On July 26, 2016 the Wisconsin Criminal Justice Coordinating Council met. Sec. Litscher from the Department of Corrections chaired the meeting. The statement below from WISDOM was read during the public comment section at the end of the meeting. It was an opportunity to share our concerns directly with Sec. Litscher and people working in the criminal justice system throughout the state.
We are very concerned about the way things are going in our Wisconsin prison system. We are living with:
–Staff shortages that threaten safety, good order and the health of corrections officers;
— The overuse of solitary confinement, especially of so-called “Administrative Confinement;
–The horrible situation at Lincoln Hills and at Copper Lake
— The deaths of inmates inside the walls,
–Hunger strikes and forced feeding that paint a very inhumane picture.
Our state’s commitment to mass incarceration has finally reached a point where it has broken the system. The most basic problem is not too few guards, too few programs or mis-management. The problem is that we have far too many prisoners.
Our Corrections system is broken, and it cannot fix itself. We need a serious statewide summit with all the stakeholders at the table. We need an open discussion of all the issues listed above, not with an eye toward blame, but with an eye toward fixing things. We need the Governor, the legislature and the people of Wisconsin to take a serious look at the kinds of reforms that have worked and are working in other states. We believe those should start with greater limitation on solitary confinement, with a drastic reduction in crimeless revocations, with giving old law inmates an honest chance at parole. I’m sure there are other steps, as well.
Please, offer leadership in our state by confronting our Corrections crisis in an open and transparent way, and by looking at real solutions, not just trying to hold on and make the old system work.