May 3: Mass Incarceration and Sentencing Policy in Wisconsin: Explaining and Addressing Over-Imprisonment

May 3, 2017

6:30-8:30 pm

The Red Gym, UW Madison


Professor Michael O’Hear, U.W. Milwaukee

Professor Cecilia Klingele, U.W. Madison Law School

Talib Akbar, Vice-President of MOSES and a former prisoner


April 24: Break the Cycle: The Power of Food to Interrupt the Revolving Door of Prisons

Monday April 24
5:00 p.m.
1106 Mechanical Engineering Building
1513 University Ave. (map)

A documentary film screening and community discussion examining the interconnections between race, mass incarceration and urban agriculture.
Cinematography & Editor: Nyal Mueenuddin
Producers: Mattie Naythons, Jamie Trapp, Katie Faryniarz, Mackenzie Marcus, and Carrie Lierl


  • Anthony Cooper, Sr., Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership and Development
  • Carmella Glenn, Just Bakery, Madison Urban Ministry
  • Alfonso Morales, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
  • Robert Pierce, Neighborhood Food Solutions


  • Dadit Hidayat, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

More information:


On February 4th, WISDOM, held a listening session and invited the community to come and hear the stories of people who have experienced incarceration or the families members of people impacted by a loved ones incarceration. Several people spoke about their experiences on a multitude of topics: loss, frustration, lack of clean water within the prison at Fox Lake. There were also several people encouraging the community to keep their hearts and minds open and to strive for justice for those who have been imprisoned. Several legislators and their representatives attended the session, among them were Rep. Barns, Rep. Subeck, Rep. Sargent, Rep. Berceau, Rep. Pope, Sen. Miller and staff from Reps. Taylor, Bowen, and Kahl.

Things Get Worse for Wisconsin Hunger Strikers!

Dying to Live Hunger Strikers Kept on the Brink of Death by Retaliatory DOC

Contact: Jason Geils IWOC, 414-350-9585,
Interview contact: Chance Zombor, 262-844-3703,

Dying to Live Hunger Strikers Kept on the Brink of Death by Retaliatory DOC

Waupun WI- According to a letter from hunger striker LaRon McKinley, the Dying to Live hunger strike against solitary confinement at Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI) has become a serious health crisis after seventy-six days.

On August 15, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (WI DOC) decided to suspend the force feeding they have subjected the prisoners to since June 17. They allowed McKinley and Cesar DeLeon, the two most committed hunger strikers, to go without food or water for 72 hours, until they were severely dehydrated. Then they tube fed them again on Thursday August 18.

“Presently, and for most of this week, we have been under retaliatory attack by our warden as a direct consequence of our political efforts… to force an end to prolonged Administrative Confinement,” the letter from McKinley reads.

On Saturday August 13, a coalition of prisoner supporters from across the state gathered in Waupun to protest DOC practices and show solidarity with the hunger strike. They were greeted by offensive gestures, threats and insults by local residents, some of whom likely work at the prison.

“We believe Warden Foster has changed the force feeding regimen in response to our protest, unfortunately, the changes are retaliatory: increasing the pain, harm and danger these men are experiencing in an effort to break their will,” says Chance Zombor, who led the march on August 13.
A sudden intake of calories by a starved and dehydrated person causes violent metabolic shifts, leading to a potentially fatal condition called refeeding syndrome. WI DOC has begun a regimen that is very likely to cause refeeding syndrome. According to wikipedia, “the shifting of electrolytes and fluid balance increases cardiac workload and heart rate. This can lead to acute heart failure. Oxygen consumption is also decreased which strains the respiratory system.”

When the United States Military was force-feeding suspected terrorists on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay, they took care to first intravenously re-hydrate the starving people to prevent refeeding syndrome. In Waupun, the DOC only allows the prisoners to drink lead-polluted water from the 165 year old institution, which causes diarrhea and exacerbates their dehydration.

McKinley suspects the DOC is intentionally keeping them on the brink of death. According to his letter, after 42 hours without food or water—because they refused to drink Waupun’s polluted water, he and Cesar DeLeon, “were diagnosed as seriously dehydrated, and the tube feeding was then recommended, but this time they made us both go exactly 30 more hours, to exactly 72 hours each. Seventy Two hours without water is a well known and medically held time limit that would and is generally believed to kill most people.”

The hunger strikers believe Waupun staff will continue force feeding them every 72 hours in an effort to make the hunger strike as unbearable as possible. McKinley’s letter goes on to describe his body’s response, which mirrors the symptoms of refeeding syndrome: “due to the stress and ordeal that our bodies had gone through, they kind of reacted as if they had been poisoned when said fluids were eventually forced into the stomach.”
Outside supporters are demanding that the DOC allow LaRon McKinley and Cesar DeLeon to drink bottled water, and that Wisconsin meet the striker’s central demand: a one-year cap on any form of solitary confinement. They are asking people to contact Warden Foster, DOC Secretary Jon Litscher, and Governor Scott Walker. More information, including phone numbers and email addresses can be found at

Compassionate Release

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Focus on Compassionate Release: Larry Spencer

When ‘Tough on Crime’ is a rallying cry of a justice system, it seems as if compassion would naturally be precluded. Even as compassionate release has become an applicable cost-saving measure in prison reform, it is rarely used due to the Department of Corrections appearing to be weak on prisoners. As a self-proclaimed white elephant, Larry Spencer is well aware of how rare compassionate releases from Wisconsin Prisons are. After serving 15 years of a 40-year sentence, Spencer was discharged from the Oshkosh Correctional Facility in February on compassionate leave for a heart condition. He sat down with MOSES this month to talk about his experience, release, and plans for the future.
Spencer’s path to the DOC was somewhat storied. The Madison native experienced a peppered history of petty, non-violent crime throughout early to mid-adulthood. Some years were better than others. Yet in 2001, a non-violent drug charge landed him a 40-year sentence. He was initially sent to Green Bay Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison. There, he became interested in law, advocating for other inmates as a jailhouse lawyer, as well as advocating for his own non-medical compassionate release. As he waded through years of appeals, his health was starting to fail. In 2015, he met social worker Peggy Swan who took a look at his case and told Spencer, according to him, “You do not belong here!”
Swan advocated for his freedom and a year later, at age 65, Spencer was released, but not without a fight. The Department of Correction insisted on sending him to hospice care farm outside of Milwaukee. Spencer refused. He was legally free to move as he pleased and demanded to go back to Madison. The compromise? The Red Roof Inn near the prison, without food, financial assistance or civilian clothing. With help from First Congregational and MOSES vice president, Talib Akbar, Spencer found his way to Madison. When he returned, he bounced around from different living arrangements, ultimately taking residence at Trinity Senior Living, on the east side of Madison.

Now, his main concern is staying as healthy as long as he can.  One revelation he has made is his love off fresh fruits and vegetables. Larry Spencer loves tomatoes; he credits them with the longevity that he has enjoyed thus far. He also credits his focus on living on his resilience through tough times. Spencer overcame childhood cancer with the same outlook and expects similar results. He hopes to get, “another summer out of this old heart,” spending his days seeing old childhood friends and enjoying his life.

Larry Spencer’s compassionate release shouldn’t solely be regarded as an avenue for dying with dignity, it is all about living with dignity. For the greater prison population, this avenue to dismissal should not be an anomaly. Introduced in a budget act in 2001, compassionate release in Wisconsin is a relatively fresh (and somewhat unknown) option for prisoners. It’s also rather obscure because it’s rarely granted. Under a compassionate release update in 2009 (that was repealed in 2011), compassionate release was expanded to include more inmates. In close to a two-year period, eight out of the fifty-five that applied were granted release; more than half died less than a year after. Even if looking from a purely economic standpoint, how is releasing 14% of applicants going to change Wisconsin’s dire tax situation? Rather than taking a ‘tough on crime’ approach that is proven ineffective and expensive, can Wisconsin be cost-effective with a ‘compassionate on giving people human dignity’ strategy?

Written by Laura Peterson

Updates from WISDOM

From David Liners:

“Before you reform evil, you have to see evil.”  Rev. Jerry Hancock makes this statement in a ‘For the Record’ TV program. Click so you can watch it now. He and Talib Akbar, both leaders in WISDOM’s MOSES affiliate, do a great job of educating on the evils of Wisconsin’s prison system, especially the abuse of solitary confinement.

Our replica of a solitary cell that is touring the state does a good job of letting people see and experience the evil of solitary confinement. People can sign up to sit in the cell with earphones to experience the constant noise. Talib drew the exact sketch for the cell while he was incarcerated in it. He understands the importance of experiencing evil so we can reform it. He and others shared their experiences last night at a forum at Marquette University that was very well received.

You can add your voice to a variety of reforms for which we are working by joining us for Madison Action Day on April 29. Sign up by filling out this form and/or emailing to

Here is some of the press coverage of our replica solitary cell:

Drawing by Talib Akbar