This is the second in a three-part series about closing the illegal youth prisons in Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake (LH/CL). Part one outlined the best and fastest way to close these prisons: by eliminating the Serious Juvenile Offender Program (SJOP) and adult sentencing of youths. These bad laws were inspired by the racist “superpredator” myth which requires the state to lock some kids in extra harmful “type 1” facilities. In part two, we’re going to examine why that didn’t happen, and the foolishness that happened instead.Continue reading “Close Youth Prisons Part 2: the wrong way”
This article is the first in a three-part series.
The Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons (LH/CL) in Irma, WI have been illegally confining children since July 1, 2021. More than seventy percent of the kids are Black, and nearly half are from Milwaukee county. Starting in 2010, kids in these prisons successfully exposed horrific abuse practices by staff. By 2017, the kids and their advocates had drawn investigations from the media, the state, and federal agencies. They built so much momentum that the legislature passed and the governor signed Wisconsin act 185, which required that both prisons close by January 1, 2021.
Unfortunately, when that date approached, rather than closing the prisons, politicians passed a new law pushing closure back to July 1. The second deadline passed this summer, and the prisons were not closed. No new law extended the deadline. The state just continued operating illegally.
Which sends a pretty clear statement: Wisconsin politicians are willing to ignore and violate state law when it comes to abusing Black kids from Milwaukee.Continue reading “Close Wisconsin’s illegal youth prisons NOW!”
So, here’s how Marklein’s “normal legislative process” works: popular, well-crafted, bipartisan reforms get squanched by republican leadership in favor of unpopular, slip-shod, and logistically impracticable bills designed as veto-bait to rile up the party’s base with racially coded messaging. Calling that “good” is hilarious. Howard Marklein wins king of comedy in this session.
On Thursday June 10, the budget of Wisconsin’s prison system (DOC) went before the joint finance committee and, despite statements of broad bipartisan support for shrinking the system, lawmakers passed a budget that expands prisons and will kill people. The atmosphere was one of jovial comradery as issues of life and death were raised, silenced, and voted on.
This legislature is so gerrymandered, broken, and corrupt that even members of the ruling party can’t help but make jokes at their own expense. Apparently there was some kind of dysfunction going on with republican members of the committee. They delayed their June 8 session more than 5 hours and started Thursday’s session 90 minutes late. Even then, all of the republican senators other than the senate chair, Howard Marklein (r- Spring Green) failed to appear, prompting Jon Erpenbach (d- Madison suburbs) to jokingly remark “I don’t know what you did to your team, Howard,” during roll call. Marklein laughed and joked back: “I’ll need your vote, Erpenbach.” Everyone laughed.Continue reading “Joint finance funnies: the prison budget debate that wasn’t”
This article is part four of a series on legislation to create snitch houses, also known as “COP houses” across Wisconsin.
While advocating for snitch houses, senator Taylor made backroom deals with the republican establishment. She says she’s looking for community houses that provide wrap-around services, but what’s actually happening is police are taking control of resources and services, while expanding their role in society.
In early May, SB124 and AB258 were amended to remove the appropriation of grant funding, expand eligibility requirements to include smaller cities, and add a few usage specifications. Kelda Roys was the sole vote against this amendment in the senate committee, but she ultimately ended up voting in favor of the bill. During the May 18 assembly committee hearing, Mark Spreitzer asked the senators, “why [they] took the money out of the bill […] is it going to be a two year thing, or ongoing?Continue reading “Snitch Houses Take from Communities to Expand the Role of Police”
On Thursday May 7, the leaders of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) demonstrated a profound disdain for most people in Wisconsin. They removed 390 items from consideration in the budget process, including very popular measures like marijuana legalization, BadgerCare expansion, education opportunities, youth justice reform, taxing the rich, driver’s licenses for immigrants, and many many others. These were the JFC’s very first votes on the budget, and the way senator Howard Marklein and representative Mark Born ran the meeting showed their eagerness to rip off the people on behalf of their rich friends.Continue reading “JFC Starts with One Big Crooked Vote”
When the Joint Finance Committee went to Rhinelander to hear public testimony, extended special invitations to guards who abuse children at the Lincoln Hills / Copper Lake youth prisons. Here’s a video of their testimony, with some reactions and responses from regular people who don’t abuse children and try to justify it.
We sifted through three long days of back-to-back two minute testimonies to pull out some highlight reels, which we’ll be sharing here. We also posted some testimonies to our instagram as they were happening, so follow us there to get more stuff.
First up, two minutes of fiery testimony given to the first hearing at UW-Whitewater.
Next, a longer video of people who spoke about decarceration and prisoner advocacy at the 3rd hearing at UW- Stout in Menomonie, WI. Continue reading “JFC Budget Testimony Highlights”
There is increasing bipartisan agreement in the state of Wisconsin behind prison expansion, and the decisions will be made in the budget process. The governor’s budget has already proposed expanded funding for a new youth prison, and expansions to 7 other facilities. The Republican legislature has been trying to build a new prison outside Green Bay for years.
This is the third in our series of articles about how to fight this prison expansion. In the first, we talked about where and when the budget fight would go down. The second tackled who and what we were up against. This one we take on the how and why of fighting prison expansion.
Prison Expansion: How We Fight
The conventional approach to public hearings is to be respectful, make your stories personal, appeal to the conscience of the politicians on the committee to fund beneficial programs and defund harmful programs. Regarding the prison system, that means pleading with them to fund treatment, alternatives, and diversion (TAD), mental health care, and community support, instead of building a new prison. Continue reading “Prison Expansion: How and Why We Fight”
Wisconsin is currently going through its biennial budget process, and both political parties have agreed to expand the prison system. Wisconsin already incarcerates an alarming portion of its population. Many states with higher prison populations, like Louisianna, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and California have enacted policies to reduce their prison systems. Wisconsin is on the opposite track.
Over the last year the DOC population has declined to the lowest point in two decades. Unfortunately, that decline is a temporary response to the pandemic, and is mostly caused by delays in the courts. When Wisconsin “bounces back” and the economy reopens, we should expect the prison system’s maw to reopen as well.
The budget proposed by Governor Evers has been characterized as a liberal wish-list, but that list doesn’t include decarceration. Indeed, his capital budget spends $119 million expanding prison. Meanwhile, we should expect the Republican budget to include a much larger expansion, including the construction of a new maximum security facility.
Left to their own devices, politicians from both parties are eager to raise Wisconsin’s capacity to incarcerate. Continue reading “Prison Expansion: Where and When We Fight”