We joined the candlelight vigil outside Governor Evers’ house organized by MOSES to commemorate those killed by the Governor’s neglect. Around fifty people showed up to the posh lakeside neighborhood, blocking the street, singing and speaking about the hardships imprisoned loved ones experience and the governor’s lack of action to prevent these deaths. The front of the house was all lit up with festive holiday decorations, so we projected our messages on trees across the street. Shining the light on an uneven surface meant they were only legible from angles near the light, but if anyone in the mansion looked out the window, they should have been able to see and read it. Tony Evers was likely not in the mansion, though. As we drove out of the neighborhood, we crossed paths with a black stretch limo that drove toward the mansion. We’re guessing the coward was parked a few blocks away, waiting for the vigil to end before he went home.
The Governor’s callous disregard for people held captive in his prisons is undeniable, as is his basic ignorance of how prisons operate. Earlier this month, Secretary Carr closed a cell hall in Waupun CI due to under staffing. The DOC is still operating over their capacity, and the crowded conditions have contributed to the spread of COVID19. More than half of Wisconsin’s captives have tested positive at this point. The DOC gave up on quarantining, holding people who tested positive in the same cramped cells as uninfected. To close a cell hall reduces the capacity to social distance and isolate people with COVID. The move also means transferring 220 people to other facilities, which risks spreading COVID19 or exposing people from WCI who are negative to new prisons with active outbreaks. Fox News asked Governor Evers about this strange decision.
“If we had 5% of the prisoners left in the institution, they’d still be getting COVID-19,” said Governor Tony Evers.
Governor Evers said a mass release of inmates wouldn’t solve the problem if people in the community don’t follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.
First, the Governor is wrong. Reducing population density clearly facilitates social distancing and will help mitigate the spread of a pandemic. Second, the Governor is admitting the source of the outbreaks are DOC staff. While it is true that community spread will continue to bring covid into the prisons, it will spread more slowly in a sparsely populated cell hall than an overcrowded one. As far as following CDC guidelines, the Governor hasn’t followed CDC guidelines himself. Testing for incarcerated people who are tier 1 risk level because they live in crowded confined conditions, was done at a fraction of the pace of the general population of the state. When they finally stepped up testing, they found massive outbreaks. At this point, more than half of the people held in DOC facilities have tested positive and at least 20 have died. More deaths went uncounted.
DOC Secretary Kevin Carr also mentioned the transfer when we confronted him at his home. He seemed to think increasing population density and moving people around during an outbreak were accomplishments to be proud of. It’s troubling.