign to illuminate failures, share stories, offer solutions and call for accountability at the DOC.  More than 125 people directly impacted by prison injustices, including those recently-released from years in prison, the spouses, children and parents of individuals currently incarcerated, and those who have chosen to stand in solidarity for change were present to work for a better future.#ReformWiscDOCNow

MOSES, or Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality and Solidarity, will continue to play an important role, along with all of the statewide WISDOM affiliates, as we work on criminal justice issues in the months to come. From July through October, REFORM NOW will release briefs on revocations and GPS monitoring, compassionate release, and solitary confinement, culminating in the release of a report on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections in November of 2014.In addition, dedicated MOSES members and task forces will explore the impact of a proposed new jail and will continue to work for treatment alternatives and diversion.Jul9_2

WISDOM is a statewide network of 160 congregations representing 19 faith traditions, and it serves as the convener of the 11×15 campaign to reduce the state prison population from 22,000 to 11,000 by 2015. To support this effort, MOSES welcomes supporters, advocates and contributors to continue the conversation for creating more just and equitable communities throughout Wisconsin.  For additional involvement opportunities and information, please contact info@mosesmadison.org.

To see the first REFORM NOW brief:

Check out all the press generated from this event below or on our Facebook page:

AP — http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_268748/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=0Ch9p2le

And here are just some examples of where the AP story reached:

Wisconsin Public Radio — They read AP story this morning, even though Gil Halstead covered it. Not sure why …

AP story in the Green Bay paper — http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/2014/07/09/church-coalition-seeks-wisconsin-prison-reforms/12414651/

-AP story in Star Tribune — http://www.startribune.com/local/266457071.html

-AP story in Beaver Dam paper –– http://www.wiscnews.com/bdc/news/local/article_6eebbb3a-4dfe-5f9c-a6cf-8dbe14512826.html

AP story appeared at Fox affiliate station in Minneapolis — http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/25977637/church-coalition-launches-prison-reform-campaign

-AP story appeared in San Francisco paper!

Journal Sentinel — http://www.jsonline.com/news/religion/ministers-others-press-scott-walker-for-parole-reforms-b99308325z1-266517391.html

CBS affiliate in Madison (Jessica Arp was the reporter at the press conference) — http://www.channel3000.com/news/26872858

ABC affiliate WKOW in Madison (which went to all their affiliates in the state; e.g. I saw this on the LaCrosse page, too) — http://www.wkow.com/story/25981292/2014/07/09/wisdom-kicks-off-reform-now-campaign

Interview w/ Jerry at MKE public radio — http://wuwm.com/post/faith-based-network-demands-wisconsin-adjust-its-corrections-system

A front page in Beaver Dam!

Wisconsin Eye –– http://www.wiseye.org/Programming/VideoArchive/EventDetail.aspx?evhdid=8919     (This shows the entire press conference.)

WPR ‘Central Time’ – a truly great 10 minute interview with Jerry Hancock – explains the issues really clearly – http://www.wpr.org/listen/613606

Short report by Gil Halsted of WPR – with audio fr Jerry & Kate – http://www.wpr.org/listen/613571


Ban the Box and Stop Over-Use of Criminal Background Checks

Move conviction questions from the start to the end of the job application process

1 out of 4 U.S. adults has an arrest or criminal history that shows up in criminal background checks. Of those who are incarcerated, 95% will be released back into the community. ~54% of those released will return to jail.

The biggest reason people end up back in jail is because they cannot get jobs.  The biggest reason they cannot get jobs is because most initial job applications now have a yes/no check-box (or question) about convictions.  A “yes” answer usually means instant disqualification at the start.  The applicant is denied–even if they are a highly qualified and motivated worker, even if their crime was many years ago or has nothing to do with the job they seek, even if they have turned their life around.  With no job, people can’t provide for themselves and their families. They end up on public support, desperately poor, and often back in jail.  Their children suffer from this instability and poverty; many end up in foster care or in jail as well. All this is a waste of taxpayers’ money and human lives.

Ban the Box initiatives simply move the criminal history question from the start to the end of the job application process.  When criminal background checks are done later, qualified applicants can respond and explain during interviews (or later).  After that conversation, the employer can decide whether or not to deny the job based on the criminal record.[3]

Ban the Box won’t:

  • Override laws that prevent people with relevant convictions from certain jobs such as working with children or vulnerable people, or with money, etc.
  • Take final hiring decisions away from employers, or force them to hire any individual
  • Prevent employers from asking for a criminal background check

Ban the Box will:

  • Make our communities safer by reducing recidivism [4]
  • Let more people contribute to the economy and pay taxes, which benefits us all.
  • Provide more stability and income for the children of formerly incarcerated people
  • Give employers access to qualified applicants and workers
  • Restore hope, dignity, and justice for all

Ban the Box policies have been implemented in Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and 8 other states, and more than 56 large U.S. cities and counties.[5] It makes sense, it works well, it’s easy to do, and it’s the fair thing to do.  Please support Ban the Box initiatives in your area.

Stop Over-Use of Criminal Background Checks

“An employer cannot, legally, make a rule that no persons with conviction records will be employed. Each job and record must be considered individually.”

WI DWD/Equal Rights Division, pub. #7609

 Over-use of criminal background checks creates wasteful barriers to employment for many U.S. workers, and especially for people of color.  Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidance advises that overly broad criminal history screening practices “may disproportionately impact some individuals protected under Title VII [Civil Rights Act of 1964], and may violate the law if not job related and consistent with business necessity.” [6]

Wisconsin statutes state that employment can be denied only for convictions that “substantially relate[s]” to the circumstances of the particular job.[7]

Both agencies advise employers to instead use a 2-step process starting with a targeted screen that considers the nature of the crime, time elapsed since, and the nature of the specific job.  The 2nd step is to allow qualified applicants with relevant convictions to explain and correct errors in the record (which are very common).[8]  Below are key points from these agencies:

  • Remove questions about criminal records from initial employment applications.

These questions are usually overly broad and wrongly block applicants from being evaluated based on their qualifications.  Instead, let all qualified applicants have equal opportunity to be interviewed, and obtain criminal background checks at that later stage.

  • Consider convictions only when they directly relate to the position being sought.

Federal and state laws require this.  Also, employer liability for negligent hiring has been defined very narrowly: Employers are not liable for a hire that creates no more risk than the person simply being present in the community or in any other job.

  • Develop policies that are tailored to assess for unacceptable risk for specific positions, consistent with the evidence, and for a limited time period.

Only adult convictions should be considered—not arrests only; not dismissals, stays of adjudication, or juvenile adjudications; and not expunged or pardoned convictions.[9]

  • Give the applicant a chance to explain, and consider evidence of rehabilitation.

If a conviction does directly relate to the position sought, the applicant must have the opportunity to show evidence of sufficient rehabilitation and fitness to perform the duties of the position, and the opportunity to identify inaccuracies in the criminal record.

  • Develop clear and narrowly tailored policies to comply with state and federal laws.

Train staff and managers in proper procedures. Inquire only about job-related convictions.  Keep all information about criminal records confidential. See references below and on other side for further guidance and model practices.


[1]  “65 Million Need Not Apply,”  Michelle N. Rodgrigues, M. Emsellem. National Employment Law Project (NELP), March 2011.  www.nelp.org/page/-/SCLP/2011/65_Million_Need_Not_Apply.pdf  (p. 27, n 2.)

[2] “State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons. PEW Center on the States, April 2011.

[3] See other side for more detailed guidance for employers.

[4] An Illinois study showed that employment reduced the recidivism rate from 54% to 6%. (Art Lurigio, Safer Foundation Recidivism Study, 135thCongress of American Correctional Assoc., Aug. 8, 2005).

[5] www.nelp.org  (National Employment Law Project)

[6]  “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”  EEOC Policy 915.002, April 5, 2012. www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm

[7]  Wisconsin Statutes §§ 111.321, 111.322 prohibit employment discrimination in both public and private sectors on the basis of either an arrest or conviction record (1981).

[8]  “In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment.” Amy L. Solomon, National Institute of Justice Journal No. 270. www.nij.gov/journals/270/pages/criminal-records.aspx

[9]  EEOC Policy 915.002, April 2012, and “What You Should Know: EEOC’s Response to Letter from State Attorneys General on Use of Criminal Background Checks in Employment.” Aug. 29, 2013. EEOC website

Another $1.5M in TAD Funding Approved!

The state legislature recently approved a $1.5 million annual increase to the TAD (Treatment Alternatives and Diversions) fund.  This builds on the $1.5 increase that was approved in the summer of 2013.  This means that, in the past year, funding has gone from $1 million per year to $4 million per year.  Based on the past performance of TAD programs, we can conservatively estimate that the $3 million/year increase will result in:

  • At least 150 fewer prison admissions per year
  • At least 850 fewer county jail admissions per year
  • A net savings to Wisconsin taxpayers of at least $3 million

1,000 fewer people will be incarcerated every year!  (That is about the same as the number of people who gathered on the Capitol steps last March 14 to call on the legislature to increase TAD funding as a positive step in the 11×15 campaign goal of reducing our prison population.)

It is rare that we can see so clearly the positive impact of our work for justice.  MOSES and the statewide WISDOM network would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to  everyone who has participated in any way in the 11×15 campaign, as an individual or as a congregational member of MOSES.

Voices From Inside: Wisconsin Prisoners Speak OUT

Get Your Copy Today!

Voices From Inside

“Voices From Inside:  Wisconsin Prisoners Speak Out” is now available.  The book contains excerpts from some of the hundreds of letters WISDOM has received from inmates since the start of the 11×15 campaign.  The letters touch upon a variety of themes, and each of them reminds us that prisoners are human beings with hopes, dreams, regrets and questions.  The letters are accompanied by reflections from judges, bishops, pastors and others, as well as important facts about the criminal justice system.

Books can be obtained from any local WISDOM group or from the WISDOM office — 3195 S. Superior St., #310, Milwaukee, WI 53207.  A $5 donation per book is suggested.

Meeting with Governor Walker and What You Can Do Now

WISDOM leaders met with Governor Walker’s Office

About 100 WISDOM leaders from across Wisconsin and allied groups held a rally and press conference at graceEpiscopal Church in Madison.  Following this meeting the group headed over to meet with Governor Walker’s office.

The meting with the Governor’s office was regarding Old Law prisoners.  The Old Law refers to men and women that were sentenced under policies that expected prisoners to demonstrate good behavior and complete program conditions to earn an early release.  When the new Truth in Sentencing policy came into effect, law mandated that time sentenced equal time served and time being incarcerated was adjusted to reflect this policy.  It is estimated that there are thousands of men and women that are stuck between these two policies that have no way to earn release through parole.

A delegation of 8 WISDOM leaders including Christian, Muslim, and Islamic religious leaders met for an hour with Waylon Hurlburt the Senior Policy Analyst to the governor.   Hurlburt said the Governor had not known about this issue but added that Walker has interest and has promised a meeting before the end of January to consider and respond to our asks to:

  1. Review the cases of each prisoner that was sentenced under the Old Law
  2. Direct the Parole Commission and the Department of Corrections to work together to create a path to parole for these men and women
  3. Call for a study and issue a public report to offer transparency to the number of prisoners this would impact and how the issue would be resolved


Call Governor Walker’s office and thank him for the meeting and let him know that you look forward to a positive response in the meeting with WISDOM next month.  Governor Walker’s phone number is (608) 266-1212.