WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT 11X15 . . . .
…..We encourage inmates, family members, law enforcement personnel, crime victims, and others to submit their opinions. All letters are subject to review and will be published at the discretion of the editors. Please send your thoughts and ideas to: David Liners at email@example.com. Letters will be posted bi-weekly.
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August 12, 2013
It is my belief that the Wisconsin DOC, and Governor Scott Walker have no intention of paroling me or others. With no interest in parole, there is no way to legally challenge the parole commission’s decision. State legislators also do not care that the legislative intent meant to parole people at 25% of their sentence, unless good reasons exist to prevent release. No politician wants to be seen as “weak on crime.” I also believe they are not being “smart on crime.” I know others in similar situations.
Excessive incarceration helps no one. In fact, it hurts everyone, including the offender, families, and tax payers. Wisconsin must change! Michigan did. Minnesota did. Why do so few Wisconsin citizens care? D.W.
August 5, 2013
I am a 29 year old single mother of 3 children. I’m currently incarcerated on a “Sexual Assault of a minor male, non-relative.” It was the worst mistake I made by crossing that line with a minor. I remain remorseful, ashamed, guilty, disgusted with myself and, day by day I wish I could turn back time.
Being here is a nightmare for me. I hate being away from my children and family. I was sentenced to a total of 17 years – 10 in and 7 out. My lawyer, defense team, and the doctor who did a psych evaluation on me, said I didn’t need to be imprisoned, I needed treatment due to my mental health. My two oldest sons asked me why the judge gave me so much time and why did he have to take me away from them because they need me to raise them and be home. My parents will be their legal guardians. They are 65 and 70 years old and they both have bad health issues.
I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t ever in my lifetime plan on being a repeat offender. Being here, away from my children has truly taught me a lesson and opened up my eyes. W. S.
August 1, 2013
I am a 72 year-old hard core drunk driver presently a prisoner of Stanley Correctional Institution, serving a three year-sentence for my 6th OWI.
I see the overcrowding as a business and income for excessive federal funding, not as any type of rehabilitation. Get rid of the Truth in Sentencing and go back to the old law that grants good time and soon the prison population will drop. Put non-violent offenders on a bracelet or house arrest, not in prison.
Regardless of a prisoner’s extended supervision time, make everyone’s time the same- (i.e. two years of good behavior and you’re given a discharge). This will eliminate the 80% revocation rate. R. B.
July 27, 2013
I am currently incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Institution. I am an opiate addict. When I went to prison in 2008, on revocation, I entered the Earned Release Program which is the most extensive treatment in the Prison System (6months). I was released early into the community after doing 2 ½ years. This is how the system failed me.
Upon my release, I had a full-time job as a disc jockey for weddings and I was under the assumption I would do aftercare to reintegrate back to the community as an addict in recovery. But, to my surprise, when I met with my Probation Agent, she made me aware that I couldn’t work my job as agreed before I was released, and she said there wasn’t any funding or programs for any type of aftercare. In addition, Washington County, where I lived, didn’t require offenders to do treatment. My only choice was to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I attended four times a week and built a great network of clean and sober friends with lives similar to mine.
Eight months into the program, my PO said she received a call from someone saying I was using after meetings. She tested my urine and I came up clean, but she said I couldn’t go to my meetings any more. I tried meetings in another county and found them to be chaotic and a way to get connections to drugs. I told my PO and she said, “Well, then don’t go to meetings.”
My support system stopped. I felt I was doomed. A few months later I relapsed and overdosed on heroin in 2011. Now, I sit under punishment with resentments. I don’t need to be in prison to learn to stay clean on the inside. It’s on the outside that I need help. People coming out of prison are doomed to fail.
We need help with housing, jobs, money management and treatment. Also, Probation and Parole officers need to be educate about addiction. This is a disease, not a quick-fix problem. M.S.
July 20, 2013
I’m writing in regard to my fiancé. He got a 35 year sentence, pretty much based on theft (stolen weapons). He has been in prison 13 years now. He didn’t have a good attorney to begin with and I feel he was shafted. Yes, he should have done some time however I think 35 years is an extreme amount.
Now he is “lost in the shuffle” and it’s a waste that he is still there. He’s one of the inmates they just want to warehouse. I think he’s a good candidate for your 11X15 Campaign.
It would be beneficial for him to come home. I have had a long road, this year, with a cancer battle and I’m 36. I feel he’d help me along the way. Just having his support to help me through the good times and the bad would be good enough for me and for our children. He’s missed out on so much and I know he has truly learned from his mistake. Sometimes we grow in the worst situations. I believe he has. S.S.
July 13, 2013
This is my personal experience of my life as a drug addict and how I ended up in prison with a 35 year sentence (20 years of confinement and 15 years extended supervision. I started using drugs at a very young age. I was only 12 or 13 when I started with marijuana on a regular basis. By the time I was 15, I was using methamphetamines almost daily. By 16, I was using Meth, weed, cocaine, pills, acid and anything else that I could get my hands on.
I dropped out of school and started selling drugs to support my habit. I started living on my own, off and on. At 17, I was arrested after the police conducted a search of my parents’ house and found large amounts of drugs and drug paraphernalia. I was released to my parent’s custody. That case wasn’t resolved until I was arrested, just over a year later, for armed robberies – one of which was a pharmacy. My addictions had taken me so far and close to the edge that I was like a man possessed who would have done nearly anything to get high just one more time.
After nearly 5 years of sobriety and imprisonment I sometimes think back to some of the horrible things I did while I was so messed up and lost to drugs. It almost feels as if I’m watching a movie of some drug-crazed man, but in no way does it feel like that was me. I find it simply quite sickening to even imagine myself as being able to do what I did when I was a drug addict.
I know I did wrong and I take full responsibility for those wrong doings. However, I also desperately needed help with my drug problem and will need it in the future in order to progress back into society one day.
My sentence is extremely excessive seeing as I was just 18 years of age and it was my first and only adult case. I stole the drugs because of a severe drug problem throughout a good amount of my life. If I have to serve the entire 20 years of confinement, I will have lived more of my young life in prison than out. I don’t find that fair or right. A.S.
July 8, 2013
I am in Oshkosh Correctional Institution. I was convicted of a drug case in 2009 and sentenced to 24 years (9 in and 15 out). All three of my charges were a little under ½ ounce of cocaine. I never robbed or hurt anyone. I tried to take care of my mom and kids and I know I was wrong.
Before I was locked up, I asked my probation officer could I get an interstate back to Chicago. My family lives there. I haven’t seen them in 4 years. My daughter just graduated from 8th grade and she struggles. Her mom is in jail, her grandma is getting old. They do their best to make sure she’s okay.
I got my certificate in Institutional Foods and I’m working all my programs. My out date is 2019 and I can’t go to minimum so I can make money and pay off my debt. Every time I go to parole, they deny me thought I haven’t been in any trouble. I didn’t deserve all this time. T.S.
June 28, 2013
I’ve been incarcerated for six years and will be released in October – untreated and penniless. Department of Corrections (DOC) rules state that any inmate who is appealing his or her conviction (such as I am) may not participate in treatment programming. Similar DOC rules provide that untreated inmates may not be transferred to minimum security work release facilities. These are blanket policies without regard to individual scenarios. My sentencing judge specifically said that confinement is not necessary for treatment – I may complete it in the community. No matter to the DOC. No matter that I have and wish to fulfill my child support obligation. I explained my sentencing judge’s pronouncement (and provided a copy of the transcript) to the DOC officials. I also offered to allow a 90% deduction of my work release wages, but the DOC refused a transfer. “A policy is a policy,” they say.
I’m not alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands, in the corrections system in situations like mine – no programming or income-generating opportunities. What are we to do? I’ve chosen not to play cards or dominoes in the dayroom all day, every day. Instead, I’ve studied law every day for the past six years. Prison has made me a better person, but I imagine not in ways the system had hoped. I am determined to live a crime-free life upon my release. (This is my first felony conviction). I am also committed to working for a law firm and volunteering at legal organizations.
But, my situation is an exceptional one. Most inmates fall into despair, fully aware they’ll be entering the community broke and untreated. It is widely believed that under Wisconsin’s Truth in Sentencing, inmates have little or no incentive to complete treatment programs or stay out of trouble. R.S.
June 21, 2013
I am serving 17 years at Stanley Correctional Institution. I have been trying to get into Sex Offender Treatment programming for the last 7 years, but the Wisconsin Department of Corrections refuses to send me to the program until I have 5 years left.
How can it benefit a sex offender that needs treatment to delay treatment that long? I believe the DOC is causing sex offenders to re-offend in the community, by not giving prompt treatment. I have offered the opportunity to let me go to a private treatment center in Tennessee, where I am from and to pay for all the costs. I have asked them to send me to a Tennessee State Prison on a prisoner swap which I would pay for so I could receive treatment from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, but once again they refuse.
I was told, in my last PRC meeting, that I should get used to living at Stanley for a long while. I am being warehoused because my time to MR (Mandatory Release is 2021. I believe the Wisconsin Department of Corrections sets us up to fail. J.S.
June 18, 2013
I am 53 years old and have been in the system since 1998 for First Degree Sexual Assault. I came in addicted to many drugs, alcohol, and medications. I was fed up with my behaviors and was motivated for treatment and, most of all change so that I wouldn’t have any more victims.
I started with many volunteer programs while incarcerated and was told I was limited because of my sentence time. I was looking at 16 years to Mandatory Release (MR) and then there was PMR (Presumptive Mandatory Release) stamped on my file from the DOC.
I didn’t accept that and did what I could to find ways to change. I was able to complete my HSED (High School Equivalency Degree) and some volunteer programs. Several years later, I entered and completed SO4 (Sex Offender Treatment) and Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction (AODA) residential treatment. I continue to volunteer in several different programs to keep up and work on other areas to stay safe and healthy. I worked my way off all medications and have complete control over my emotions and behavior. And I feel great.
In 2010 I was given a 6 month defer and PRI ( Pre Release Investigation) from Parole and told to work with my PO to facilitate re-entry efforts. I did this and more. I returned to Parole and was told my last Parole Hearing was a mistake. I was given a 12 month defer instead. I’ve completed everything required by the DOC and been told I’m doing great by many different staff members. I was completely honest during treatment to gain full benefits to achieve my goal of no more victims. Now, because I have been completely transparent and because I disclosed all my victims, I’m being told I need to do more time for punishment.
It hasn’t changed my goal or my attitude toward change. I am still working with my volunteer programs and enjoy helping others. I am a bit confused and disappointed with the system and the change in Parole. I will return to Parole in a couple of months and am a bit anxious and concerned about the possible outcome. D.S.
June 12, 2013
I am minimum status, 70% Service Connected Disabled Veteran, in prison for the offense of homicide. I have been in prison for 18 years. While in prison, I have earned a paralegal degree and am 8 classes away from my BA from UW Platteville. I have assisted almost 300 men in obtaining their HSED, received numerous letters of appreciation, and have earned over 58 certifications and diplomas.
I have appeared before the parole board 7 times. The last time, they actually increased my deferment. It is my position that arbitrarily raising a parole defer without any justification, is against public policy and that the board is engaging in this behavior as a way to maintain viable employment.
The parole commission has been terminated, and once the final “old law” inmate is released, the parole commission will cease to exist. Also, the records will show the commission has raised just about all parole defers (at Oakhill) since the repeal of Act 28, which stripped the board of its authority over all new admissions. I suggest this issue be investigated and the public notified about what is happening. In essence, the board is taking motivated individuals and turning them into bitter victims that feel as though they have been treated unjustly.
Finally, please address the closed hearings that the parole board conducts. Every other public office, in the criminal justice system, must allow the public to attend. Why is the parole board exempt from that requirement? One would think the public would have a greater need to be present at a parole hearing than at any other stage in the criminal justice system. S.B.
June 8, 2013
I came to prison at age 18. I’m 32 now. Soon I will have spent more time in prison than in the free world. I am serving a life sentence. I’ve had problems with substance abuse in the past and would like to learn more about my own and other’s dependencies. This prison offers those types of programs to people when they become eligible for release. I’ve seen parole. They gave a 48 month recall and said the programs would require me to have twelve months or less.
I want to grow, to be better than I was. I know that I’ve hurt others. I don’t want to hurt or hurt others anymore. Why do I have to wait to learn how to be a citizen when that is what is expected of me? Honestly, it’s discouraging. E.S.
June 1, 2013
I’ve been seen by the Parole Commission several times since 2004. The main reason I was not granted a release date, at these hearings is because I have no residence to release to. I was convicted in Kenosha County and must return to that county. Because of local ordinances, TLP placement is difficult in Kenosha. My parole agent seems reluctant to even request a placement for me. It is very frustrating, to say the least. C.C
May 22, 2013
I grew up in Chicago, on the West side, in the projects. Ever since I was a child I found out that the justice system capitalized on sending people to prison and jail. I saw a lot of young men on drugs and drinking – including myself. Once upon a time, they had a lot of treatment programs for people. Now, the politicians don’t see it that way anymore. The city and state see it as a business sending people to prison and jail instead of treatment. If they do give them treatment, they sometimes set them up in the program with someone who doesn’t care and who doesn’t take their clients seriously.
I know about this system because I have been in it most of my life. I’m a recovering drug addict. I’ve been in a lot of programs for drinking and drugs and I know that some staff want to see their clients succeed and move forward. If there were more treatment programs – good treatment programs – that can really help with the problems and make it safe for a client to open up to his probation agent and counselor without fear of being sent back to jail, the client may be able to be helped.
I’ve been to good programs that planted a seed inside me. I’ve had good counselors who wanted me to better myself. I think any person involved in drinking and drugging should find themselves a good support group, a church, a way to change their thinking. They need to have a job or a volunteer position to keep them busy and keep their mind off old behaviors. As an addict, I put a lot of effort into changing my thinking and doing something positive because I know every day I only have 24 hours to stay clean and sober. W.T. Editor’s Note: Read his book on Amazon:“Living in the House of Drugs.”
May 21, 2013
I’ve been incarcerated since I was 18. There was no questioning my issues with drugs, alcohol, anger, depression, and suicide. The DOC appropriately assessed me as needing Anger Management and AODA treatment. Yet, nearly ten years later, my admission into either program remains denied.
Thankfully, I received much needed help by other means. One voluntary program, “Restorative Justice,” (which was very effective), unites inmates, community members, and victims. This program brings the pain and devastation of crime to life. Also, it reveals a love, support, acceptance, and forgiveness many convicts never know.
Effective program availability, with incentives, would go a long way, but genuine rehabilitation and successful reintegration potential cannot be determined by program completion, time served, or uneducated opinions. It is found in an individual’s heart.
Punishment is deserved and treatment needed, but individual potential for change needs consideration. Otherwise we’re just stored safely away from home in a warehouse. J.S.
May 15, 2013
The moment before I got arrested I was a sweet harmless teenager with a 3.4 GPA at UW-Milwaukee. The moment after I plead guilty to First Degree Reckless Homicide (in 2003) I was an unpredictable monster.
For the past 8 years, I’ve prepared for my return to society and contemplated what it would take for me to regain my humanity in its eyes. I know this will be hard to do as many are determined to define me by my actions that night, 9 years ago. For committing a very violent offense, there’s no doubt I both deserve and will serve my entire sentence.
Most inmates do less than 2 years. I watch an endless parade of short-timers leave here with virtually the same mentality they had coming in. Instead of being held accountable to the communities they’ve offended, they’re just being held, fed, clothed, and given medical care for a cost of $30,000 per year. A better way exists. S.R.
May 12, 2013
I am so tired of not being able to partake in my program needs. I am told, year after year, that I don’t have enough time in to do said programs! I have been incarcerated for 25 years straight. I was eligible for programming when I walked in the door. Instead, I watch a steady stream of people who have only been in for 2-3 years getting the programs I need. I am discouraged and feel this is an endless journey I am on. D.M.
May 6, 2013
I received a life sentence in 1984 for stabbing another man in a fight. At that time, parole eligibility on a life sentence was 11 years, 3 months and the average time served to release on parole was 13-15 years.
In 2002, I was transferred to minimum security and in 2005 I transferred to Gordon Correctional Center where I was out on work release for 19 months. I was returned to Oakhill until June 2010 and then sent back to Gordon. In 2010, I drove over 30,000 miles in a state van (un-escorted) ferrying prisoners back and forth to their work release jobs.
On January 7, 2011, three days after Walker was sworn in as governor, the parole commission increased my defer to 12 months and I was removed from Gordon and placed in medium security at Stanley – one of the harshest prisons in the state. I am now required to spend many additional years in prison for no reason. I have spent years out in the community and proven that I am not a risk to anyone. It is politics, pure and simple.
I am 58 years old, weigh 150 pounds and have a crippled leg. I have a perfect conduct record, completed all required treatment, obtained a bachelor’s degree from UW Platteville and have numerous friends and family who will help me upon release.
When I got to Stanley, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It’s like an old-folks home here. There are hundreds of old, white guys being warehoused who stopped being a threat to anyone years ago. Each prisoner who is held in prison for decades beyond the point where he ceases to be a danger to anyone ties up a prison bed which could be used for someone who is currently dangerous.
Also, getting the prison population down to 11,000 prisoners will be very difficult unless all the prisoners being warehoused under the old laws are given fair parole hearings based on whether they currently pose a risk – if released. H.R.
April 30, 2013
I’m 48 years old and I’m serving a 15 ½ year sentence for Aggravated Battery and Resisting. I have 3 ½ years left. Why is it that ‘everyone’ only wants to help non-violent offenders when we all need help? It appears to me that society is trying to close the doors on me like I don’t exist. Does anyone understand that there’s a very large percentage of violent offenders that will be released. All you hear about is helping the non-violent ones. Well, I need help too.
The DOC is trying to hold me to the last minute then cram all the programs they can down my throat – missing what I need the most. After 11 years of taking programs, I still have 2 left to do. I’m being blackmailed. If I don’t do the programs, I don’t get minimum custody, but they won’t give me the programs. I’ve been trying constantly, over the last 5 years, to take these remaining programs and I’ve been turned down based on my release date.
I would like to obtain my license and have a job through community custody for at least 1 ½ years, but I can’t get minimum unless I complete certain programs. I’ve seen other offenders take this program with 4-5 years left. There are lifers in minimum but they won’t help me. This has stressed me to the point where I’m about to give up. My social worker told me “it’s my choice to give up.” These people don’t care. I’m not asking for the impossible. All I want is a chance at a better life. A.M.
April 22, 2013
I have been in the custody of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for 15 years, serving 40 years for homicide. I have made wrong choices that hurt my community – my victim’s family and loved ones. I am sorry.
I’ve tried to address my substance abuse problems during my incarceration in the hopes of being free from those chains, but for the past 12 years, I’ve requested treatment and was turned down due to my release date.
We are living in an environment where the administration’s goal is to warehouse rather than provide treatment. I was raped by a sex-offender who obviously needs treatment! Why was he not placed in a facility where he could receive the treatment he needs so that he would not victimize anyone else?
Everyone expected me to respond violently. Even during the investigations, I was asked why I didn’t fight back – as if we’re expected to continue living as we did in the past. But, by the grace of God, I am alive and able to give my testimony to the need for change in the system. J.R.
April 18, 2013
11X15 is a realistic goal. I like that your organization is Christian leaders supporting a new approach to crime by dealing with why it happened. I have been imprisoned since August 2005 for vehicular homicide. The only treatment I have received is chemical. The DOC does not give programs until the final years of sentence. So, it is a waiting game – human storage. Eighty to ninety per cent of inmates have chemical dependency. Most crimes could be dealt with outside of prison walls – maybe a farm or supervised living arrangements. If you want to stop crime, you have to help the criminal. T. P.
April 14, 2013
I would like to let you know that my family and friends are supporting your effort in the 11X15 Campaign. I have been incarcerated since 1999 for a crime that happened in 1997. I was convicted on hearsay. There was no physical evidence. I turned down a 5-year plea bargain because I didn’t do this crime. I still received 40 years.
I was told that I would be released after serving a quarter of the 40 years, if I did a 6 month program, but now this ‘Truth in Sentencing” took place in 2002. I have to do two thirds of the time and I have been refused the programming until 2024 and will be released in 2026. If I was under ‘Truth in Sentencing” I would have only gotten 10 years. R.P.
April 10, 2013
I am currently serving a 10 year sentence for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Deliver, Bail Jumping and Maintaining a Drug Trafficking Place. Prior to my incarceration, I had a ‘normal’ life. I was a single mom raising three beautiful children. I was struggling to support my family with an okay job at a factory.
Then a man came into my life who appeared to be a savior of some kind. He was selling drugs and making a lot of money doing it. I saw how easy it was for him and I figured I could do it too. “Besides,” I thought, “I’m not a drug user.” So began my downward spiral. I did make a lot of money and justified my actions because I was helping my family financially and I was only selling large amounts to a couple of adults. I never considered who they were then selling the drugs to.
I was arrested, along with my 17 year old daughter. I learned she was a heroin addict, during my arrest. The week before she was sentenced to three years in prison, she found out she was pregnant. I got ten years and I’ve come to believe this was God’s intervention.
The judge gave me ERP (Earned Release Program) however with loss of Act 28, the opportunity to participate is not available to me because I am not an addict. Why should that affect my chances at earning an early release? I believe these programs would be very beneficial for drug dealers that don’t use because we could see the effect on others lives. In the time I have been at Taycheedah, I have completed all of my ordered programs. I have a good job in a trusted position and have had no conduct reports. I am considered a ‘good’ inmate. Yet when I wrote the judge in my county for a time cut, (which I am eligible for 25%), he denied me stating it is for the safety of the community.
Presently, inmates have little to no incentive to better themselves or stay out of trouble. Our judges have no idea what changes we have made, yet we continue to give them all the power to determine who can/cannot get out early. So, here I sit with nothing but time – still a good inmate, hoping maybe something will change.
I am a mother, daughter, grandmother. I am a woman who made a huge mistake and am paying dearly for it. My children suffer, as do the rest of my family members. All that I want is for my story to be heard and for legislature to really think, long and hard, about all of the power we give to judges. M.P.
April 4, 2013
I have been incarcerated for about 11 years on a charge of reckless homicide. While I still argue that I was acting in self-defense, there is one thing I won’t argue, and that is my responsibility for making a multitude of poor choices from my teenage years to my 30’s – and even up to my current age of 42.
With clear hindsight, I can see where my decisions were shaped and molded by issues that I hadn’t properly dealt with from my youth. The lack of a father and betrayal by trusted family members affected me more than I cared to admit, and pushing it down or using alcohol and drugs was the only way to ease the confusion. That is the common story of most, if not all of those I’ve talked with in prison.
Fortunately, for me, I have developed a relationship with the Lord and begun a transformation and rehabilitation process that has healed most of the hurts and issues from my youth. This is not the case for most, and I can’t help but notice that many more of us could be on the path of healing and health if an opportunity were available upon entrance to the prison system (or better yet, before that). Nevertheless, the root causes of men’s various issues and behaviors are not being comprehensively evaluated or treated. Grown men, who are still longing for love and acceptance, settle for acceptance in a stagnant, unproductive, and often negative community of peers.
So many men, with great potential, are growing bitter here. Obviously, cynicism will only lead to more poor choices. Therefore, ‘Thank You’ for recognizing the problems and taking action! R.P.
March 28, 2013
The “Get Tough on Crime” culture has permeated this state for quite some time. I realize that violent criminals need to be locked up just on pure safety standards alone, but for those, like myself, who are incarcerated because of the demons of substance abuse (and nothing more) there must be another avenue besides punishment.
I’m here due to drunk driving. I committed 3 offenses over a 13 month span of time. Compounding that, these were my 5,th , 6th, and 7th offenses. I feel very lucky that none of them involved an accident. Each offense was in a different county. All three judges sentenced me to 3 years consecutive for a total of 9 years. This is to be followed by 11 years of supervision. That’s a total of 20 years in the system.
After reading the last paragraph, it would be reasonable to assume I’m a lost cause. If you knew me, though, you’d realize this is not the case. I’m 50 years old. For most of my life I was a productive individual, working hard and earning degrees in various fields. My grade point average was 3.8. It’s just that I’ve got a really bad drinking problem. It’s a shame considering what I have done and still could accomplish. Since coming to Oshkosh, I have achieved a “National Certification in Braille Transcription.” There are only about 200 such certifications nationwide.
If there’s one thing this prison stint has done for me, it has allowed me to focus on how severe my drinking problem really is. Now, I’m committed to never drink again. I have learned that the most important aspect of long-term sobriety is the development and subsequent adherence to spirituality. Currently, I’m the secretary of my AA group here at the prison. I can only take things one day at a time.
There is one thing you should know about how Wisconsin’s prisons deal with alcohol or drug addiction. There are very few programs available to newer inmates in terms of treatment. The system generally doesn’t allow access to treatment until the tail end of someone’s sentence. In other words, Punishment is first and foremost – and if there’s time left, you might get your treatment. In my opinion, this is backwards. It is detrimental to the inmate if he or she doesn’t get treatment soon after they are committed. I will probably have to wait 6 years before I get treatment! Tell me how that fits into their mission statement motto, “Re-entry, a Bridge to Success.”
Reform is long overdue in this system. I believe the public is pretty much in the dark about all this. Tax payers are footing a 1.3 billion dollar annual cost to fund the D.O.C. J.N.
March 26, 2013
I’m currently serving a 12 year prison sentence for 2 separate sexual assault cases. I’m 27 years old, my crimes were committed when I was 20 and 24 with under-age females. As my lawyer stated, “consensual in fact but not in law.” Needless to say, what I did was wrong both morally and legally and I take full responsibility for my crimes.
I’m taking this time to better myself. Thanks to the support of my friends and family, I’ve been able to take college courses through Louisiana State University. Since I have so much time before I get released, I’m not eligible for treatment. So, at this time, I’m volunteering in a group called “transitions” operated by Dr. Brainard and Dr. Denison. This group allows me to talk about my issues and helps me be an all-around better person. I’ve also taken up a few hobbies to fill my time. I’m doing these things to better myself and make sure I never come back to prison.
If I could have my say, I would ask the DOC to start a more rigorous bracelet program for inmates at low risk to escape. Since the state’s only concern is my location, why wouldn’t a tracking device work? I have the guarantee of a job and a place to live when I get out. The bracelet would allow me to be a productive member of society and pay for my own incarceration. I’m not trying to get off the hook. I just know I have so much more to offer than the life I’m currently living. C.F.
March 23, 2013
I’m writing you today to support the 11X15 Campaign because I’m an inmate who’s being held back from going to ERP (Earned Release Program) and getting home to my family.
I was sentenced to 10 years (5 in and 5 out) for possession with intent to deliver cocaine and maintaining a drug trafficking place. I have 21 months in with almost 3 years left on my sentence. I’ve served 25% of my time and served 6 months of my truth in sentence time and I’m 5 years and under. According to ERP – DOC Implementation Criteria, I’ve met the requirements for the Earned Release Program. Instead of going to ERP, like I’m supposed to, I was given a 6 month recall. I do not have a major conduct report which can stop you from moving to ERP. For some reason, this prison doesn’t like to send inmates to their programs on time. C.C.
March 20, 2013
The DOC removed all sex offender and drug/alcohol treatment out of the maximum security institutions and now they only offer it in the medium institutions. At my PRC, every year, they turn me down to go to a medium because of my long sentence.
I have tried everything I know to get a transfer to participate in treatment. I know I did wrong in committing my crimes. I want to understand why I did it and learn how to never do it again. I do not want to ever allow my addiction to drugs, alcohol, and sex to control my life again.
The DOC refuses to allow me to participate in treatment because they say there will always be inmates who have less time to spend in prison, thus they take priority over me – despite the fact that treatment could reduce my time. I am an inmate who wants rehabilitation. In Wisconsin, it is lock them up and throw away the key.
March 17, 2013
I am a former inmate at the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Facility for Women in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Statistically, a high percentage of inmates are from the Milwaukee city/county area. While being in prison is punishment for breaking the law, many of the inmates at REECC are non-violent offenders. Until recently, a portion of the facility was designated for inmates who had achieved community custody and earned the right to work outside the institution. At this point, due to an overcrowding situation, inmates who have not been deemed safe are being housed in the community custody areas.
When I was there, many of the environmental and living conditions were deplorable. The condition of the building is what one would expect for a century-old construction – asbestos, vast amounts of mold, leaking pipes, and windows that cannot be raised above 6 inches.
On the community custody side, there are 60 women on each floor. On the second floor, there are two bathrooms, lack of hot water for showers, problems with flushing toilets and stopped-up drains. There is one working washer and dryer on each floor. All of these things can lead to inmate unrest.
Some of the women work in the community paying rent and meeting their outside financial obligations – whether child support or restitution. It does not make any sense to spend thousands of dollars housing them in this institution. Those with community custody, who are non-violent offenders, could be sent back home to finish out their sentences on electronic monitoring. At home, they would be doing exactly what they are doing at the facility.
I am certainly not suggesting that criminal offenders should not be punished. However, to keep those people in prison who have committed non-violent crimes, who have been deemed a low risk to re-offend, and have proven to the institution that they can function in the community is a vast waste of state dollars. At this point, we are spending way too much money to house people who are fully capable of supporting themselves AND taking care of their obligations to the state, their community, and their victims. J.N.
March 14, 2013
I am a 50 year old woman – a four time offender. My crimes began as a teen and have haunted me ever since. I was sexually abused from age 6-9, physically abused by a schizophrenic mom, and ran away as a teen only to be sexually and physically abused by men. I had six children, four of which all have different dads. Many were crack babies at birth.
I’m here at the Wisconsin Women’s Resource Center for a voluntary 6 month treatment (mental health) program. At the age of 50, I’ve decided “ENOUGH.” I can’t be a failure anymore. Taycheedah Correctional allowed me to come to this program and I’m so very thankful.
I feel my sentence is unjust. How do I benefit from being here? Not at all. My health is failing (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis). I would benefit more from home detention. I could work and pay restitution. It would save taxpayers money from providing for all of my health care costs as well as the cost for keeping me in prison. Please help non-violent offenders, like me to get treatment outside the walls. G.E.
March 12, 2013
I was picked up and arrested from someone’s basement in a pool of my own blood. I was taken to the hospital because I was acting “bizarre“ both before and after the commission of the crime. My crime was that I entered a home through the front door and fought the homeowner; but I don’t remember many things. I was drinking and smoking marijuana.
I was charged for choking the man and almost killing him – a charge of attempted intentional homicide. My public defender never consulted a psychiatrist to help defend my case, even though I asked him to.
I was the only black man in the whole courthouse. The all white jury convicted me of “1st degree attempt – intentional homicide.” I did not have a weapon. It was a fight I don’t even remember. The judge looked at me and said “I’m putting you in the Wisconsin prison system ‘til you die.” He gave me 60 years (Truth In Sentencing) and 40 years extended supervision. I was 35 years old and it was my first felony. M.C.
March 9, 2013
I do believe in the decompression of this prison population. I also believe that there are programs needed in and out of prison to make this concept become a reality. However, no one will change unless he really wants to change. I support incarceration to rehabilitate. One must be removed from their environmental control to get the ‘prison’ out of their wrong decisions.
Here I sit in prison – my first incarceration ever, no juvenile history of violence with an exception of disorderly conduct. I was incarcerated at the age of 17 with the mental age of a 13 year old. I read at a 4th grade level. I used drugs and alcohol. I was mentally and emotionally arrested in my development due to extreme childhood abuse. I was not yet an adult, but I was old enough to receive 290 years in an adult facility. The judge, who knew nothing about my ‘plight,’ took my life.
I admit I committed horrendous crimes by sexually assaulting two girls my age. I make no excuses for my cowardly acts and I agree swift punishment should have been handed to me. I just don’t agree with the severity. Why? Because I’m not even close to the selfish abused child I was when I first came to this place.
True restorative justice isn’t punishment alone because punishment is not effective if there is no room for rehabilitation. What about those who never had a chance to live? We came to prison at an early age. Now society is saying we have no redeeming qualities. Just lock us up and throw away the key. T.M.
March 1, 2013
I am serving 7 ½ years at Oshkosh Correctional Institution for Burglary, Operating a Motor Vehicle without the owner’s consent, and two counts of Bail Jumping. I committed these crimes as a result of my addiction to crack cocaine.
When I was sentenced, the judge denied me the ability to participate in the Earned Release Program (ERP) or the Challenge Incarceration Program in the interest of protecting the public from me and for me to be punished. He also went as far as saying he did not care if I was rehabilitated or not. Regardless of his intentions, I can say that as much as I do not like being in prison, it still has been good for me. I accept my punishment whole-heartedly, but it has also motivated me to stay pro-active by working, going to school, and participating in a voluntary program called the Youth Awareness Program that aims to deter adolescents from making poor choices which could ultimately end them in a predicament like this.
I have program needs in the areas of domestic violence stemming from charges for which I was revoked and also AODA, but both times I have had Program Review Committee hearings, they have told me since my release is not until 2016, there is no need to address those programs. I asked my social worker when I can expect to be able to do the Domestic Violence program since he is one of the facilitators and he told me 2014 or 2015, if I am lucky. This was hard for me to swallow because I cannot go to a minimum security prison with work release until I complete it.
The DOC feels programs are more effective when given within a person’s last year to year and a half of his sentence. I tend to disagree. I have observed many people being warehoused in prison while their issues fester to the point that, when they are finally offered, they refuse because they are close to release. I strongly believe that prison is not about rehabilitation at all and that it is a system that increases recidivism. L. M.
February 26, 2013
Your 11X15 Campaign is more than a breath of fresh air, and I admit, it’s about time a movement has finally stepped up to the plate. The thing that concerns me is: inmates that are given this chance at freedom are the ones who have come back to prison time and time again – while the ones that are deserving and less likely to re-offend are the ones that sit and have been sitting for years.
I believe freedom shouldn’t be based on the ‘type’ of criminal you are, the ‘class’ of felon, or if you went to trial or not. Rather, one’s prison record/history (how he or she has corrected their past behavior, actions and thoughts) should be at the heart of one’s freedom. J.F.
February 18, 2013
I have served 20 years of a 55 year sentence (1st offense), and I have been denied parole 4 times in the past seven years. I have been a model inmate, but I am always denied parole because they want me to take a program. I can never get into this program as there is a waiting list of 1,500. All of the inmates under TIS (Truth-in-Sentencing) are receiving a lot shorter sentences than those of us who are under the old law. Because of this, the new law inmates are put on the waiting list ahead of us old-law inmates.
If they stick to that policy, I would have to serve my MR (Maximum Release – until 2029) before I could complete the program. This is the main thing preventing many inmates from being released – not being allowed to take their programs. Until that happens, we just have to sit around being warehoused with nothing to do. I feel some inmates with program needs could be allowed to take these on the street if they were released. L.F.
February 13, 2013
I got sentenced to probation for possession of T.H.C. and sentences on extended supervision for theft-movable property. I’m now in prison on revocation for the possession and theft. I got a total of 4 years, 7 months, and 9 days (consecutive time). The offenses I did were non-violent and I was never given an ATR (Alternative to Revocation).
I feel I should have a chance to get out for treatment or some type of program. Confinement is not always the right solution. I will be away from my kids for a long time for a non-violent crime. D.B.
February 9, 2013
I have been incarcerated in the Wisconsin prison system for 15.5 years now, with a total sentence of 42 years. It is my understanding that your group is dedicated to bringing reform to the Wisconsin prison system and policies that have led to a major increase in prison population over the last decade or so.
Specifically, from my understanding, your goal is to reduce prison population. I have several comments ‘from the inside’ which you may find useful.
- There are only several thousand inmates left in this system eligible for parole, yet the DOC seems uninterested in releasing these several thousand to parole supervision in the communities, as the number of paroles granted each year has diminished to a near negligible level.
- Parole is being denied on arbitrary factors such as “insufficient time served” and that “release at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the crime.” Another perfunctory reason given for denying parole is the uninvestigated claims that “release at this time would pose an unreasonable risk to the public.” The first two excuses for non-parole is contrary to the parole statute which sets parole eligibility at 25% of the sentence; thus the legislature, representing the will of the people, has already determined and ruled that parole at 25% of a sentence IS sufficient time served, and will NOT depreciate the seriousness of a crime. And the last excuse usually given is generally contrary to fact and true risk and is not based on any problems with behavior in prison.
- The DOC withholds required programming from inmates for as long as possible knowing full-well that parole will not be granted until all programs are complete. When inmates request to enter programs, they are told they are on “the list” for the program so must wait. When the list is requested for review by the inmate, none is ever produced. It is an entirely arbitrary system to deny parole.
- If the DOC would purge the prisons of parole eligible inmates by granting parole, that would represent approximately a 10% reduction in the population and allow the closing of two entire prisons, saving the taxpayer approximately one hundred million dollars a year! Or, at minimum, ease overcrowding and make room for the influx of new arrivals to clear out overcrowded county jails.
- Sentence modifications should be easier to obtain from the courts. As it is now, to obtain a sentence modification of any time from the circuit court, the inmate must identify some “new factor” warranting sentence modification, which in this state is very, very rarely granted. This requirement of a new factor interferes with a circuit court’s “inherent authority” to modify its own sentences by imposing the new factor limitation upon it. Moreover, this state fails to recognize as a new factor any deteriorating health short of terminal illness: it does not recognize any other positive changes to the inmate as a new factor. These are limitations imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and appellate courts, and the legislature should enact new laws allowing for sentence reductions on the basis of good behavior, health, length of time served, etc.
- Disparity in sentencing is another factor that should be grounds for sentence modification. I have personally seen inmates who have committed homicides spend less than ten years in prison, and have seen inmates who have done burglaries or written bad checks spend more time than that. The disparity is tremendous, but not a factor for sentence modification to equalize or harmonize punishment.
- The last time I checked, The Wisconsin Blue Book reveals that the cost per inmate is over $40,000 per year. Parole the inmate and spend the money saved on putting the parolee into vocational training or school and helping him/her find a decent job by which he/she can be self sufficient. Use Money wisely.
- As inmates, we are subject to degrading conditions all day, every day. We are treated not like individuals, but like cattle. No one cares to know who we are as people, about how we think, who we love, and instead treat each of us the same as the worst of the worst. They look only at what one’s crime was or what he or she has been accused of. They unrealistically fail to understand that people do change and as human beings deserve the benefit of another chance.
- The Wisconsin Innocence Project, University of Wisconsin Law School, has been working on my case for over four years now. Much new information and also new witnesses have come forward and the validity of my own convictions has been completely destroyed by hard evidence. I am one of the approximately 7% of those in the Wisconsin prison system who are actually innocent, having been convicted on perjury and false accusations.
It is my opinion that the entire justice system is badly broken, and persons who make a living off of inmates have a vested interest in keeping as many people locked up as they possibly can. I wish you success in your endeavors. We are not animals, we are all human beings. Thank you for caring about us. D.M.
February 5, 2013
I truly believe the State of Wisconsin is very unjust with colored people and/or low class whites. I personally have asked, repeatedly to get into the programs that the Dodge social worker recommended for me (even thought she met me for just 7 minutes and doesn’t really know me at all).
The judge that sentenced me did not recommend any programs. I have been in prison for almost seven years now, and they have not provided me with any type of programs. On my own, I got involved in parent classes and bilingual tutor and completed both of them. I became a follower of Christ Jesus and I want to make a difference in this world.
I have been on supervision since 2001 for forgery of checks ($1300). I have served almost 5 years in prison and 6 out. I was an addict and made some poor choices. After many years of struggle, I’m clean now. I was married to the woman of my dreams and wanted to start a new life. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin DOC had other plans. They refused to let me off paper, even after 3 years of no violations. My wife and I began to have arguments because of the stress. I was revoked for this and incarcerated. My supervision was started all over again, and I requested treatment and counseling, but it wasn’t available.
Now, I’m back in prison with a new case for spitting at a cop who beat the crap out of me. I have lost my wife and was sentenced to 3 years in and 4 out. The Wisconsin Department of Justice ruins lives. It doesn’t help people or care. T.M.
January 20, 2013
Since 2005 I’ve been serving my sentence of 25 years initial confinement with 20 years of extended supervision. My release date is 2030. I have sex offender treatment program needs. As of today, I’m still waiting to take these programs. My sentence is being used against me, assuring me of NEVER reaching any minimum security facility.
I always believed that prison time was a three-step process: incarceration – rehabilitation,- reintegration. The current status quo guarantees only one – incarceration. “hurry up & wait” is a cruel and unusual punishment and the prison population suffers its force. R.M.
January 15, 2013
I believe that if there is to be any change in the messed up prison system, it will have to be an outside-the-prison religious movement. I am always glad to hear when tax-payers push the system into admitting that the prisons are overcrowded and that releasing a certain amount of inmates is more than necessary. The system is quick to say, “We will release non-violent offenders.” It is my opinion that there is no such thing as a non-violent offender. Ask the victim of any crime if the crime against them was non-violent. Ask the mother and children of a father who stopped at a drug house and smoked up his whole pay check, if that crime was non-violent.
It is my opinion, with 19 years of prison experience, that the system says this and continues to release its version of non-violent offenders because the have found that a substantial amount of those inmates will return. Then the system will be able to say “See, we tried, but 90% came right back.”
For some reason, the system continues to hold back those of us who are eligible for parole. It is my opinion they know we are the ones who will not return. Therefore, it is not in their best interest to help us in any way to be prepared for returning home or staying there. We are their meal ticket for as long as they can keep us here.
Many of us have completed our educations and job skills courses. Is it not a waste of tax dollars to hold me until I am no longer able to use these skills, and then return home only able to receive some kind of disability? While I am eligible for parole, while I am able to work, why not invest in me? I have two respectable places of business that are willing to hire me the first Monday after I am paroled. I have a support group of four retired professional people who are willing to make sure I am accountable for everything I’m required to do. I could then pay back the personal debts that I owe and pay taxes to the state instead of the state of Wisconsin spending $30,000 a year to house me. B.L.
January 2, 2013
I’m currently serving two 2 year consecutive sentences for my 5th & 6th OWI and two 1 year consecutive sentences for Bail Jumping and possession of drugs. I have a 7th OWI pending which the DA is asking for 4 years – a total of 10 years in and 12 ½ out. The judge denied me ERP (earned release programs) that would give me an opportunity to seek the OWI treatment programs that the Department of Corrections offers. I think this is a classic example of Punishment instead of Correction.
The fact that I’m 48 years old and black with a long history of addiction and criminal activity will make it almost impossible for me to find a job to support myself upon release. I have a learning disability and I’m taking medication for depression. It takes me longer to learn certain things therefore I put in requests to take some refresher courses to make me eligible for one of the vocational programs. To this date I have not received a response. Q.J.
December 28, 2012
I was convicted of two drug delivery charges in May of 2008. One included an overdose victim who passed away as a result of excess drugs and alcohol mixture. My intent would have NEVER been to harm a soul. I sold GBL (an ingredient in certain body building/exercise supplements) and, as a result, was charged with 2 deliveries, one of which resulted in a death. This is my first incarceration with no prior felony record or history. Although the seriousness of an overdose should not be overlooked, I was given an extreme amount of in and out time and have had all my appellate efforts denied to this point. I was given 26 ½ years of confinement and 25 years extended supervision. I’m listed as a ‘low risk’ offender except for the time frame. No drug court was available or offered, nor was rehabilitation mentioned or considered. J.K.
December 14, 2012
I wish I could help you more in your outreach of the 11X15 goal. I must say though, I have my doubts that will happen. I believe, at this time, the way the economy and employment situation is, a release of 11 to 12 thousand prisoners would put the public in danger and would in the long run, be a huge burden on the tax payer.
With all the good qualified non-criminal, hard working people out of work, what do you think the chances of a convict getting gainful employment are? So what would be left for that convict to do? Steal, rape, kill, sell drugs? No matter, in time the person would get tired and commit a crime and go back to prison. If you really look at it, the convicts today have a very stress free, life within the prison system.
I am a con. Do I care? Yes, very much so. I care that the schools are being cut and our kids, my grandkids are getting the short end of the stick. I believe in education 100%. I also believe in programs to help inmates cope when they return to society because it is hard to come out with the way things are today. J.L.
December 8, 2012
I became incarcerated on November 2, 1994, almost 18 years ago. I was convicted of two robberies and a few burglaries. The judge gave me 54 years.
Since that time, I have a total of 22 certificates (mainly for volunteering into programs). I have my H.S.E.D., two vocational courses completed, and an apprenticeship license for maintenance work. However, for years, I’ve been placed on the waiting list for AODA and anger management courses. The staff always informs me that I am on a waiting list and that I am too far away from my MR (mandatory Release) date to take the courses.
I saw parole for my second time in 2011 and they gave me a 12 month deferment. However, they mentioned AODA and Anger Management courses. I told them I tried to complete those programs but was told I am on a waiting list. After all these years, I am no longer like I was in 1994. I just turned 36 and if released on parole, I will follow all rules including taking programs, if ordered. And, I know I will never commit a crime again. I can’t do this anymore. A.K.
December 1, 2012
I am currently incarcerated at Waupun Institution. I have been denied programs and treatment that I must have, per the court, which could have the effect to reduce my time in prison. There are a number of inmates here who are convicted of sex offenses and have near perfect records, but are being denied going to medium prisons.
Waupun used to have sex offender treatment and alcohol and drug treatment. The DOC chose to remove those programs and only offers them in medium prisons. To be allowed the opportunity to successfully complete treatment programs is very important because it has a bearing on my housing, security classification, and my release. Successful completion of programs could affect the length of time I, and others, spend in prison due to sentence modifications and/or sentience adjustments. A.C.
November 24, 2012
I have been incarcerated for more than 38 years, having been sentenced to life plus 14 years. I first became eligible for parole in 1985 and have been denied parole for 27 years since then. Many inmates who were sentenced to life have since been paroled. The sole reason that I remain in prison is because the victim, in my case, was an off-duty police officer. Not only is my continued confinement politically motivated, it is racially motivated. In 2005 and 2006, two Caucasian inmates who had been convicted of almost identical crimes were paroled. They served approximately 30 years of their sentence.
Please note that none of this has anything to do with the parole criteria that is supposed to be followed. The severe nature of my offense will never change, just at the severe nature of the offense of those other individuals who had been sentenced to life in prison never changed. Under the law that I was convicted by, the legislature promulgated that 11 years and 3 months was enough time for the punishment for someone found guilty of first degree murder. There were no provisions that allowed for continued incarceration if the victim of the crime was a law enforcement or any other public official. K.J.
November 8, 2012
I have served over 11 years, at Taycheedah, on the 23 to life I was sentenced to at age 18. It was my first prison incarceration, and since I am party to a crime I am classified as non-violent. I had been through traumatic experiences throughout my childhood that inevitably led to addiction that started when I was twelve.
I am allowed next-to-no treatment options due to the length of my sentence. I am essentially being warehoused. If it were not for my family paying for college correspondence courses, I would have not educational options. I am denied things such as AODA even though addiction is what led me to prison.
I am currently working with two supervisors here to try and organize inmate activity groups that are more inclusive to all of the women and are geared toward self-esteem, positivity, and creativity to help inspire wellness. I believe, with all my heart, that it is essential for all of us to be more accountable and involved in proactive efforts to not only successfully rehabilitate offenders, but to heal society as well. In order to do this, it will be vital for us to show that treatment based approaches are not only more advantageous to facilitate lasting rehabilitation, but are also more humanistic than punishment based approaches. G.P.
November 16, 2012
I am currently incarcerated at the New Lisbon Correctional Institution. My judge gave me a second chance to address my drug induced crime spree by offering me earned release. I believe these programs are an outstanding way to help non-violent offenders become productive members of society. The problem is the DOC is taking their time before letting inmates into these excellent programs.
Now I do understand the need to serve part of a sentence to wake up and realize the desire for change. But what the DOC is doing is making people, like me and many others, just sit around and wait until they are down to the last 2-3 years before they can take advantage of earned release. What they should do is make earned release a privilege for those who have shown positive behavior adjustments over time.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experience with the hurry-up-and-wait epidemic we endure. D.T.
November 2, 2012
I am 1 ½ years into a 3 year revocation prison sentence. I have never done drugs, nor do I have an alcohol problem. I was in a very abusive marriage for 20 years. My crime (taking money) was committed in large part, out of fear so that my children, our pets, and I didn’t get hit.
I have completed all of the programming needs per the DOC. I am now at a minimum center in Milwaukee. I currently make $.35/hr. They take 85% of that. I can’t afford to go to the doctor, dentist, or get my eye glasses which I have been without for 1 ½ years now. They tell me I can’t go out until I’m down to 13 months. The state is spending $33,000/year for me to sit here and for what? They could give me a bracelet and hold me accountable as well. At least I would be working to pay my debt back to society and being able to take care of myself and my children.
I have great remorse for my actions. I had severe emotional trauma that did affect my cognitive thinking. I know, with all my heart, I could have been offered an alternative and I could have received what I needed to turn all of this around. A.H.
October 22, 2012
I am doing 9 years for my 5th and 6th OWI (operating while intoxicated). I never hurt anyone. I wrote 4 times for earned Release Program and they wouldn’t give it to me. I have a long list of mental illnesses including chronic PTSD. I never got help for it in prison and never will. C.H
October 17, 2012
In my opinion, the ills of the Wisconsin judicial system run deeper than most people are willing to acknowledge. Not only does the system ignore the specific needs of the mentally ill and addicted offenders, it also disproportionately and maliciously prosecutes minority offenders.
I am a 49 year old black man who came into the system as a 25 year old scared kid. In 1988, my sister’s ex-boyfriend attacked her. He had her bent backwards over a porch railing chocking her. I came to my sister’s aid and I shot her attacker.
I turned myself in for the shooting. The ex-boyfriend later died. Even though my previous criminal history consisted of one juvenile misdemeanor and I was aiding a crime victim, I was charged with and convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. I was then sentenced to life in prison. Even though the DOC is aware of the facts of my case, very little has been done to facilitate my transition back into life outside of prison. I’m deemed a risk to society.
I’ve done all that the DOC has asked of me. I have an exceptional conduct record, and I’ve completed all of my A&E assessed needs. I’ve earned associates degrees in Arts and Science and Religious Education as well as a Bachelors of Biblical Studies and a Masters of Ministry. I’m currently working on a Masters in Theology.
I’ve had 12 parole hearings and am still being denied. The parole board says that I haven’t served enough time for punishment and that release, at this time would be an unreasonable risk to the public. Instead of wasting tax payer dollars to keep me incarcerated, I could be out making a meaningful contribution to society. I could be a part of the fight for justice for those that need help. C. H.
October 8, 2012
Back in 1995, I was convicted of Armed Robbery and Armed Burglary to a known dope dealer. I was 16 at the time of the crime, and I was sentenced to the longest sentence ever given to a juvenile for a robbery offense – 70 years. The District Attorney’s recommendation was 26 years. The judge didn’t really explain why I deserved this time except to say I had a ‘violent past’ which isn’t true. My co-defendants were older than I and one of them had past armed robberies, but I received the most time.
In Wisconsin, if you don’t have an expensive lawyer who is connected to the judge, you are stuck with your sentence. To this day nobody cares. So many people with homicides and rape cases, who were incarcerated after me, have gotten out before me, come back and been out again. Most armed robbery cases get around 10 years, but because I have a parole date farther away than most lifers, I am treated worse.
Nobody is the same person they were when they were sixteen. Over the years I have self-studied law, business, and finance. I have completed all my programs except for my vocational. Everywhere I go, I am at the bottom of the list because my MR (Mandatory Release) date is so far away.
I grew up poor in the inner city. I am white. People like to say race is a factor in sentencing, but I never met any other race with this much time unless he raped and killed someone. F.G.
October 4, 2012
“Make our streets safe to walk . . .” This is what society says when you lock criminals up. We’re locked up, but for most of us, it isn’t forever.
I was 13 years old when I was locked away from a life already dysfunctional and into a more improved dysfunctional place. Sentenced to life imprisonment for murder committed at 13, I struggle to survive and adapt. When I lost the only parent I had ever known, my granny, I fell off my attempt to progress.
I have a 14 year old son who needs me. My family hasn’t been here for me since I’ve been locked away. Actually, my mother is here in Taycheedah with me and she’s told me she wishes I was dead.
I asked to do treatment in a unit for mental health. Diagnosed with PTSD, ADHD, depression, antisocial, eating Disorders, and others, I wanted help because I couldn’t do it on my own. I’m also suicidal/self-harmful.
When I was there, I was finally able to start my re-entry classes (in case I was released by parole). However, I was kicked out of that unit for poor behaviors (conflicts with correctional officers, other inmates and too many suicide attempts). So, in order to return, I have to earn the right to treatment. I can understand earning my freedom, but earning the right to have help with my mental and emotional issues? The people here are not about helping us to be better and healthier citizens of this country.
So, the justice system and this Department of Corrections are actually doing more harm than ‘correcting.’ Have you wondered why so many are in and out? Where is the ‘correction,’ where is the justice. Therefore, where is your safety society? L.A.
September 30, 2012
I am currently a prisoner at Stanley Correctional Institution serving a 22 year sentence for burglary and delivery of cocaine. I deeply regret the choices I made and that I have hurt the people that love me as well as my community. I am sorry.
I have had problems with substance abuse in the past and I would like to continue to examine how I can be free from those abuse problems, but there aren’t any opportunities for me in the prisons to do that until March of 2019. That’s when the DOC will put me in a 4 to 6 month program for AODA. Until then, I sit.
Since I’ve had the time to consider why I made the choices I have, such as abusing drugs, alcohol, and self-destructive behaviors in general, I’ve realized that these behaviors stem from deeper issues from my past and that is why I turned to poor choices to drink and use drugs. I would love to get to the bottom of these issues, but there is doesn’t seem to be anyone who is interested. As far as I know the DOC doesn’t have anything available that will address this for me. I want to change, but how can I?
Thank you for looking out for the many people locked up who have no voice. Our words go unheard. There are so many people here going through the same struggles as I am and I know the road I’m on is long. Wisdom has put hope back into my heart. I just want to thank you again. Maybe my letter might not get me out of prison, but it might get someone out. J.A.
September 25, 2012 -
I have been here at Stanley Correctional Institution for 9 months and I’m waiting to get into my programs. I am on the list for school and AODA. I sent them a request and they said I am # 92 on the list. The list is prioritized by release date, so it will take awhile to get enrolled. J.C.
September 20, 2012 -
I have tried, a few times, to get into a program called A.O.D.A. here at Oshkosh Correctional Institution and have been denied, time and time again. I have done everything that was required except that program. I have gotten my HSED, my vocational diploma from Madison Area Technical College in Printing, a certificate in communications, and I have volunteered in the victim impact program and community service. I’ve been incarcerated over 17 years now and I come up for parole in July of 2014, but because of the denials of the A.O.D.A. program, I will not have the opportunity to be released.
Now that I have an opportunity for a second chance in life to do the right thing, I am being denied. I have not always been a criminal. As a matter of fact, before this I was a husband, father, and a hard working citizen. When my mother passed away, I went in the wrong direction of street drugs, alcohol and prison. I used to be on medication for anxiety, schizophrenia, and paranoia attacks, but now I’m medication free and my mental illness is no long a factor because I’ve learned to deal with it. D.G.
September 16, 2012 -
I was sentenced to a 40 year term back in 1996. Under the law, at that time, a person was to be eligible for parole after serving one quarter of his/her sentence. I saw parole for the first time in 2006. No one had spoken to me about my crime or treatment during those first 10 years. I originally pled guilty believing I would receive treatment by the time I was eligible for parole.
I have asked for programming at each prison I have resided in and have been denied every time. Each parole person I have seen continues to deny an endorsement for the programming saying I have not served enough time yet. They say my sentence is too long, but fail to reduce it by granting parole. Why does the state extend our sentences by denying programs? Why don’t they offer programs in all of the institutions? The objective of these programs should be to treat the person and return them to society as soon as possible. P.F.
September 12, 2012 -
I have lived in the prison system for 25 of the past 32 years. My extensive knowledge is from my firsthand experience. The education system within the prisons is nothing more than a smoke screen set up to look good on paper to fool the public. I have certificates in foundry, carpentry, cabinet making, masonry, refrigeration and appliance servicing, and metallurgy and none of these are worth the paper they’re printed on. The treatment programs are the same. As long as you don’t rock the boat, you get pushed through.
I think if you look at the success rate of the treatment programs and the schooling within the prison system and then compare that to the recidivism rate, it makes you question the validity of their intent. Is it really to rehabilitate the people charged to their care?
I was released from Boscobel in 2011 with the understanding that I would be transported to my parole agent’s office and he would be placing me in a half-way house. Once I got to his office, he told me he had nothing for me and set me adrift on the streets with no money or support system. I could not leave Green Bay and I could not utilize the resources set up in the community for homeless indigent people. I had to walk just to stay warm; during the day I would use a courtesy phone in the court house to try and get my agent to help me. After two days of no sleep or food, I was either going to lie down and die or go back to jail. I went into a Taco Bell at 3 am and explained my story to them and had them call the police and tell them I refused to leave their store.
I was arrested. The judge threw the case out and said my agent needed to step up and do his job. My agent gave me a 60 day sanction in jail. I went back to the streets and lived on the side of the highway doing volunteer work at the local food pantry to get food. I was eventually arrested and placed in jail for disorderly conduct. I’m currently back in prison serving 14 months.
The system is not set up to help people but to perpetuate recidivism, especially for the poor. I find it highly disturbing that they would prefer to spend $30,00 a year to keep me in prison when a couple of hundred would get me a place to stay and get back on my feet. D.F.
September 6, 2012 -
I am a 60 year old African American female. In 1985 I was arrested for drugs. I was sentenced to 6 years at Taychedah Correctional Institution for women. It was my first felony. I was released in 1989 and remained trouble free.
I was working at a low paying job, and sometimes I would have to try and work two jobs just to feed my 4 kids and pay bills, but I always fell short. I’m not trying to make an excuse. That’s just the way it was. If you’re an ex-felon and have paid your debt to society, society won’t let you move on – especially if you’re poor and Black.
Sometimes, when things got really hard for me, I used very poor judgment and began breaking the law. I had a drug habit that no one really knew about. I was hooked on prescription medications. In 1998, I was arrested again and convicted of several drug charges and receiving stolen merchandize.
I realize the very nature of what I was doing was wrong and strongly believe that I should have been punished, however I was prosecuted to the very strictest degree of the law. I received a 90 year sentence (65 prison and 25 years stayed). I got 65 years for not even 13 grams of Cocaine with a street value of about $350. N.E.
Wisconsin incarcerates Blacks at a rate of more than 10 times that of Whites in a state where the overall population of African Americans is only 6%. I am only seeking fairness with my sentence. N.E.
September 2, 2012 -
I am currently a prisoner at Stanley Correctional Institution serving a six year sentence from Racine County. I deeply regret the choices I’ve made, and that I have hurt the people that love me and hurt my community. I’m sorry. I have had problems with substance abuse in the past and I would like to continue to examine how I can be free from those abuse problems, but there aren’t any opportunities for me in the prison to do that until I’m released.
Also, since I’ve had the time to consider WHY I’ve made the choices I made, (such as abusing drugs, alcohol, and self-destructive behaviors in general) I’ve realized that these behaviors stem from deeper issues from my past. That is why I turned to the poor choices to drink, hurt, etc. I would love to get to the bottom of these issues, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who is interested in helping. As far as I know, the D.O.C. doesn’t have anything available that will address these issues for me. I want to change. I don’t want to be a criminal. But how can I? R.D.
August 29, 2012 -
I received a 35 years sentence for stealing some guns. Apparently a 10-year plea bargain was never relayed from my lawyer and he convinced me I should go to a jury trial. I did and lost. I got 35 years for burglary. It’s was non-assaultive crime and no one was home when we broke in. One of my co-defendants got 18 months and the other probation.
I have been incarcerated for 13 years and in December, I got another 36 month defer from parole. I was told I won’t even be eligible for the A.O.D.A program that I must take in order to be paroled, for ten more years. It’s well documented that I’m a drug addict and alcoholic and those things are the motivation behind every crime I committed. I have seen people who rape and murder get less time.
I try my hardest to get programming, but due to my sentence, I’m just not eligible. There is no rehabilitation, only warehousing. W.B.
August 23, 2012 -
I am a first time offender with no prior criminal record who has been in prison since January, 1983 for two counts of armed robbery and four counts of first degree sexual assault. I was sentenced to 80 years. I was 25 when I was sentenced. I am now 55 years old.
Since my incarceration, I have completed CGIP 1 & 2 (a 180 day re-entry program), anger Management, one year of sexual treatment, and alcohol treatment. I also became a minister in 2000.
When the parole commission became ‘politicized’ by both Democrats and Republicans, my simple “alcohol treatment turned into a long-term AODA drug treatment which was then denied me because my Mandatory Release (M.R.) date was too far away (2019). My Sexual Offender Treatment (SOT) was turned into a 4 year treatment program and denied for the same reason.
It is true that these programs can be taken when out on parole. I have not been awarded parole in 29 years, although I have been eligible since July 1985. These programs continue to be used against me, not because I am a threat to society, but because of the ‘rhetoric’ persuasively used to keep a person eligible for parole in prison for three decades.
I’m a very, very, very ‘old law’ convict. I now have 6 years left to my Mandatory Release date (M.R.). I am angry and I will not take any further programs because they have used this against me for many years – out of malice and hate and to further their careers.
I have no family in the State of Wisconsin, and the ones I did have are either dead or have forgotten about me. I see the Parole Commission in June 2012, but they will not do anything for me because I have no family or sponsor to help me. L.B.
August 7, 2012 -
I am an inmate at the Redgranite Correctional Institution currently serving a 6 year prison sentence for having an intimate relationship with my 15 year old fiancé. Having spent over 3 years already, I can tell you the damaging effects incarceration has on people. For me, the hardest part has been the isolation. My family and friends were an important part of my life, and now I seldom see any of them. I can’t really blame them. It’s a whole day affair to drive here for a 3 hour visit. All of them have lives to live. But I can see it in their eyes, how much my sentence also punishes them.
When I look at the other guys here, and listen to them speak about life, I often hear nothing but anger and resentment. And when they ask for help dealing with their emotions, they get put on antidepressants, mood stabilizers and pain killers. This doesn’t solve anything, and sometimes leads to dependency issues after they leave prison.
The programs here are a joke. I asked one guy who was in anger management for the third time why he kept taking the program if it didn’t help. He told me, “It does help. Once I’m done, I can go to minimum.” He wasn’t taking it for genuine anger issues. He told me he didn’t have anger issues, but the Program Review Committee said he couldn’t go to a minimum security prison if he didn’t take the course. J.B.
August 1, 2012 -
I’m an inmate at a women’s correctional center in Union Grove. I do not have a criminal history. I’m married, have children, step-children and grand-kids. At the age of 40 I became a Wisconsin offender because I stole money from my employer.
I arrived at Taycheedah Corrections in August of 2009 with a 5 year sentence. I left Taycheedah after 5 weeks and arrived at Ellsworth. Originally I was supposed to participate in a Non-AODA Earned Release Program, but the Governor repealed Act 28. There isn’t a program available to me now. I’m just another number taking a bed space.
I have participated in re-entry modules and vocational classes. I have been a swamper (janitor), office assistant, teacher’s assistant, and librarian while incarcerated. In October of 2010 I was classified to community custody with work release. I earn $8.75 per hour. I am trusted by the department of corrections to leave everyday and return, but I’m not trusted to go home.
There are probably 100 women here with community custody. About 40 of those go out to work. I pay $460.00 per month rent to stay in custody. Everything I do now, I could be doing at home. My release date is July 25th, 2014. I have two more years of this. Of course, I am eligible for a sentence adjustment, but I’m not counting on anything.
My husband and kids suffer the most. I never received treatment, nor will I. When I am released I will have to get therapy. There are so many who never get a chance to address their issues. Nothing gets resolved. I understand why there are so many repeat offenders. Wisconsin’s Prison system has a revolving door policy. It’s a vicious cycle that will not change until lawmakers realize that locking someone up is not always the answer. A.B.
July 28, 2012 -
I am currently a prisoner at Stanley Correctional Institution serving a seven year nine month sentence. I’ve hurt the ones that love me from the decisions I made. I deeply regret the choices I’ve made and am sorry for all of my victims.
I have had problems with anger but also substance abuse in the past and I would like to continue to examine how I can be free from those abuse problems, but there aren’t any opportunities for me in the prisons to do that until I become eligible to get into treatment 4 years from now.
Also, since I’ve had the time to consider why I’ve made the choices I have, such as abusing drugs, alcohol, and self-destructive behaviors in general, I realized that these behaviors stem from deeper issues from my past. I would love to get to the bottom of these issues, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who is interested in helping me. As far as I know, the DOC doesn’t’ have any available programs to help me. I want to change. I don’t want to be a criminal. But how can I do this? A.H.
July 21, 2012 -
…..I first heard of MICAH on Wisconsin Public Radio. The content of the campaign and the basis of the argument is very strong and is a true account of the current policies of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and the Department of Parole, via the Wisconsin Parole Commission.
…..Inmates are being needlessly warehoused far beyond historically comparable needs for punishment and rehabilitation. In the 70’s, 80’s and even early 90’s, inmates with comparable offenses received far less time and were given parole or early release after serving significantly less time. This was without any evidence of heightened recidivism for new criminal offenses.
…..The only reasons for the current trends are politically driven fear tactics used against a poorly-informed public. Significant reform is greatly needed in this state, and WISDOM and MICAH are a “God sent” blessing to those of us bearing the burden of the corrupt and discriminatory policies.
…..There are many people in here that struggle and hold on to hope for anyone to help them. However, few realize that there is a bigger picture than their own struggles. The fact that there are people in the community who do care and are concerned about what is happening to people – friends and loved ones – in here is a reality that isn’t always seen or believed.
…..There is a darkness in living a life of incarceration that few people can ever truly understand. The frustrating fact that is paramount in the minds of those who have grown, matured, and found a desire for redemption and forgiveness for their mistakes is that those who have the authority to offer a second chance don’t make an effort to learn who has been changed by their experiences and who has not. Everyone is grouped into the category of criminal, convict, or monster. That is hard to deal with, but the efforts of WISDOM and all of the associated congregations to force change and educate is inspiring and offers hope. J.F.
July 14, 2012 -
…..11X15 none can even imagine this place. Sit stand, sit more. Dead time with human’s being warehoused. Excommunicated by my Lutheran church. Abandoned by all, Yet God has shown me not alone.
…..Earning 19 cents hourly for mundane work. Having not even the necessities. Yet God remains with and for me.
…..With no “out-date” for a crime not even committed by me, God sustains and gives me breath.
…..God has shown me the justice denied me in the so-called legal justice system. God is showing me the corruption.
…..I cry and no one cares. I used to have a life. Yet no one cares.
…..It’s sad, people forget about forgiveness, loyalty, and fairness. God loves and sustains. Submitted by D.B.
The following story was submitted by a Wisconsin inmate in response to the 11X15 campaign. I believe it represents the lives of many men and women in the prison system. (Linda Pischke editor)
Hurt People Hurt People – by A. B.
I know of a little boy who suffered severe abuse at the hands of his mother. Such abuse consisted of verbal put-downs and insults, tons of head games, and life threatening physical attacks. This boy loved his mother dearly and practically worshiped the ground she walked on.
If only I could get her attention without being beaten, all would be right, he thought. As a result, by the age of eight, this boy could cook, clean, sew, shop, and do just about everything else within the guidelines of properly running a household. He was obsessed with impressing his mother in the hopes he would, in turn, receive the love he so freely gave.
Just when he thought he saw signs that his mother loved him, they were erased by her abuse. He couldn’t understand why he was constantly subjected to such awful brutality. It could have been for the smallest of reasons, like forgetting to tie his shoe or losing the door key. He also got beaten for the things his three siblings did or didn’t do. If that meant getting a black eye, then so be it. He didn’t want his brothers to go through what he was going through so he felt obligated to protect them and took the blame for everything.
Despite what was happening at home, this young boy loved school and was a high achiever who made the honor roll on a consistent basis. He was bright and intelligent beyond his years. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with his behavior. Teachers termed it a hyperactive disorder, but it was nothing more than this boy’s desire for attention. He was a class clown who really didn’t take anything seriously. This resulted in classroom disruptions, which ultimately led to some of the worse physical punishments any child should have to endure. Still, he protected his mother, for she could do no wrong! Besides, who would believe him?
During one incident, in particular, his mother beat him for what seemed hours – then beat him some more because he would not cry. This left the boy with two black eyes and a badly bruised body. At school the next day, his teachers saw this. Concerned, they asked the boy, “What happened to you?” Without any coaching from his mother, the boy simply stated, “I fell from the pear tree I was raiding.” Although the teachers knew better, they accepted his story. Again, in his mind, Momma could do no wrong.
As time went on, so did the abuse. This young boy started to realize there was no real way of escaping his mother. Often he fantasized about running away, killing her, or simply killing himself, but he couldn’t find the courage to do any of it. Along came an older friend, someone he considered a big brother and someone he could put the blame on in the hopes of being spared a beating from time to time. God had looked upon him, he thought. His plan seemed to work, but at what cost?
The cost was sexual abuse. Yep! The person he considered a true friend and loved like a brother was sexually molesting this young boy. Thankfully it was short-lived (3 years) but the damage was done. All he had to contend with now was the abuse his mother had to offer.
As the young boy matured into a young man, so did the abuse at the hands of his mother. It was apparent that every time she attacked him, it was in hopes of killing him. Not only had his mother broken several of his ribs, but she chipped teeth and broke his jaw with an iron. After breaking his jaw, she refused to take him to the hospital – until several hours later and a whole lot of swelling. Staff at the hospital called the law because signs of child abuse were apparent. The boy wanted to tell the truth, but he refused to make his mother look bad – even at the expense of his own safety.
The young man’s mother became a drug addict. He had to choose between being beaten down because she didn’t have or couldn’t afford drugs to make her ‘happy’ or going to get them for her. As awful as it made him feel, the boy took it upon himself to purchase drugs for his mother. He still yearned for her attention and affection. In addition, he was tired of suffering. All of that ultimately led the young man to using and selling drugs himself. He could use his drugs to mentally escape the abuse and take care of the house, his little brothers, and himself. He could also use his drugs as a means to get his mother to let him hang out.
When we went to hang out, he stayed out. A beating was almost always in store, but the little freedom he attained was well worth it. Unlike his mother, his friends showed him love and seemed to care. He felt the need to impress them in order to keep their love and attention. School was no longer a priority. Money didn’t really matter and neither did the opposite sex. In fact, he had a certain dislike toward females, but pretended to like them for the purpose of getting what he wanted – sex or money.
It was all about his gang. That was the one avenue he used as a means to act out his deep-seated anger and self-hatred. When it came to gang-banging, he banged with the best. As a result, he was considered ‘crazy’ by his peers because of the stunts he’d pull during shoot-outs or other activities. To be considered ‘crazy’ was to be looked upon as NOT TO BE F**K’D with!
But, the boy had an ugly secret. He never really intended to hurt anyone while letting his anger and rage free. NO! That was not the case. He just wanted to die. When acting out, he hoped and prayed he’d receive the short end of the stick, as did many of those around him. That would be the ultimate escape from the abuse at the hands of his mother.
On frightful morning, he got his wish. He died a quick and painless death at the hands of those who could have helped him – had he chosen to be helped. THE END
(Author’s note: Many people read this story and automatically assume the young man died a physical death, when in fact, he’s not dead at all – not in the literal sense, at least. You see, the young man was killed by the justice system. I was that young man, and this is my story. In 1992, just six days after my 16th birthday, I was arrested, charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide – Party to a Crime, and subsequently sentenced to life without the possibility of parole until the year 2037. I am INSTITUTIONALLY DEAD! I will be 61 years old before I’m even considered for parole. I make no excuses for my childhood transgressions and the devastating effects they had on the community at large. Here’s the thing, I am no longer the self-destructive, misguided, angry, confused child I was 20 years ago. Yet, due to over-sentencing practices, I will be forced to spend the rest of my life here when I have long since proven that such is not necessary. Make no mistake, I don’t tell my story to make people feel sorry for me. I share it because I believe it’s important for people to know I was not born a monster and I’m not the monster they may believe me to be. People can and do change. I speak for many others both incarcerated and free in saying that. I have not written this to minimize the great harm my crime caused. I take full responsibility for my actions, but please don’t overlook the fact that I was only a child, a sixteen-year-old child without a fully developed brain and a world of issues who found the streets of Milwaukee to be safer than his own home. I pray for forgiveness and a second chance at the life I never had.