Expanded Testing for Staff and Persons in our Care
As previously announced, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) in collaboration with the Department of Health Services (DHS) and State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is testing all persons in our care who have displayed symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Will all DOC staff and persons in your care be tested for COVID-19? (New 5/14/2020)
DOC continues to test persons in our care who display symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus and further plans to work with the Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin National Guard to test all staff and persons in our care in the near future.
Who will administer these tests? (New 5/14/2020)
We have developed a tiered testing method for influenza and COVID-19 and are testing individuals at the direction of the treating advanced care providers at the institutions. For the increased testing across multiple sites, the tests will be administered by the National Guard WING Mobile Specimen Collection Team.
How long will it take to complete testing at all DOC secure facilities? (New 5/14/2020)
DOC will work with DHS and the Wisconsin National Guard to schedule testing as necessary for each facility. A specific timeline has not yet been determined, but will be announced here when that information becomes available.
Why did DOC begin full-scale testing with Marshall Sherrer and Felmers Chaney Correctional Centers? (New 5/14/2020)
Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center (FCCC) and Marshall E. Sherrer Correctional Center (MSCC) are minimum-security facilities with small populations in dormitory-style living. These sites were selected for Stage 1 testing in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 positive cases within the facilities and will allow for better control of the spread of the virus.
How will DOC decide the order of full-scale testing at other facilities? (New 5/14/2020)
The order in which facilities receive full-scale testing will be decided based on prioritizing the health and safety of staff, persons in our care, and the community. The current situation at each facility will be used to determine the priority for testing and will be based on the potential for spread within the facility, as well as rates of COVID-19 within the larger community where the facility is located.
What will happen to staff who test positive for COVID-19? (New 5/14/2020)
All staff with a positive COVID-19 test will be directed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. As per CDC guidelines, staff will be able to return to their worksite when they meet two criteria: (1) at least 10 days have passed since the date of the positive test, and (2) the staff member continues to have no symptoms since the test. Should the staff member develop COVID-19 symptoms during their self-quarantine, they will be required to follow CDC guidelines for returning to work.
Why are you testing all persons in your care and staff even if they haven’t displayed any symptoms? (New 5/14/2020)
As has been observed in the community, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 may be asymptomatic and could then unknowingly spread COVID-19 to others. By testing all persons in our care and staff at a facility at one time, we will be able to medically isolate those who have the potential to spread COVID-19 to others, regardless of their symptoms. This will better allow us to control the spread of this virus in a given facility.
Will test results of persons in your care be shared with their family and loved ones? (New 5/14/2020)
Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws, we are restricted from discussing a patient’s protected health information with anyone other than the patient without written authorization from the patient. The individual is able to share their test results directly with family and loved ones if they choose to do so.
Can I find out if staff at the facility where my loved one is located have tested positive for COVID-19? (New 5/14/2020)
Yes. A breakdown by location of staff who have tested positive is available on our Employee Confirmed Cases page and is updated regularly. To comply with the HIPAA privacy laws, no information about specific staff members' test results will be shared.
Facility Entrance Screenings
For the purpose of these FAQs, the term “employee” refers to any permanent, project, limited term employee (LTE) or contracted/agency staff person entering an adult or juvenile correctional facility. The FAQs were first published for the March 30, 2020 implementation of passive and temperature check screenings, and have been recently updated to incorporate COVID-19 testing information.
Are all adult and juvenile correctional facilities screening employees prior to being allowed entrance? (Updated 5/8/2020)
By Monday, March 30th, all adult and juvenile correctional facilities will require employee screening prior to being admitted into the institution, which will include a passive screening (a series of questions), and wherever possible, an active screening (a temperature check). Each facility will communicate procedures to employees on their process.
Additionally, at certain facilities, screening may also include requiring employees to submit to COVID-19 testing. Determination on whether testing is necessary will depend on location, number of positive cases and recommendation from the Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health. Each facility required to test for COVID-19 will communicate procedures to employees about their process.
Why are employees required to get screened prior to coming into work?
Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), correctional and detention facilities can include custody, housing, education, recreation, healthcare, food service, and workplace components in a single physical setting. The integration of these components presents unique challenges for control of COVID-19 transmission among persons in our care and staff. Screening employees will assist the Department in reducing the risk of exposure of COVID-19 into the facilities. A screening process for persons in our care newly entering our facilities has already been established.
Does the Department have the authority to subject employees to COVID-19 testing? (New 5/8/2020)
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance on April 23rd related to employer required COVID-19 testing. The EEOC explained that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “employers may take steps to determine if employees entering the workplace have COVID-19 because the individual with the virus will pose a direct threat to the health of others.” Consequently, employers who can meet this standard may administer COVID-19 testing to employees before they enter the work place.
What if the Department does not have the necessary equipment to do temperature checks for employees at adult or juvenile correctional facilities?
A passive screening (questionnaire) has been developed and will be used to assess the risk of exposure to employees as well as to assess symptoms.
Who will be subject to a screening?
Any employee who enters an adult or juvenile correctional facility must submit to a screening to enter the facility. This includes staff normally assigned to the facility as well as any employee from anywhere else in the agency who is visiting or temporarily assigned to the location.
When and how often will employees have to submit to a screening? (Updated 5/18/2020)
Employees will be subjected to passive screening (questionnaire) and temperature checks every day. Employees will be screened upon arrival for their shift at any adult or juvenile correctional facility. At locations also requiring COVID-19 testing, each employee will have an initial test. Subsequent testing will be as needed (i.e. elevated facility or geographical infection rate, etc.)
What if an employee refuses to submit to a screening?
Employees who refuse to submit to the screening will be will be deemed unfit for duty, sent home and may be subject to discipline for insubordination. Employees will be in unpaid status. Supervisors should work closely with their HR representatives if this should occur.
What happens if an employee has a temperature of 100⁰ or higher?
Employees who have a temperature of 100⁰ or higher will be deemed “unfit for duty” and must be immediately sent home. If the employee is not able to immediately leave the workplace due to transportation issues, the employee should be separated in a non-public area. Alternative transportation should be encouraged if the employee uses public transportation to get to work. Human resources staff should be available for consultation to supervisors unsure about whether to send an employee home.
What happens if an employee tests positive for COVID-19? (Updated 5/18/2020)
The employee will be deemed “unfit for duty” and will be sent home immediately. They will be asked to contact their health care provider for additional direction.
Are employees in pay status during the screening? (Updated 5/18/2020)
Yes, employees are in pay status during the screening, regardless of normal work unit policies or practices. This direction covers daily screening procedures as well as when the COVID-19 testing occurs. Depending on the size of the institution, this may mean additional hours of work. Facilities may require employees to report prior to the assigned shift to accomplish the screening.
How will the check be conducted and who will know the results? (Updated 5/18/2020)
Each facility will establish procedures for the screenings which will be conducted based on available resources. While in most situations, DOC healthcare staff will administer the passive and temperature check screenings, supervisors or HR staff will also be trained in locations where no healthcare staff are present or available. Trained members of the Wisconsin National Guard will administer the COVID-19 testing at DOC locations where testing is required.
Regardless of who administers the passive screening, temperature checks or COVID-19 testing, the screening/testing will be done privately, and the results will be considered confidential medical records to be maintained separately for each employee screened/tested as required under the ADA.
DOC’s process will ensure that this information is kept confidential and that any results recorded will be kept confidential. The information will be treated as DOC treats other medical information collected for disability-related purposes. Documentation will be required releasing the employee to full duty prior to returning to work.
What will the COVID-19 test entail? (New 5/8/2020)
The National Guard uses the Exact Sciences version of the COVID-19 test. This type of test involves a nasal swab. The basic nasal swab will be used rather than the nasal-pharyngeal swab to be as unobtrusive as possible while conducting the test.
If an employee is not at work on the day the National Guard is testing at that location, what will happen? (New 5/18/2020)
Insofar as possible, the DOC will coordinate testing days with the National Guard to ensure employees at the location can be tested. While every effort will be made to test employees on their incoming shifts, employees may be asked to report on an off-shift, regular day off or approved leave day in order to ensure as many employees as possible are tested by the National Guard.
In the event an employee is missed, the DOC will work with that employee on an alternate plan which could include being directed to another testing site or being tested by a trained health professional.
Will an employee be paid if called in for testing on a day off? (New 5/18/2020)
The Department will utilize the language in the State Compensation Plan related to Call-Back/Call-In Pay. Specifically, employees will be guaranteed a minimum of two hours of pay if called back for duty or called in on the employee’s day off.
How long does it take for test results to be available? (New 5/18/2020)
Results typically take approximately 48 hours, but variations to this timeline may occur. Notifications to staff may take up to 5 days.
Will the employee be allowed to work while a mass-screening or asymptomatic test result is pending? (New 5/18/2020)
Yes, provided the employee passes the other workplace screenings and is not presenting symptoms consistent with COVID.
If an employee is sent home because of a temperature of 100⁰ or higher, or is sent home as a result of a positive COVID-19 test, when can the employee return to work? (Updated 5/18/2020)
In accordance with DHS procedures for correctional facilities, if an employee has not tested for COVID-19, but has a fever of 100⁰ or higher AND respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) the employee may not return to work until at least 3 days (72 hours) after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of fever-reducing medicine AND 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
If the employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employee will not be permitted to return to the workplace until:
- they are free of fever (>100.0) AND respiratory symptoms (for example, cough, shortness of breath) for at least three days (72 hours) without the use of fever-reducing medicine; AND
- 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, or the date the positive test was obtained
These return to work thresholds apply unless the employee’s health provider determines a return to work date greater than referenced above based on further clinical treatment. The DOC will rely on the medical guidance and verification.
If an employee was previously tested for COVID-19, can the employee be exempted from the DOC's screening procedures? (New 5/18/2020)
No. All employees need to be tested to assess current health status and potential risk to the workforce.
If an employee has to wait for a ride to leave work, how will the Department make sure social distancing practices are met?
Space will be provided so employees can continue to be at least 6 feet away from others.
What if an employee takes his or her temperature at home and doesn’t have a fever?
We will rely on the results of the reading conducted at the time of the check under the DOC authorized procedures.
Will employees be required to use their own leave time if sent home due to a failed screening or positive COVID-19 test? (Updated 5/18/2020)
Employees who meet the following requirements may be able to use remaining federal emergency paid sick leave:
- The employee is under a provider’s direction to quarantine/self-isolate due to COVID-19 concerns
- The employee has symptoms similar to COVID-19 and is seeking medical diagnosis
Employees who have exhausted federal emergency paid sick leave will have to use leave time as do all employees who are being sent home for flu-like symptoms. Employees should work with their local Human Resources Offices if they have questions.
What if an employee has been in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19?
Close contact is defined as being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time. Close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on).
If an employee belongs to a classification with significant staffing shortages (i.e. security, healthcare, etc.), the DOC will issue the individual a mask and the employee may proceed to work. The employee must wear a mask for 14 days from the date of exposure. If the employee is not in a classification with significant staffing shortages, the employee will be declared "unfit for duty" and must be directed to quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure
If an employee is issued a mask, how long is the employee expected to wear it?
When possible, the employee required to work after direct exposure will be issued a new mask for the 14 days from the date of exposure. If there is a shortage of masks, the employee may be required to use the same mask up to 4 days.
To view a PDF of the DOC Facility Entrance Screening FAQs, click here.
Cleaning and Sanitation
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is committed to robust sanitation protocols throughout its facilities and transportation vehicles and has ramped up existing cleaning policies to combat the potential spread of the coronavirus.
What sanitation and disinfectant protocols are being used to clean the facilities?
All DOC locations have established intensive cleaning protocols with an emphasis on sanitizing high touch surfaces, routine cleaning critical areas and increased personal hygiene. Additional sanitation and disinfectant protocols have been enhanced at all facilities and offices to include any sites with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Quantities of cleaning supplies and hand soap have been increased at all facilities for use by staff and persons in our care. As recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), frequent handwashing remains the preferred method of virus prevention.
Do staff and persons in your care have access to hot water and soap?
Staff members and persons in our care have access to hot water and soap and have been directed to engage in proper and frequent handwashing techniques as one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of the virus. Additionally, we are encouraging individuals to practice proper hygiene and universal preventative precautions including social distancing wherever possible.
Do staff and persons in your care have access to hand sanitizer?
DOC is providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in institution common areas for use by both staff members and persons in our care.
Screening, Testing and Healthcare
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is responding with all available resources to protect the health and safety of those living and working in our facilities. We are working hand-in-hand with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to closely monitor developments and new information related to this rapidly evolving situation.
What are the protocols when there are staff with positive results?
We have protocols in place that follow recommendations for quarantines set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Upon notice of confirmed cases, employees who test positive are directed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Any employees determined to have had direct or prolonged close contact are notified and directed to quarantine following DHS and CDC guidelines. Additionally, DOC conducts thorough cleaning and disinfection measures of the sites with positive results.
Are persons in your care being tested for COVID-19? How many have tested positive?
We have developed a tiered testing method for influenza and COVID-19 and are testing individuals at the direction of the treating advanced care providers at the institutions. If an individual tests positive for Influenza-A or COVID-19, healthcare staff will screen those in our care accordingly and make individual treatment plans for each person, just as is being done in the community with the general public. See the Persons in our Care Testing Dashboard for the latest COVID-19 testing and case information for those in our care.
What are the protocols when there are persons in your care with positive results?
Upon confirmation of any positive case in an institution, all potentially exposed staff are notified and all persons in our care that were directly exposed are quarantined, which could include being moved to a cell hall with the best means of isolation. Each institution determines the area within their facility most conducive to such isolation procedures. Individuals that are quarantined for any contagious disease are quarantined in separate areas. Any staff members that report symptoms will be directed to quarantine for 14 days.
What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?
Isolation separates sick people experiencing symptoms related to a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were potentially or directly exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
What is happening at the facilities where staff have tested positive for COVID-19?
There have been confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 at multiple DOC facilities (see the Persons in our Care Testing Dashboard for the latest case information for those in our care or the Employee Confirmed Cases page for a breakdown by location of staff cases). Upon notice of the confirmed cases, all facilities subsequently suspended administrative rules pursuant to Wisconsin Administrative Code Section 306.22. This suspension of administrative rules ensured limited movement of persons in our care, permitting only critical movement of individuals. Persons in our care at all facilities continue to have access to shower facilities and meals as regularly scheduled. Each site activated their Emergency Operating Procedures and completed a deep cleaning of the facilities. Maintaining the safety, health, and well-being of staff and persons in our care continues to be our primary focus during this crisis. The situation at each institution is being monitored closely in an effort to return to normal operations as soon as appropriate.
Are any DOC facilities on lockdown?
Facilities with confirmed positive cases have temporarily suspended administrative rules. This suspension of administrative rules ensures limited movement of persons in our care, permitting only critical movement of individuals. While some activities and programming have been canceled, others are being modified to align with current social distancing recommendations. Prior to any confirmed cases, institutions had already begun limiting movement to allow for social distancing as much as possible including the elimination of large group dining, limiting large group congregation and limiting recreation to groups of only 10 people.
What climate improvements have been implemented at facilities with limited movement due to positive cases?
We have taken several actions to support persons in our care despite functioning under modified operational plans. These include providing two free phone calls per week, increasing canteen spending limits, and providing access to additional movies, cable channels and digital TV wherever possible at sites with modified movement.
Are persons in your care receiving medical care?
We have medical professionals on-site closely monitoring the health of persons in our care. Anyone exhibiting symptoms related to influenza or COVID-19 is seen by healthcare staff, who will evaluate the individual and make any referral for diagnostic testing. Ill patients are medically isolated from the rest of the population as space allows. Similarly, exposed but asymptomatic individuals are quarantined away from our most highly vulnerable patients. Vulnerable people have been identified by our medical staff and are paying close attention to their needs. Medical co-pays have been temporarily suspended to allow anyone experiencing signs of illness to seek medical attention. All non-urgent visits offsite have been cancelled. If a person needs a higher level of care, they are transported to local community hospitals.
Are you identifying at-risk persons in your care?
We have established several precautions to help protect our most vulnerable populations. The DOC’s Bureau of Health Services has developed tracking tools to identify those at risk and generate reports that are shared with healthcare staff on a regular basis for use in their isolation and quarantine plans.
Can a wellness check be completed for persons in your care at any of the facilities?
Given the public health emergency, the Department of Corrections is receiving an overwhelming number of wellness checks. Our healthcare staff are working around the clock to monitor and care for all persons in our care, including those that are deemed to be high-risk due to pre-existing conditions, while safely managing COVID-19. As a result, we are unable to facilitate wellness checks via our healthcare staff or respond to requests for medical updates at this time, however DOC staff continue to monitor the health and safety of all persons in our care. As we continue to work through managing COVID-19 and as this issue evolves quickly, we will have security staff follow-up with the person in our care whose loved one is reaching out and encourage them to contact their loved ones to notify them of their status. Persons in our care have access to e-mail messaging, telephone, and traditional correspondence via USPS. We have also offered persons in our care two free 15 minute phone calls per week to assist in such communication.
Are persons in your care still able to receive canteen orders?
DOC has increased the weekly and bi-weekly canteen spending limits for persons in our care. Effective March 16, 2020, weekly spending limits increased from $42.00 to $50.00 and bi-weekly spending limits increased from $84.00 to $100.00. The change in spending limits does not change the spending limits placed at specific facilities or housing units.
Are facilities equipped with adequate resources? Are deliveries of food and cleaning supplies still being accepted?
We are prepared with essential food and sanitation supplies and deliveries continue as scheduled. DOC is monitoring supply levels continually. Additionally, we are working with state and federal partners to communicate any needs we may have, especially in the areas of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have also enacted an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) which works with the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) to closely monitor any resource shortages.
What other steps has DOC taken to proactively protect the health and welfare of persons in their care?
The Department of Corrections remains committed to protecting the health and welfare of all persons in our care. We have been preparing our facilities and our staff to safely and effectively manage the spread of COVID-19 including:
Reviewed and updated existing pandemic plans to address COVID-19, including the protocols and isolation procedures if someone is exposed and/or becomes infected.
Regularly communicating with staff and persons in our care to provide accurate and up-to-date public health information including basic health guidance and precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Educating staff and persons in our care about the virus (its transmission, symptoms, duration, etc.) following guidelines consistent with DHS and encouraging persons in our care to alert Health Services staff immediately if they experience any symptoms related to COVID-19.
Identifying and enhancing purchasing efforts for pandemic supplies such as personal protective equipment.
Securing contingency staffing plans and remote access to care in case of provider/staff shortages.
Is DOC issuing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks, to staff and persons in their care?
The Department of Corrections (DOC) has been monitoring developments about coronavirus (COVID-19) by working collaboratively with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and continuously reviewing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The CDC has encouraged individuals to wear cloth face coverings in settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Since April 6, 2020, all DAI staff have been permitted and encouraged to bring and wear cloth face masks or disposable ear loop masks in the workplace. In order to take further precautions and minimize the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19 in our correctional facilities, DOC distributed cloth masks to all DAI staff and persons in our care. All persons in our care also received four disposable ear loop masks through canteen. As a reminder, wearing cloth face masks does not provide full protection from the virus. Please remember to continue following simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to the virus, such as practicing social distancing protocols and thoroughly washing hands with soap and water.
How is DOC distributing ear loop masks to persons in their care? Do the masks have to be purchased?
As of the week of April 20, 2020, ear loop masks were accounted for and ready for dissemination to all persons in our care. The ear loop masks were distributed through the normal canteen schedule, and are paid for by the institutions, not by persons in our care. A person in our care’s ability to pay for a mask is not a factor. Cloth masks were also distributed to all persons in our care.
Have cloth masks been distributed at all DOC facilities?
As of the week of May 11, 2020, all institution staff and persons in our care have received three cloth face masks. Additionally, each institution has provided a minimum of four ear loop masks for persons in our care.
Are DOC correctional facilities requiring staff to wear face masks? (New 6/4/2020)
The Department of Corrections (DOC) mandates the use of a mask or face coverings by staff as part of certain posts and positions such as in the health services areas, during any transports, and in quarantine and isolation areas.
Additionally, the following Division of Adult Institution sites are requiring face masks for staff and persons in our care:
- Felmers Cheney Correctional Center
- Marshall Sheerer Correctional Center
- John Burke Correctional Center
- Waupun Correctional Institution
- Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility
- Green Bay Correctional Institution
- Taycheedah Correctional Institution
- Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center
- Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center
Operational Changes and Modifications
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has taken several action steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our state’s correctional facilities. These preemptive and precautionary measures are anchored in a foundation of public health and safety considerations.
What is the Department of Corrections doing to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 within its facilities?
In effort to minimize the overall impact of COVID-19 and maintain a safe environment for all, we are following numerous protocols to safely and effectively manage the spread. Some of the protocols include:
Suspension of non-professional and non-essential visitation, including volunteers and contractors
Suspension of volunteer and contracted activities, public tours and events
Suspension of work release for persons in our care in the private sector
Suspension of all contracted programming and most internal programming
Suspension of inter-facility transfers and non-essential internal transfers
Suspension of admissions to state prisons and juvenile facilities
Suspension of elective and non-essential staff travel and training
Are persons in your care still allowed visitors?
Effective March 13, 2020, the Department of Corrections temporarily suspended visitation at all correctional facilities until further notice to minimize the risk of exposing staff, persons in our care and the public to COVID-19. This includes outside volunteers, contractors and tours. All professional and legal visits will continue at this time with enhanced accommodations for phone calls and video conferences, or non-contact visits, whenever possible.
When will the visitation suspension be lifted?
We are unable to provide a set date at this time due to the fluid nature of this situation. We are reviewing this decision on a daily basis and will monitor the situation closely to determine when visits can safely resume.
How can family and friends maintain contact with their loved ones while visitation is suspended?
We understand the significant impacts this suspension will have on persons in our care. Effective March 16, 2020, we have partnered with CenturyLink to provide adults in our care with two (2) free fifteen-minute phone calls and youth in our care with unlimited phone calls each week, Sunday through Saturday, until visits resume. International phone calls are not included in the free phone calls available. All other institution telephone policies and procedures still apply. We continue to explore additional methods of communication to help families stay connected during this time.
Are visits allowed at my local county jail?
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections does not operate or have jurisdiction over county jails. Please contact your local county or sheriff’s office directly for specific information on county jails.
How are inter-facility and internal transfers being effected?
Effective March 19, 2020, all transfers from state contracted county jail beds have been suspended until further notice. This applies to all individuals sentenced to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, Division of Adult Institutions (DAI), but are currently housed in a contracted county jail bed. In order to limit the potential for exposure and spread of COVID-19, DAI will not be scheduling transfers into or out of the county jail for the duration of this public health emergency. Effective March 23, 2020, internal transfers are also suspended with the exception of essential transfers out of an abundance of caution. We continue to work with the Governor’s Office and other state and federal agencies on best practices to protect the health and safety of staff and persons in our care.
I heard all admissions to the state prisons and juvenile facilities are suspended. Is this true? (Updated 6/2/2020)
Under the authority of Executive Order #72 which went into effective on March 23, 2020, Governor Evers suspended all admissions to state prisons and juvenile facilities operated by the Department of Corrections in Emergency Order #9. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution as part of the statewide efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This moratorium has since expired and beginning June 1, 2020, intakes from county jails resumed. These operations are now occurring with modifications to limit the risk of potential exposure and spread of COVID-19 to the staff and the persons under our care.
What is the status of work release programs?
Effective March 16, 2020, work release placements for persons in our care in the private sector were temporarily suspended, with minimal exceptions. Please contact individual work release sites for additional details related to this suspension.
What is the status of volunteer programs?
Effective March 13, 2020, volunteer visits and activities at all correctional facilities were temporarily suspended until further notice. All public tours and events have been postponed.
What is the status of contracted and internal programming?
Effective March 17, 2020, all non-essential activities/interventions provided by external partners were temporarily suspended at all correctional facilities until further notice. This suspension applied to all contracted programming. For clients in the community, it is recommended that agencies (where appropriate) utilize technology (phone calls, FaceTime or Skype, etc.) in order to provide services and/or case management resources. Additionally, most internal programming has been suspended, and we have adjusted necessary programming to align with current social distancing recommendations.
Are persons in your care being allowed to participate in religious activities during this pandemic? If so, in what type of activities?
DOC remains committed to addressing diverse spiritual needs of persons in our care – while also maintaining pandemic safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities. Based upon local resources and capacities, facilities may have several religious accommodations available:
- Chaplains remain on duty to assist persons in our care of all faiths with religious needs.
- DOC Chaplains and staff continue to facilitate small-group (10 or fewer) religious programming when they are able to do so safely.
- Social distancing is maintained during congregate religious events and safety protocols prohibit physical contact (e.g. hand-shaking, greetings, passing peace, sacraments, communion, pipe, anointing).
- Religious accommodations and services are still available to individuals in facilities with modified inmate movement, those isolated for medical treatment, or persons in our care who elect to self-quarantine.
- Chaplains may provide self-study materials from the chapel library, online resources, and volunteers.
- Persons in our care can purchase approved personal religious property items, and individuals with electronic tablets may also have religious publications/content available for personal use through kiosk downloads.
- Individuals approved for religious dietary accommodations continue to receive menus comporting with prohibition of certain foods.
- Facilities with internal television networks may broadcast a range of religious programming for viewing within housing units.
- Chaplains may provide individual pastoral care to persons facing spiritual crises.
- To encourage self-care and spiritual growth at this stressful time, Chaplains proactively work with facility leadership to share secular/non-denominational information (e.g. mindfulness meditation, emotional self-regulation, uplifting stories, etc.) among persons in our care, as well as staff members providing direct services.
Although public entry into facilities is restricted to prevent spread of COVID-19, other types of community support are welcomed. In particular, facilities can benefit from donations of religious publications and DVDs – or temporary loan of these materials. Please contact the Chaplains or program supervisors at the local facility if you are interested in making this type of resource available. Additionally, you can view DOC's religious policies for reference.
Is DOC releasing individuals early?
The Department of Corrections is exploring all options to reduce the prison population. It is important to note that DOC has limited authority to unilaterally release adults in custody before their mandatory release date. The only mechanisms under which DOC has sole authority to grant an early release are Special Action Parole releases for persons sentenced for offenses committed before December 31, 1999 pursuant to
§ 304.02, Stats., for the purpose of relieving overcrowding, and Certain Earned Release which allows early release only to nonviolent inmates, as outlined in Wis. Admin. Code DOC § 302.35, who are within 12 months of release from the confinement portion of a bifurcated sentence imposed between 2009 and 2011.
Additional release mechanisms include the following:
Petitions for early release for certain inmates who are either elderly or suffer from an extraordinary health condition, pursuant to § 302.113(9g), Wis. Stats. These petitioners must first obtain DOC's approval. If DOC supports early release, DOC refers the inmate's petition to the sentencing court which will hold a hearing at which the victim and District Attorney may be present. Early release under this statute requires the approval of a sentencing judge.
Parole release under extraordinary circumstances pursuant to
§ 304.06(1m), Wis. Stats., which is available only to certain persons sentenced for offenses committed before December 31, 1999. The decision to grant early release pursuant to this statute is made by the Parole Commission.
What is the status of the Earned Release Program and the Challenge Incarceration Program?
DOC is continuing these programs to ensure those releases are also continuing to move forward. We are increasing capacity in the Earned Release Program by enrolling people that are eligible at medium security facilities. Individuals will have their start date adjusted to begin the program earlier and subsequently released earlier. In cooperation with the Parole Commission, DOC is accommodating parole meetings through video and phone.
In line with public health guidance and acting within statutory authority, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is following existing policy and release mechanisms to promote social distancing while maintaining our obligations to support public safety.
Have any changes been made in the Division of Community Corrections (DCC) to decrease the number of individuals incarcerated?
DCC continues to explore all appropriate actions to decrease the numbers of individuals incarcerated, while also maintaining community safety through the effective monitoring of individuals on DCC supervision. DCC has the authority to hold a person in custody at a county jail pending the outcome of a violation investigation and/or revocation proceeding, which is often referred to as a DCC hold. DOC has worked to reduce the number of individuals on holds statewide, and Alternative to Revocation (ATR) programming at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) has been put on hold. Those individuals who were involved in ATR programming at MSDF are being released to the community. DCC staff continue to balance prioritizing public health during this time with providing the necessary supervision and monitoring for community safety..
Will individuals on probation, parole or extended supervision still need to come into the office for scheduled contact visits with their agent?
Communication is vital between individuals on supervision and their agents to avoid any complications or confusion with supervision rules and requirements. Individuals should assume all scheduled appointments are still taking place, although some appointments may be replaced with video meetings using FaceTime or Google Duo type applications. Clients will be contacted by their agent directly if there are any changes to the standard reporting process. Clients should not assume there have been any changes to their regular reporting requirements unless told otherwise directly by their agent. Offices are closed to the general public, but remain open for scheduled meetings between agents and clients. At times, agents may be working remotely, but will continue to be available by phone and email. There have been many accommodations made to utilize other methods of communication for meetings whenever possible, but not all contacts will be able to be accommodated remotely. Clients should contact their agent for more information.
Will probation and parole offices for the DCC remain open?
Offices will be closed to the general public, but they will continue to be staffed to accommodate situations that require in person meetings, service electronic monitoring equipment, revocation hearings and other appointments. Attorneys will also have the ability to review client files by prescheduling meeting times. Clients should contact their agent with specific questions.
Will you continue to release individuals scheduled to be paroled or discharged?
Yes. DOC will continue to release persons in our care according to their individual sentencing guidelines. The parole board also continues to operate and assess eligible candidates for release.
Are individuals still allowed to be picked up from facilities on their scheduled release dates?
Persons in our care who are released to the community may be picked up from the facility at the point of release. DOC continues to strongly encourage the use of social distancing practices, even as individuals are released to the community. At this time DOC is not allowing any items (including clothing) to be delivered to the institutions from family members and/or friends.
How are parole hearings being handled in each of the facilities? Is the Parole Board still holding public hearings?
The Parole Commission continues to conduct parole hearings in the institutions. Many of these hearings are being conducted through videoconferencing, however some are still being held in-person utilizing appropriate social distancing practices. The monthly public parole board hearing scheduled for April 1, 2020 has been cancelled.
What changes have been made to the revocation process in response to COVID-19?
Effective March 27, 2020 revocation hearings will be limited to remote hearings only. If a revocation hearing cannot be conducted remotely (video or phone), the hearing will be postponed. Probation and Parole agents are working with the Department of Hearings and Appeals (DHA) and Defense Attorneys to determine if the hearing can be conducted remotely. All parties, agents, attorneys, clients, Administrative Law Judges and witnesses must have access to participate remotely for the hearing to proceed. If a participant or witness is unable to participate remotely, the hearing will be postponed.
How is DOC assisting those releasing from custody to the community with continuity of care for their medical and mental health needs?
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, those in our care may find it difficult to secure community appointments for medical and mental health care after release from a DOC facility. In an effort to provide greater continuity of medication supply, DOC is now issuing a 30-day in-hand supply of medication to inmates upon release, rather than the 14-day supply previously supplied. Additionally, when prescribers issue a 30-day hard-copy prescription, a 30-day refill will be included for an additional 60 days of medication. This will provide a total of 90 days of authorized medication upon release for most individuals. The medical provider will work with the prescriber to ensure these amounts are appropriate on an individual basis. These changes replicate Assembly Bill 653, which is currently being reviewed in the Wisconsin legislature.
How is DOC ensuring those releasing from custody to the community have access to healthcare?
A large majority of individuals preparing to release will be eligible for the State of Wisconsin Medicaid program, BadgerCare Plus. This program can provide no-cost or low-cost access to medications or medical supplies for chronic conditions and can cover COVID-19 tests and treatment including doctor visits, lab tests, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, telehealth visits and more. DOC has prepared a COVID-19 Health Insurance Guide document that outlines how to obtain health insurance and pay for medical care in the community. DOC already has an established process for persons in our care to apply for Medicaid prior to their release, and individuals have been encouraged to use their facility procedure and work with staff to apply.
Additional frequently asked questions are available and updated regularly on the
Wisconsin Division of Administration website.
Is DOC hiring new staff during this public health emergency?
The State of Wisconsin has implemented a hiring freeze for non-essential positions. However, we will continue to recruit for essential positions where staffing shortages may become a concern, such as security and healthcare positions. We are currently seeking a wide variety of workers for immediate hire to address the essential needs of our agency during the pandemic.
Essential positions include:
- Registered Nurses
- Correctional Officers
- Facilities Maintenance
- Probation and Parole Agents
- Social Workers
- Power Plant Operators
Additional details about the job opportunities available can be found on the COVID-19 Essential Hiring website. For a full listing of Department of Corrections positions, visit us at Wisc.Jobs. If you have questions about other recruitments, please contact your local human resources office.
Is DOC experiencing any staffing shortages as a result of COVID-19? If the virus spread throughout the agency, what contingency plans are in place to ensure things keep running?
Staffing throughout the agency remains stable at this time. We continue to monitor staffing patterns on a daily basis and plan for various contingencies. The DOC has prepared continuity of operations plans for maintaining critical functions of the department. We have activated the Department Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate resources and internal information sharing on planning progress, staffing numbers and medical surveillance agency-wide. Additionally, our response is supported by the Governor's Office, Department of Military Affairs, Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Emergency Management and several other state and federal agencies.
What does the “Safer at Home Order" from Governor Evers mean for me?
Effective March 25, 2020, the Governor's
Safer at Home Order directs all non-essential businesses to close and prohibits all non-essential travel in the state, with some exceptions as defined in the order. This means all non-essential state employees shall work from home. DOC has established protocols that allow staff at the Central Office and within the divisions to telework as much as possible. As outlined in Section 12, essential government functions are required to continue and defines corrections personnel as categorically exempt from the order. If you have questions specific to your classification, please contact your supervisor.
How do I know if I qualify for telecommuting or working remotely?
Telecommuting or working remotely is a work flexibility arrangement in which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities outlined in their position description from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work during approved worktimes. Due to the critical nature of our operations, many positions will not have the ability to telecommute. If you have specific questions, please contact your supervisor.
Can I work remotely if I have flu-like symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19?
If the nature of your work allows for remote completion, your healthcare provider indicates working remotely is possible despite your symptoms, and you are approved to do so by your supervisor, you may work remotely.
What if I do not want to work remotely? Can I still work at my office?
Due to the Safer at Home Order and the precautions put in place by our department to minimize the risk of exposing staff and those in our care to COVID-19, there may be times when you will be directed to work remotely without the option to return to your regular work location. Please discuss any questions or concerns you may have directly with your supervisor.
What should I do if I'm experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms?
In accordance with DHS procedures for correctional facilities, if an employee has not tested for COVID-19, but has a fever of 100⁰ or higher AND respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) the employee may not return to work until at least 3 days (72 hours) after they no longer have a fever or signs of a fever (chills, feeling very warm, flushed appearance, or sweating) without the use of fever-reducing medicine AND 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. If the employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employee will be required to stay away from the workplace for 14 days and be symptom-free for 72 hours. If staff feel they need medical care, or experience symptoms such as a fever, cough, or trouble breathing, they should call their healthcare provider. Calling ahead before going to your doctor's office or to the emergency room will help them to prepare accordingly. Tell them your symptoms and any exposure history, and they will determine the need for testing.
I am considered to be at high-risk for serious complications for COVID-19 if I contract a virus. What should I do?
Employees should consult their medical provider. If advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, the employee should work with their local human resources office on next steps.
What should I do if I think a co-worker has symptoms consistent with COVID-19?
You should discuss these types of situations with your supervisor, but should not confront the individual yourself. Remember to practice confidentiality with all matters related to a person's health. While it is imperative we remain vigilant at this time, it is also important to remember not to make unnecessary assumptions or accusations about a person's health.
How will I know if I am getting an accurate temperature reading when my temperature is checked?
Although the average human body temperature is typically stated as 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, research shows that individual baseline temperatures can vary from person to person based on factors like body weight, age, gender, time of the day or even the weather. Employees reporting directly from outside to the screening area who register a temperature below 97 degrees will have another reading redone in 2-3 minutes once acclimated with the indoor temperature at the facility. To learn more about body temperature and how it's measured, read how CDC defines symptoms for illnesses or check out these tips for tracking your temperature.
A collection of Corrections related terms commonly used in our agency policies and procedures and are often referenced on this website.
Alternative to Revocation Agreement (ATR): This occurs when an individual on community supervision has been involved in violations, but the Division of Community Corrections agrees to not pursue revocation of their supervision if the person completes specific tasks and/or goals.
Early Discharge: The ability for an individual’s term of probation to be terminated early after meeting specific conditions. This is only applicable for those on probation or parole, not for those on extended supervision.
Electronic Monitoring: Equipment that helps to monitor the whereabouts and/or activities of those on supervision. The Department of Corrections most frequently utilizes the following equipment:
- Global Position System (GPS) provides constant information on the whereabouts of an offender.
- Alcohol Monitoring is completed through the use of the Transdermal Alcohol Device (TAD), which provides a continuous measure of alcohol content based on perspiration, or through a Soberlink, which allows for testing on a set schedule.
- Radio Frequency (RF) indicates whether or not a person is inside their residence.
Extended Supervision: A period of a prison sentence that is allowed to be served in the community and under the supervision of a probation/parole agent for crimes committed before or after December 31, 1999. A judge determines the original length of time of incarceration and extended supervision at sentencing.
Hold: A common term referencing a temporary incarceration pending an investigation of a potential violation of supervision or revocation of supervision. Holds are placed and lifted at the discretion of the Division of Community Corrections.
Jail Sanction: A short term of jail imposed by the Department of Corrections in response to a violation of community supervision.
Parole: A period of a prison sentence that is allowed to be served in the community and under the supervision of a probation/parole agent for crimes committed before December 31, 1999. The Wisconsin Parole Commission is the final authority for granting discretionary parole.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Any type of specialized clothing or equipment worn to prevent exposure to communicable diseases, such as gowns, gloves, masks, goggles and/or respirators.
Probation: A period of supervision that is ordered by the court in response to a criminal conviction or deferred prosecution agreement.
Revocation: A process in which the Division of Community Corrections recommends that an individual on community supervision return to jail or prison due to rule and/or criminal violations. This process involves a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, the agent, the person on supervision and his/her attorney.
Social Distancing: Measures intended to reduce the spread of illness by reducing direct contact between individuals.
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