(IRMA, Wis.) — The court-appointed Monitor's latest report on conditions at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) again finds the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) in partial or substantial compliance with every aspect of the consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit over conditions at the schools.
The report commended DOC on a number of current and planned improvements at the juvenile facility, including:
“The data clearly shows that many trend lines are moving in the right direction and providing a safer environment for staff and youth, particularly within outcome measures reflecting fewer assaults and injury rates of staff," the Monitor noted in the report.
The report also applauded the DOC's efforts to maintain facility operations during a global health crisis, rather than taking the easy approach of putting youth in their rooms as much as possible to promote social distancing and reduce the risk of infection.
However, this latest report noted that the ongoing pandemic is taking a toll on students and staff at the school. The school building has been closed and youth have been e-learning in their housing units since March. The Monitor notes youth are bored, and that both youth and staff are frustrated with virtual studies, leading to increased behavioral and disciplinary issues.
The Monitor cited an increase in use of physical and mechanical restraints over the reporting period. However, she noted, “This is very typical of a facility transitioning from and eliminating the use of OC (pepper spray) as staff develop new skills for de-escalation and behavior response techniques," adding that she feels this trend is reflective of the lack of meaningful education and other programs as a result of the operational changes occurring as a result of the pandemic.
“Progress is not linear. Not every report will be better than the last," said Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr. “This administration has made tremendous progress at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School the past two years. This report suggests we may have regressed in some areas and we will work to address that."
One area where the current administration has made significant strides is eliminating use of OC (pepper spray), which has not been used at the schools in well over a year. DOC has also significantly reduced administrative confinement times for youth, invested millions in facility upgrades that improve youth safety, and enhanced arts programming with the addition of a music therapy program in 2020.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Beginning October 24, Medicaid members who are incarcerated will have their health care benefits suspended and then re-evaluated before they are released from jail or prison.
Previously, Medicaid members had their coverage terminated upon incarceration, which often delayed their access to medical and behavioral health care following their release. The Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) have been working with income maintenance agencies and community partners to make this policy change.
Delays in care can result in increased negative health outcomes and rates of re-arrest. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, incarcerated individuals are more likely to have chronic physical and mental health conditions, serious mental illnesses, or substance use disorders. One study in another state found that, in the two weeks after their release, adults leaving jail or prison face a mortality rate that is 12.7 times higher than the rest of the adult population.
“This new policy will increase the likelihood of successful re-entry for Wisconsin residents into their communities," said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Connecting incarcerated individuals to health care and other support services upon their release is critical to breaking the cycles of chronic homelessness, reliance on emergency care, and re-arrest."
As of October 9, there were 20,983 incarcerated individuals supervised by DOC's Division of Adult Institutions. In the 2019 Federal Fiscal Year, 9,585 people in Wisconsin were released from jail or prison, and nearly 70% of these individuals were eligible for a Medicaid program.
“It is our job to assist persons in our care in making the best possible transition back into society," said DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr. “By having a suspension rather than termination policy in place, we are providing them a better chance to successfully rebuild their lives when they return to their communities."
“We recognized the need to hear different perspectives and we talked to many individuals and groups to get advice on how to get this right," said Wisconsin Medicaid Director Jim Jones. “Having the right players at the table to inform our implementation of this policy helped us implement efficiencies, use best practices, and ensure that the voices of those affected most by this policy were heard."
With the cost of health care services covered by Medicaid immediately upon an individual's release, community organizations and free or low-cost clinics will no longer be responsible for the medical expenses incurred by Medicaid-eligible individuals who require care after release. Because Medicaid will pay for inpatient hospital expenses for inmates with suspended benefits, this policy should result in cost savings for the DOC and county jails.
Learn more about Medicaid in Wisconsin.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) Oregon Farm has been honored by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
The farm, part of the DOC's Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE), received a 2019 Achievement Award from DATCP for producing high-quality milk and maintaining noteworthy farm conditions for more than three years.
“The employees and workers on our Oregon Farm team can take pride in this recognition that they continue the tradition of high performance in BCE Agriculture operations," said BCE Director Wes Ray. “They do this work every day, in any weather, and they do it very well."
The Oregon Farm consists of approximately 530 acres of mostly alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat. Those crops are primarily for feeding the Holstein dairy herd. Six Oregon Farm staff members train and supervise 21 workers in custody at Oakhill Correctional Institution.
“The growth of the workers at the farm is amazing. The job skills they gain are great, but the real positive aspect is seeing their confidence rise," said BCE Farm Supervisor Eric Trumm. “I feel the farms give the workers great opportunities to learn and grow."
One of those workers, Donnie, explained why he has been working at the farm for five months.
“(I) Like to learn new life skills and feel like I'm part of the team." He said, “I love taking care of the animals. I'm always looking for cows with poor milk quality or that aren't eating as much as they normally do."
In addition to running three farms and a dairy, BCE operates two warehouses and makes products in 12 industries. Statewide, BCE employed a daily average of 440 people in DOC care last year, paying them a modest wage and teaching them work skills.
“Save money to start over after my release," is the reason Thurman gave for working at the Oregon Farm, adding that he also enjoys the work. “I really like taking care of the calves. I also like hoof trim days because they are interesting and challenging."
The congratulatory letter from DATCP concluded with, “Thank you again for consistently producing the high quality milk that makes Wisconsin's dairy industry a leader in the nation and the world."
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is using technology to keep those in its care connected to loved ones during a pandemic hat has limited physical interaction.
The DOC moved to quickly suspend in-person visitation at the onset of the pandemic in Wisconsin, but the agency has since worked to install the necessary technology and provide enough computers to facilitate video visits at all of its institutions.
“The feedback from PIOC who have had video visitation has been positive, with many comments of how nice it was to see a family member or friend's face," said Green Bay Correctional Institution Warden, Dylon Radtke. “In several circumstances, a video visit was able to connect a person in our care with someone in their life who was ill, providing the opportunity to be with them during a time of need."
Over the first 23 days of August, people in the care of the DOC completed more than 7,000 video visits across more than 20 of the agency's institutions. Those at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution completed nearly 600 calls over that time, those at Oshkosh Correctional more than 700 and those at Stanley Correctional more than 800. Racine Correctional Institution logged more than 1,600 video visits over the entire month of August.
“While phone calls, letters, and emails are good forms of communication, they simply do not replace the connection of being able to see another person's face, see them smile and laugh, their expressions and gestures. Video visitation provides the option of connecting in a way more beneficial," Radtke said.
The technology has opened up new opportunities for those in DOC care who have loved ones who cannot visit in person because they live out of state, lack transportation or various other reasons.
That's why Radtke is among the wardens who say they would advocate for keeping video visitation as an option post pandemic. The DOC's Division of Juvenile Corrections Administrator, Ron Hermes, feels the same and has already stated video visits will remain an option for youth at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School in Irma, even after in-person visits resume.
“Zoom calls are definitely a positive that has come out of this terrible pandemic. Youth in our care are engaging with their families at a level that has surpassed what we thought was possible," Hermes said earlier this summer.
Youth interviewed by the court-mandated Monitor for the schools noted that they miss in-person visits, but that they have enjoyed video visits with their families. It has allowed them to not just see their loved ones, but to see their homes again, and maybe a favorite room or pet.
Youth at the schools have had a combined 1192 video visits since March 26, and 41% of youth who completed a survey regarding their video visits indicated they had not previously received an in-person visit.
(MILWAUKEE, Wis.) — Fourteen people took steps toward a brighter future today, earning an Associate Degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). The group faced greater obstacles than most to earn their degrees, completing course work while incarcerated.
The 14 honored at a graduation ceremony today all worked towards their diplomas while in the Wisconsin correctional institutions. They are among the first cohort of individuals in the care of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to participate in the federal Second Chance Pell pilot program, which allows a small number of colleges and universities nationwide to provide post-secondary education and training to prisoners. MATC was one of the first colleges selected to participate in this program in 2016.
“I always say the best part of my job is celebrating the successes of persons in our care with their families, our staff and supporters from the community. It's not the same, because I cannot be there in person to feel all the pride and love around our graduates, but I know you feel it," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said during the virtual graduation ceremony.
The graduates honored Friday morning completed their studies online at five separate DOC institutions.
Redgranite Correctional Institution - 1 graduate
Robert E Ellsworth Correctional Center - 4 graduates
Racine Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
Jackson Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
The graduate speaker was Kyle Hansen, who is in DOC care at Jackson Correctional Institution. He notes his grandmothers were his inspiration to earn a degree, and his son was his motivation.
“To the rest of the world, my son is only one person. But to this person, he is the whole world, and my motivation for a better life and education," Hansen said. “I constantly emphasis to him the importance of working hard in school. I would be a hypocrite to not lead by example. I owe it to him to be the best man and father that I can possibly be, and education guides me to that."
All the graduates earned either an Associate of Sciences or Associate of Arts degree from MATC, taking a minimum of six credits per semester. Governor Tony Evers, the Keynote Speaker for the ceremony, praised their determination to reach this day in the face of all obstacles.
“It was a feat, but you did it. And we are all very proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves. And I know your families and loved ones are as well, as they celebrate with us today," Gov. Evers told the graduates.
A 2013 study by RAND Corporation found that inmates who participate in correctional education programs had 43% lower odds of recidivism than those who did not. Also, their odds of getting a job post-release was 13% higher than those who did not participate in correctional education.
“I was motivated by a sincere desire to make positive changes in my life to enhance the likelihood of a successful future," Hansen said, adding that he intends to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Business Management at UW-Milwaukee. “It is very easy to fall into the trap of sitting around and wasting time while serving a prison sentence; to simply count the years. I was motivated to not allow myself to fall into this trap and just simply count the years, but rather to make the years count. Because, anything lost can be found except for time wasted."
Wisconsin DOC would like to thank its education services staff and MATC, Wisconsin's largest technical college, for all the work that went into making this day possible.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Mary Muse has spent a quarter century working in correctional healthcare, a career honored when the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) included Muse among its class of 2020 Fellows. The Academy announced the new Fellows earlier this month, and it will recognize Muse and the other 2020 honorees in a virtual ceremony in October.
“This is an exciting time for me and a huge honor to have my work in correctional nursing and health care recognized," said Muse, the Chief Nursing Officer/Nursing Director for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). “Twenty-five years ago, I committed to improving health care for incarcerated persons, elevating the level of nursing practice in corrections, and increasing the visibility of correctional nursing within the nursing industry and the public."
An invitation to be a Fellow represents accomplishments within the nursing profession and the ability to transform the American Health Systems. It marks a significant milestone in a nurse leader's career to have their accomplishments honored by their colleagues within the profession.
Previously-elected Fellows review hundreds of applications and select new Fellows based on contributions to advance the public's health.
“To have the privilege to now stand with some of my previous professors and nurse theorists who were once part of my academic study is huge," Muse explained. “I am proud to stand with other nursing professionals whose work and contributions are nationally recognized; individuals who have advanced the science of nursing, influenced health policy and improved care delivery for patients."
Most Fellows come from academia, and a review of recently-elected Fellows shows Muse is the first Fellow to come from the field of corrections since at least 2013.
Those who have worked with Muse during her 11 years at the Wisconsin DOC are not surprised to see her break through.
“Mary stresses nursing accountability and competency. And she challenges nursing and other health care professions to be the best they can be for the betterment of the health care delivery team and, ultimately, the patient," said Steve Linn, a Health Services Nursing Coordinator at the DOC. “Mary strives in her work and oversight of others to increase health equality, especially around the issue of health care access for the underserved and at-risk patient population, while maintaining the overall focus of improving patient population health and health care delivery outcomes."
Muse says friends and colleagues have encouraged her to submit an application for the honor for several years. The process requires defining how one has contributed to advancing nursing and policy, as well as sponsorship from two current academy Fellows.
“To have correctional health recognized suggests others are increasingly understanding the connection between correctional health and public health, and greater appreciation of how the social determinants impact and are linked to incarceration," Muse said.
(MADISON, Wis.) — A major investment in technology is helping bring the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) into the 21st Century, while speeding up DOC services and saving the agency money.
The DOC's Division of Community Corrections (DCC) officially switched over to an electronic case filing system on Wednesday, the culmination of a project that started more than two years ago.
“Previously, each client under DCC supervision had a paper file," explained DCC Region 1 Assistant Regional Chief Jay Laufenberg, who along with Sally Tess co-chaired the work group that led the project. “They could be anywhere from less than an inch thick to several inches thick."
The old paper files contained all documentation related to DCC clients, from supervision history to any investigative documents. Starting Wednesday, all newly-created client files and related documents will be entered into the OnBase software installed by the DOC's Bureau of Technology Management. The new system has multiple benefits.
“With staff working remotely, they can now access documents from home or from anywhere else in the state," he said, adding that the new system also saves the cost of mailing heavy, paper files to other DCC offices when a client moves to another region of the state.
In addition, the change to electronic filing removes the need for DCC staff to scan paper documents related to public records requests.
Roughly 1,600 DCC staff members have undergone training in recent months on how to use the new system, and Laufenberg says he has heard positive feedback.
“One agent, after reviewing the training video, sent us a message about how excited they were," he said.
Laufenberg knows not all the feedback will be that positive. The agency has set up a mailbox where agents can ask questions or offer advice as DCC works through this change.
(CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis.) — A new correctional job center at Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility (CVCTF) will help individuals there prepare for careers once they reenter the community. The CVCTF site marks the fifth collaboration between Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and Department of Corrections (DOC) on a correctional job center.
CVCTF redesigned and restructured an existing space within the institution's school building to make it feel and operate like a community job center. The space includes secure computer workstations for staff and persons in DOC care, and artwork intended to inspire those working in the space to envision their future outside the institution.
The facility will provide individuals incarcerated in the minimum-security institution access to programs and services related to career readiness, job search assistance, resume development, veteran services, apprenticeship resources, and assistance for individuals with disabilities.
“The job center is a major addition to our facility, and working with several external and internal partners in this development has been exciting," said CVCTF Warden Tim Nelson. “Approximately 600 men release from CVCTF back into the community each year, and the majority need meaningful and active employment upon their release. The programs available through this job center increase their chances for successful reentry into the community after completing the Earned Release Program."
Restructure work wrapped up in early December and DOC is currently working to install DWD software on computers in the correctional job center. Once that is complete, DOC staff will receive training in preparation of a potential soft launch in late January. DWD Job Service staff and the local workforce development board are also working with DOC institution leadership to coordinate hours of operation inside the center, ensuring those close to release have opportunities to use the space and benefit from the many resources available.
“We are excited to continue this meaningful partnership with DOC," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. “In addition to the workforce programs and services, DWD and workforce board staff are working with employers throughout the state to create stronger linkages between the persons in DOC care and employers ensuring that interviews can be conducted prior to release back to the community and linking persons with the resources needed to be successful.“
Persons who use the correctional job center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to craft a resume and cover letter, then to research for open positions, apply and, in some cases, even set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated. Those same JCW accounts can be accessed once they are released, offering a smoother transition from incarceration into the community.
“We are very proud to expand the partnership between DOC and DWD," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “DOC's first institution-based job center came online in 2018. By the end of 2021, correctional job centers will be operating at ten DOC institutions across the state, helping fill the needs of Wisconsin's workforce while providing opportunities to those looking for work upon release from incarceration."
The collaboration aids employers in tight labor markets and in-demand fields, prompting them to consider qualified candidates with a criminal record. Additionally, the services and resources available through the correctional job centers help reduce employment barriers for justice-involved individuals.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has started the process of closing a cell hall at Waupun Correction Institution (WCI), which is expected to decrease the institution's population approximately 20%.
A majority of the roughly 220 individuals being moved from WCI, a maximum-security institution, are classified as medium-security and will be moved to various medium-security DOC institutions across Wisconsin over the next few months.
“We have been working for more than a year on various ways to better align our institution populations, moving more persons in our care to sites consistent with their security classification. We want more individuals classified as medium security living in medium-security institutions and more individuals classified as minimum security moved into minimum-security institutions." said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “Our adult population is at the lowest point it has been in two decades, which gives us the available space to make these moves."
The move also helps alleviate long-standing staff vacancy issues at WCI, the oldest correctional facility in the state with parts of the building dating back to the 1850s. The proposed decrease in WCI's population will lower the number of direct staffed posts by eight per day, and eliminate daily relief positions needed for the cell hall to further reduce staffing needs.
“Because there are several other DOC institutions in Dodge County and the surrounding area, it has been more difficult to find and recruit new, potential employees in that geographic region," said DOC Division of Adult Institutions Administrator Makda Fessahaye. “We've taken many steps to try and address vacancy rates at Waupun. We think closing the cell hall will help address staffing while meeting the alignment goals of our agency."
“The vacancy issues at WCI are not tied to any one, particular factor and did not happen overnight, so we cannot expect to take one step and fix them all at once," Sec. Carr added. “But we think it is a step in the right direction."
Transfers of the 220 people at WCI are already underway and are expected to continue through the end of February, though COVID-19 outbreaks could lead to delays. As they are transferred to medium-security institutions, there will be corresponding transfers of minimum-classified individuals to minimum-security facilities.
(TAYCHEEDAH, Wis.) — The non-profit group, Camp Reunite, and its staff members teamed up with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to deliver some special holiday gifts over the weekend.
The Saturday and Sunday deliveries wrapped up six days of stops across eastern Wisconsin, delivering gifts to children from their incarcerated parents.
“Providing gifts donated from Kapco's Kids 2 Kids Christmas has been a blessing for the campers," said Camp Reunite Co-Founder Andrew Gappa. “Seeing their smiles, filled with excitement, brings hope to their holidays and makes the holiday season extra special."
The volunteers made 53 stops and delivered 375 gifts to 125 children of individuals currently serving a sentence at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution or Taycheedah Correctional Institution. The gifts ranged from basketballs, to art supplies and board games.
“Seeing the joy on the kids' faces when they received their gifts from Camp Reunite and their moms is not something we will forget," said Jaime Gyr, a social worker at Taycheedah Correctional Institution. “We have seen over and over the positive impact this camp has on the kids and their moms. We are so thankful for being part of this wonderful program!"
The gift deliveries were an extension of Camp Reunite, a program that offers trauma-informed camp activities for kids ages 8-17 who have a parent incarcerated in the Wisconsin Correctional System. The program started in 2018 at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, a part of the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System, as a week-long summer camp that explored ways to help kids cope with separation from their mother. It included two extended visits to see their incarcerated parent.
A winter version of Camp Reunite was later added to the calendar in December, and the program was also expanded to a men's institution, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, for the first time this summer. Both the summer and winter camps in 2020 have switched to virtual visitation with the parent, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the gifts, 97 kids received camp supplies ahead of the virtual Camp Reunite in which they will participate December 28-30. Parents at Taycheedah and Kettle Moraine Correctional institutions will join their children for activities like scavenger hunts and a movie watch party.
If you'd like to donate to Camp Reunite and help expand its mission, please connect with staff by going to www.campreunite.org.
(MADISON, Wis.) – In late 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) facilitated a staff climate and engagement survey, the agency's first since 2017.
Staff responses, expressed through that survey, will be important in helping DOC leadership better understand the needs and desires of staff, and in shaping future decisions regarding the agency. In addition, in line with DOC's strategic priority of Transparency and Public Accountability, the agency has made the results of the anonymous survey available to the public.
DOC has posted Climate and Engagement Survey dashboards here on its public website. The dashboard provides a great deal of information and allows you to break out responses by work location, job category, division, race and gender. Overall, DOC found significantly high scores in some areas, as well as areas where our agency can make improvements to ensure everyone at DOC feels valued.
Protecting anonymity was a priority for DOC in collecting the survey results and reporting them. As a result, if the number of responses is too small when drilling down into a category, the information will not be populated. That is also the reason job groupings are only broken down into three large categories. In addition, certain locations may have only a very small portion of a certain race, age group or gender identity. Where that occurs, the information will not populate to ensure individuals are not easily identified.
(UNION GROVE, Wis.) — A Job Center has opened at Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center (REECC) in Union Grove, marking the 5th collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) and Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Develop (DWD) on an institution-based Job Center.
“We're excited because this will allow the more than 400 individuals releasing from REECC each year to set up job interviews with employers before their release and, in some cases, have job offers waiting for them when they return to their community," said DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr. “This partnership between DOC, DWD, and employers is changing the lives of individuals re-entering their communities by linking them with the resources they need to be successful."
The Job Center provides people at the minimum custody facility access to career readiness programs, job search assistance, resume development, services for veterans and registered apprenticeships. It also offers assistance for people with disabilities. Those who use the Job Center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to look for jobs, apply, and set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated.
The opening of the REECC Job Center was originally scheduled for the spring of 2020. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay. It will eventually be staffed by individuals from the Workforce Development Board of Southeastern Wisconsin, as well as local DWD Job Service staff. With access to the institution currently limited to essential personnel, DOC staff have been trained to assist those using the Job Center.
"With the opening of the REECC Job Center, DWD continues to expand the workforce readiness opportunities we are offering at correctional facilities across Wisconsin," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. "This critical partnership with the Department of Corrections helps people who have been incarcerated find meaningful employment when they return to their communities."
All three of the facilities in the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System now have a Job Center. By the end of 2021, DOC expects to have Job Centers helping people at ten of its institutions across the state.
The growth in Job Centers is the latest evidence of the Evers administration's commitment to reentry services and efforts to help people be successful upon return to their communities, a commitment that is reflected in the Governor's executive budget proposal, which includes:
Nearly 60% of the population at REECC has one year or less left to serve with DOC and the primary programming is the Earned Release Program (ERP). Participants in this program will get at least three sessions in the Job Center before EPR graduation.
DOC releases roughly 9,000 people from its care into the community each year. The Department's increase in institution-based Job Centers, funded by DWD, helps employers find workers to fill vacant positions and grow their business.
(MADISON, Wis.) – The latest report from the court-ordered Monitor for Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) was filed Tuesday and, for the sixth straight report, the Monitor found DOC in partial or substantial compliance with every aspect of the consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit against the previous administration over conditions at LHS/CLS.
The Monitor visited the schools on March 19, accompanied by an attorney from the ACLU, and interviewed 48 youth and 33 staff members. The 9th report of the Monitor noted, overall, a “significant improvement in many key areas and in the overall atmosphere" at LHS/CLS, while also pointing out some areas for improvement.
“Our administration is proud of the steps we have taken at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake over the past two years," said Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr. “We look forward to working with the Monitor and engaging our staff in areas that can help lead to better outcomes for youth in our care."
The report praised DOC and leadership at the schools for several initiatives, including:
Among the prominent findings, the report provided data noting use of mechanical restraints on youth decreased 63% in this reporting period (Dec.-Feb.) and use of Administrative Confinement over the same period was reduced 36%. In addition, there has also been a precipitous decline in length of time a youth stays in Administrative Confinement. In November, the average length was 143 minutes, which was reduced to 74 minutes in February 2021.
The report also singled out some of the programs for youth at the schools, including art, gardening, welding and a new music program being offered under psychological services. The Monitor's report stated the youth's projects were “very impressive" and that “creative outlet is meaningful for youth who are in prime stages of identity development."
“We're really excited about our growing arts programming, especially our music program," said DOC Division of Juvenile Corrections Administrator Ron Hermes. “It's important to offer youth culturally relevant programs that provide them the opportunity to express themselves creatively. We are seeing the therapeutic impact that music has on our youth, and we are seeing that we have some very talented young writers and musicians who have something important to say through their music."
The Monitor suggested LHS/CLS explore ways to offer these programs on nights and weekends to prevent idleness and boredom, which she believes has contributed to past behavior issues among youth at the schools during the pandemic. She also recommends LHS/CLS continue working towards a full schedule that provides meaningful activities and accountability for youth.
The report also highlights the need for DOC to make staff wellness a major focus moving forward. It finds staff morale seemed improved over the previous visit and staff were more engaged with youth, but some staff appeared exhausted and stressed. Staff expressed concerns about having fewer “tools" available to manage behavior, youth acting out and working a significant amount of overtime. The Monitor emphasizes “staff wellness is a complex issue that impacts the overall culture, atmosphere and environment of the facility."
To help address these concerns from staff, DOC has put added focus on communications with staff, including regularly-scheduled town hall meetings with the Superintendent of the schools. The Monitor also suggests DOC continue its work to improve the new behavior management system, progressing with DBT and improving youth incentives to help alleviate behavioral incidents.
DOC brought teachers back on site in March to resume in-person education, both in the school building and in housing units, for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. The past Monitor's report found remote learning was starting to have a negative impact on overall youth behaviors. In this report, she said she was, “pleased to see that during this site visit, youth were actively engaged in education both on and off the unit … There was a much more positive energy during this site visit."
(MADISON, Wis.) — April 18-24, 2021 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), a week dedicated to raising awareness of victims' rights and services, highlighting programs, celebrating progress achieved and honoring victims and those who advocate on their behalf. NCVRW also creates an opportunity for communities to come together and reflect on the history of crime victims' rights. This year's themes are Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.
In the spirit of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, DOC's Office of Victim Services and Programs (OVSP) director, Elizabeth Lucas, spoke about how her office helps crime victims and the great work being done to support crime victims year-round:
What are a few things you'd like people to know about OVSP and the work your office does for crime victims?
I'd really like people both within the agency and members of the public to know that we're a great resource for anything victim-related. For example, if there are agents or correctional officers or other folks who come into contact with a victim and have no place to start, OVSP can be that starting point for them. If the folks at OVSP can't help them, we can link them to someone who can help them. Not only are we a good advocacy office for victims, but we're a good connector office.
The goal of OVSP is to promote safety and restore some control in the lives of victims and others impacted by crime. When someone becomes a victim of crime, it's often something they never expected to happen in their life, and it's not something they can ever prepare for. When someone becomes a victim of crime, it can shift a person's worldview when they're traumatized in that way – it's a real shift that doesn't just affect them in one way.
Part of what OVSP has found to be helpful is assisting victims in feeling like they can maintain some level of control over the decisions being made throughout the various processes they encounter. Victims often do not have much control over situations within the criminal justice system, and that can be difficult. They don't have control of whether their perpetrator is convicted, whether they will be incarcerated, or whether they are remorseful for their actions. Victims also cannot control the healing process, whether it's self-healing or the healing of a loved one. That's where OVSP comes in to try to make victims feel some semblance of control by providing as much information as possible and also providing trauma-informed support.
What are a few other ways that OVSP helps victims of crime?
There are four main things that OVSP does for victims:
What are some of the best ways for a victim of a crime or a loved one of a victim of crime to get in touch with your office?
Right now there are two ways that are best to contact us. The preferred way is for people to email us, because we're all working remotely right now. The general OVSP email box can be reached at DOCOVSPAdmin@wisconsin.gov. We also have a phone number that rings in our office, and these messages are checked daily. The local number is 608-240-5888, and the toll-free number is 1-800-947-5777. We also encourage folks to check out our public web page here for additional information and resources.
We strongly encourage our outside partners, such as District Attorneys and Law Enforcement, and our internal partners such as agents and anyone involved with possible victims to refer these folks to OVSP or to call our office to take it from there if that's helpful.
One thing that I want to mention is that OVSP will help any victim who calls or reaches out to our office. However, our primary area of expertise is working with victims post-conviction. There are lots of victim agencies out there – a lot of times, victims are working with their local victim witness office or a community-based victim advocate throughout the trial or arrest process. OVSP doesn't become involved until a person is convicted and transferred into the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Elizabeth also shared a few key accomplishments of her office within the last fiscal year. OVSP has proudly surpassed all of its grant objectives and goals by issuing over 33,000 notifications to victims (goal was 18,000), notifying 1,634 victims of parole hearings (goal was 1,200), assisting 610 victims within the revocation process (goal was 90) and providing information and support related to Persons in our Care to 11,344 unique victims (goal was 1,800).
The DOC is proud of the work being done by the Office of Victim Services and Programs and would like to recognize their achievements as we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of NCVRW.
(MADISON, Wis.) — In celebration of Reentry Week, DOC is highlighting some of the great work being done related to vocational education for the Persons in our Care (PIOC) to help prepare them to successfully return to their communities after incarceration. Three of these key initiatives include a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) program at Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center (REECC), an Electro-Mechanical Mobile Training Lab at New Lisbon Correctional Institution (NLCI) and an Electro-Mechanical Program at Oakhill Correctional Institution (OCI).
REECC, a minimum security center for incarcerated females, is currently operating its 6th cohort of the CNC program. They began on March 13 with fourteen enrolled students. Each can earn 16 college credits while working towards obtaining their CNC Operators Certificate from Gateway Technical College (GTC). This project is part of a continued collaboration between DOC and GTC to improve pre-release workforce training opportunities for PIOC. Although this is the 6th CNC cohort at REECC, this is the first where instruction and training is being delivered virtually to students at REECC by Gateway instructors. Previously, students attended classes in-person at the GTC campus.
“I decided to enroll in the CNC Program not only because is it a wonderful opportunity to be given while incarcerated, but it also opens up a number of doors as I further both my education and career upon release," said Bethny Hilgeman, a student currently enrolled in the CNC program. “I knew a little something about CNC prior, as my little brother has been an operator for some time now."
When asked what the program has been like for her, Hilgeman responded, “This education program means the world to me, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity. The program has its challenges; throwing COVID in the mix and having to do everything virtual has only added obstacles, but I like a good challenge! The rewarding outcome far outweighs the downsides. This is my time to come out a strong, stable and loving mother – and on top of all that, I'll graduate with confidence, integrity and determination."
Another student currently in the program, Mary Froust, echoed Bethny's sentiment. “This education program means a chance at life; it's all the hope I've held onto for a future, for a normal life, coming to fruition," stated Froust. “I enrolled in the CNC program to learn a new trade that I would be able to put to use upon my release and to increase my chances of finding employment. It means I don't have to wonder how I will find a job once I'm released, that I can be independent."
Both students also expressed gratitude for those who have helped along the way: “I just want to thank the people that have believed in and battled for this program, going the extra mile to make this happen," said Froust. “Thank you for having a part in changing my life and helping me become the best version of myself for my future."
“I am forever grateful for this opportunity, and for all of the hard work that our instructor puts in advocating for us," said Hilgeman. “All the running around to meet with teachers to trade assignments or pick up tools, countless emails, always reliable and always there. She is our biggest cheerleader."
More training is taking place at NLCI, a medium-security male institution, where the Electro-Mechanical Mobile Lab is currently running its second cohort. This mobile lab was purchased by a critical partner of DOC, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). Ten students are working towards obtaining their Electro-Mechanical Certificate from Western Technical College (WTC). In order to complete the certificate, students complete 12 credits through both classroom instruction and hands-on training in the Electro-Mechanical Mobile Lab led by Mike Boyko, a WTC Instructor. The Electro-Mechanical program helps students acquire the knowledge and skills to succeed in the field of high-tech manufacturing.
“It's something productive I can do with my time in prison to put myself in a better position going forward," said one student in the program. “Participating in this program makes me feel a little more normal and less like an inmate for a little bit."
OCI, a minimum-security male institution, has a similar program. In April, nine students completed a 16-credit Electro-Mechanical program. Students who complete the program receive two technical certificates, Basic Industrial Power and Electrical Maintenance. The technical certificates provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely assist mechanics in repairing, overhauling, installing, testing and inspecting mechanical and electro-mechanical equipment, as well as pneumatic and hydraulic systems. In addition, students will be able to assist in performing preventive and predictive maintenance on equipment, building and grounds.
The Electro-Mechanical program at OCI started last fall after planning and collaboration to deliver all classes virtually via Madison College's Learning Management System, Blackboard. All lecture-based classes were completed in the first semester of the program. The lab-based classes (Fluid Power 1 & 2 and Industrial Electricity & Controls) were scheduled for the second semester in order to assess pandemic conditions and determine if face-to-face instruction would be possible.
DOC releases approximately 9,000 people from its care into the community each year (see link to DOC's release dashboard here). The Department's increase in vocational programming allows employers to more easily find qualified workers for vacant positions to grow their business. These are just a few of the many ways DOC and its many partners work collaboratively to connect people with opportunities that will prepare them to find meaningful employment in a high-wage and in-demand field upon their release. The Department is proud to recognize these achievements as we celebrate Reentry Week.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) expansion of its Earned Release Program (ERP) is already paying dividends due to the program being available at four new sites within the last 6-9 months. Several groups of minimum custody individuals participated in ERP at Stanley Correctional Institution, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and Jackson Correctional Institution beginning in the spring of 2020. New Lisbon Correctional Institution will graduate its first group on May 28th.
Under policy changes that took effect on April 12th, those four institutions will now open their doors for enrollments of people in DOC care with a medium custody classification. DOC is also in the early stages of planning an ERP at another medium security facility, Redgranite Correctional Institution.
ERP is an early release treatment program for eligible individuals in DOC care who have a substance abuse disorder, and it is among the few means through which a person incarcerated in Wisconsin can earn release before their mandatory release date. Wisconsin DOC created an ERP Expansion Committee that, last year, recommended ways to expand the program, including:
“One of the priorities of our agency is to reduce Wisconsin's prison population in a safe manner that maintains public safety, and ERP provides a great opportunity to meet that priority," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “The Earned Release Program is also a meaningful way to give persons in our care the skills necessary to be successful upon release and provide treatment for their clinical needs.
The ERP policy changes, which took effect in April, are expected to help an additional 700 people in DOC care complete ERP annually, further boosting completion numbers that are already trending upward in recent years:
Gov. Tony Evers has shown a commitment to reentry efforts, in general, and ERP, in particular, in his 2021-23 Executive Budget Proposal, which provides $3.4 million in funding and creates 27 positions to expand the treatment capacity of the Earned Release Program. The budget also recommends expanding ERP beyond substance abuse programs to include educational, vocational, treatment or other qualifying training programs that are evidence-based to reduce recidivism.
“When people re-enter our communities, we want them to have the tools they need to be successful," said Lisa Reible, Director of the Office of Program Services for the Division of Adult Institutions. “Evidence-based programs like ERP provide those tools."
Other facilities currently offering ERP are Black River Correctional Center, Drug Abuse Correctional Center, Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility, Flambeau Correctional Center, Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center, Oakhill Correctional Institution, Oshkosh Correctional Institution, Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution, Racine Correctional Institution, Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center and Taycheedah Correctional Institution.
There are currently 55 groups participating in ERP at various DOC facilities across the state.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Successful reentry means much more than avoiding future incarceration. To the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, it means connecting people with the services that will support them – from maintaining employment and finding stable housing to accessing continuous care upon their release. After concerns surfaced in May 2020 about the negative impacts the pandemic might have on individuals with serious mental illness on community supervision, the Department applied for the Collaborative Mental Health and Anti-Recidivism Initiative grant to expand critical services to those not eligible for the Opening Avenues to Reentry Success program, or OARS.
The OARS program helps persons in our care living with serious mental illnesses transition to life after incarceration by providing intensive case management, housing, links to psychiatric treatment and other individualized needs that successfully reduce recidivism and improve mental health recovery outcomes. A joint partnership between DOC and the Department of Health Services (DHS), the program has been serving individuals releasing from prison since the fall of 2010.
Individuals must have a serious mental illness and be at medium or high risk to reoffend to be referred to OARS, and must also be releasing to one of the 51 covered counties, have at least six months of supervision remaining in the community, be willing to cooperate with their case managers and participate in the program. OARS participants are referred by their assigned release planners 6-8 months prior to release from prison and can remain in the program for up to two years in the community.
In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the DOC nearly $900,000 in grant funding to develop similar services for individuals who are not eligible for the OARS program. The grant will be available over a three year period and will be used to serve participants statewide, ensuring that county of residence does not influence whether or not one receives case management and psychiatric services.
The OARS2 concept was developed in collaboration between DOC leadership and several community partners who worked together to build an effective and comprehensive referral, service, discharge and program evaluation plan. Those partners include Department of Health Services OARS and WRC staff, Wisconsin Community Services (WCS), Lutheran Social Services (LSS), Adult Care Consultants, Journey Mental Health Center and Legal Action of Wisconsin. The program will increase the likelihood individuals with serious mental illness on supervision can stay in the community to continue treatment and access to pro-social supports. This kind of shared commitment from federal, state and community partners will decrease recidivism, improve mental health treatment opportunities and reduce the number of individuals returning to prison.
Governor Tony Evers continues to demonstrate a commitment to general reentry efforts in his 2021-23 Executive Budget Proposal, which includes $5,260,200 in additional funding for the OARS program over the next biennium. This funding will allow the program to reach functional capacity in 51 counties, serving everyone who meets program criteria and agrees to participate in the program. The funding will also ensure more continuity of mental health care and services for individuals with serious mental illness leaving prison and returning to Wisconsin communities.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections showed support for its correctional brothers and sisters in Iowa this week, delivering a pair of memorial benches dedicated to the two Iowa Department of Corrections employees killed while on duty last month at Anamosa State Penitentiary.
The benches were part of a Pay It Forward campaign by Wisconsin DOC, which also included individualized plaques and more than $2,000 in donations for the impacted families. Wisconsin DOC also delivered more than 700 gift bags for Anamosa employees dealing with the loss of their colleagues, each of which included a card with a message from Wisconsin DOC Secretary Kevin Carr.
“The Wisconsin Department of Corrections offers our deepest condolences to all of the colleagues affected by the recent tragedy that resulted in the loss of two corrections professionals," the card read. “I hope these gift bags can offer a small sense of support and comfort in the midst of this tragedy, and serve as a reminder that you are not alone. Your Corrections brothers and sisters across the nation are thinking of you, and praying for solace and peace during this difficult time."
On March 23, nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland were found lying on the floor of the prison's infirmary. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says the employees were intervening to stop an attempted escape of two men now charged with their murder.
Wisconsin Division of Adult Institutions Assistant Administrator Paul Kemper, Wisconsin Secure Prison Facility Warden Gary Boughton and Program Director Trina Kroening-Skime delivered the benches and gift bags to Anamosa on Wednesday. The bags included things like candy, gum, stress balls and gift cards. Staff at Anamosa expressed their appreciation and noted they have been overwhelmed with the amount of support they have received in the weeks following the tragedy.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Raising a child can be overwhelming for many, and those challenges are magnified for parents involved in the justice system. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) recognized the need for an evidence-based program that addresses the unique challenges faced by parents in DOC care and their children. In 2019, the DOC's Reentry Unit partnered with The Pathfinders Network at UW-Madison's School of Social Work to implement the Parenting Inside Out-90 Hour (PIO-90) curriculum at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) and the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System's (WWCS) three facilities.
Parenting Inside Out (PIO) fosters a collaborative approach between the participant and the parenting coach. In a classroom setting, parenting coaches lead students through a cognitive-behavioral parent management skills course to help them develop a parenting plan specific to the needs of their family.
Parents identify the qualities/characteristics they hope their children will possess when they reach adulthood and, together, coaches and parents build a metaphor for their parenting journey on the Backbone Highway, depicted in the mural below that was painted by persons in DOC care at GBCI. The cars on this highway represent children and the gas station attendants represent parents who are responsible for fueling their children with helpful nurture and love. The words along the highway represent guardrails. The guardrails and signs symbolize the structure in parenting that will help children safely and successfully reach their destination, adulthood.
The program has proven to be successful. In a randomized controlled trial of 359 incarcerated mothers and fathers, participants showed a 34% reduction in post-release arrests, a 29% reduction in self-reported criminal behavior, significantly more positive parent-child contact and an increased use of positive reinforcement with their children.
Over FY20, thirteen social workers, recreation leaders, teachers and security staff at GBCI and the WWCS completed the 13-hour PIO-90 Facilitator Training and earned lead facilitator certification. Twenty-three persons in DOC care started the curriculum in late 2020, despite the challenges of COVID-19, with the first group at Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center successfully completing the program in early March. The remaining three sites anticipate additional completions in mid-2021.
The UW-Madison School of Social Work continues to collaborate with facility staff to develop best practices, resources for caregivers and ongoing technical assistance. This work will continue throughout FY22.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has added Month-End Prison Population dashboards to its public website in an effort to further improve transparency and public reporting of data.
The Month-End Prison Population dashboards provide a recent snapshot of the population similar to what is available in DOC's Division of Adult Institutions At-a-Glance brochures, only the dashboards provide the option of using filters to retrieve more specific data about the current DOC population.
“Transparency and public accountability are among our priorities," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “A sizeable number of the data requests our agency receives involve the current prison population, so we thought it only fitting that we make it more accessible and easier for the public to drill down into that data."
“Because our other prison population dashboards show historical trends and aren't updated monthly, we wanted to have something separate that could be used to get at data related to current PIOC," said Dr. Megan Jones, DOC Research and Policy Director.
The new dashboards allow anyone to see the demographics – age, gender, ethnicity, etc. – of the population at each DOC institution at the end of every month.
They always reflect the population on the last day of the previous month, and will be updated with new data between the 16th and 20th of each month. For example, between May 16 and May 20, the dashboards will be updated with data for the prison population on the last day of April.
In an effort to increase the efficiency of its public records responsibilities and meet its strategic initiative of Transparency and Public Accountability, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections recently launched a new Public Records Center that provides the public an easy way to file public records requests, receive updates and retrieve records.
The new online DOC Public Records Center, managed by DOC's Office of Records Management, provides a centralized portal for filing DOC public records requests, processing requests, and posting and retrieving public records.
New users can set up an account by providing a name and, at minimum, an email address. Once an account has been established, users can log into their own personal Records Center to file a new records request, check the status of a previous request, review communications or retrieve records. If someone wants to file a request anonymously, the DOC Public Records Center includes an option for that, as well.
New capabilities built into the DOC Public Records Center will allow the state's largest agency to be as efficient and expeditious as possible, while uniformly managing the thousands of records requests filed with DOC each year.
“DOC processes far more public records requests than any other state agency, averaging more than 3,300 requests in each of the past five years. In 2019, the agency received a record 3,881 requests for public records," said Nathan Harper, Director of the DOC's Office of Records Management. “That's why we are focused on making the process as efficient as possible."
The new DOC Public Records Center will be used to manage all requests for DOC public records. However, use of the system to file a request is not mandatory and all requests, regardless of how they are communicated to DOC, will be met.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The leaders of Wisconsin's Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Children and Families (DCF) recently took a tour of the GROW Academy, a residential program offering comprehensive treatment for County and State-supervised youth as an alternative to incarceration, as well as a step down for DOC-supervised youth returning to the community. The visit to the facility in Oregon coincided with the early Spring growing season and Earth Week activities across Wisconsin.
“It's so inspiring to be out here in the spring to see everything starting to grow," said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. “Especially with Earth Day and the metaphor of thinking about youth and growth. This is about the youth and it's about what they need to be successful, contributing adults, and I think that's where DOC and DCF can really come together. We think about the youth, their treatment needs and really supporting them through enriching programs and evidence-based practices."
“The kids that graduate from the GROW Academy tend to do well when they return to their community," said DOC Sec. Kevin Carr. “After being given this opportunity, they have a different perspective."
GROW utilizes community-based programming and an agricultural-based curriculum to help youth who may struggle to learn in a traditional classroom setting. The facility creates opportunities for youth to work with animals, build in the woodshop, tend to their own garden plots and prepare and cook their own dishes. The youth occasionally compete in an “Iron Chef"-style showdown to see who can create the best dish. Youth in the program have the ability to plan their own garden plot using seedlings grown in the school, helping them feel a sense of responsibility and connection. They are then allowed to give the produce they grow to family or choose to make fun recipes of their own.
The youth learn about much more than organic farming. Program components include:
During their visit, Secretaries Carr and Amundson met 16-year-old Keyshawn, a youth who recently completed his time at GROW and shared how the program benefitted him.
“One thing I learned here is just connecting with people," said Keyshawn. “Really connecting with people based off their backgrounds and things they like. Connecting with people is pretty much everything, you're going to have to make connections with people everywhere you go."
When asked if he ever saw himself taking part in some of the everyday activities at GROW, such as working with chickens and growing plants, Keyshawn responded, “To be honest, I didn't really see myself anywhere until I got here."
GROW Academy operates on an incentive-based behavioral system that allows youth to start fresh every day. This system recognizes not every day is going to be a great day, but each day is an opportunity to start fresh. The structure identifies individual strengths, motivates youth to make positive decisions, and provides rewards for meeting expectations and taking initiative to go above and beyond. Rewards and privileges include the use of MP3 players, access to the TV room, off-grounds recreational activities such as field trips and extra phone calls.
The youth at GROW also take part in traditional curriculum. A school is located on the grounds, where youth are taught by a full-time, licensed teacher. On average, youth earn three high school credits in math, science, reading and social studies.
Due to COVID-19, GROW is currently in use as a day report center, meaning youth are dropped off in the morning and picked up at 5:00 PM every day during the week. However, staff at GROW are excited to report they are in the process of transitioning back to a live-in facility, with youth scheduled to arrive for residential programming beginning in early June.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin's Department Corrections (DOC), in consultation with Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS), has determined it is safe for the state's correctional facilities to begin the transition back to normal activities, including in-person visitation with the proper precautions beginning July 6. This decision is based on a real and sustained downward trend in COVID-19 infections across the state and in DOC facilities.
“We are very happy to again offer in-person visits," said DOC Sec. Kevin A Carr. “Soon after the pandemic began, we transitioned to video visits as a way to protect our staff, persons in our care and Wisconsin communities. Now, with COVID-19 infection numbers down and vaccination rates up, those in our care and their loved ones can again enjoy each other's company face-to-face."
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of DOC staff and persons in DOC care has been a top priority. After months of COVID-19 surveillance and outbreak investigations in DOC facilities, cases are down substantially while vaccination rates continue to climb. Wisconsin DOC's COVID-19 dashboards indicate only 11 active cases currently among the more than 19,000 people in the department's custody across 37 institutions. In addition, the dashboards show 57% of DOC's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 90% of those who have not declining vaccination have received at least one dose.
“Vaccination is an incredible tool against COVID-19," said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The level of vaccination rates we are seeing in DOC institutions and Wisconsin communities allows in-person visitation to resume safely in these facilities, with precautions in place."
Those precautions include:
For a full list of COVID-19 precautions and other visitation guidance please visit the Resuming In-Person Visitation page on DOC's website.
“We understand being able to see loved ones in-person, in some cases for the first time in close to 18 months, will be an emotional experience for many. However, due to continued COVID-19 activity throughout the state, we're putting safety precautions in place when face-to-face visitation resumes on July 6 to protect those still vulnerable to COVID-19." Sec. Carr said.
If COVID-19 cases in a specific DOC facility or surrounding community begin to rise during this transition period or after July 6, face-to-face visitation may be suspended again at that facility. DOC will consider several factors, including the opinion of health experts at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in determining if face-to-face visitation needs to be suspended at a DOC facility.
DOC expects initial demand for in-person visits to be high. Due to physical distancing and other preventative measures related to COVID-19, capacity in visitation areas has been decreased. However, DOC institutions will attempt to honor up to two face-to-face visits per week for each person in our care at most facilities. In addition, DOC will continue to offer a video visit option to augment in-person visitation, and create more opportunities for those in our care and their loved ones to stay connected. Each person in DOC care will also continue to receive two free phone calls per week until DOC returns fully to pre-pandemic operations.
People can begin to schedule in-person visits at 9am on Wednesday, June 16. Visitors are asked to schedule their in-person visits at least two business days (excludes Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) in advance. They are encouraged to schedule by emailing the same address they have been using to set up Zoom visits, which can be found by going to the individual institution's page on the DOC website. Those without internet access can call the institution's main line. Whether calling or emailing, visitors are asked to specify whether they are requesting a zoom or in-person visit.
People on approved visitors' lists are eligible for visits. Initially, up to three approved visitors will be allowed for a specific visit. Relationship does not matter but at least one visitor must be an adult. Vaccination is not required and all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must abide by the mask requirements.
The Department is also transitioning to a safe restart of other areas of pre-pandemic operations, including work release, project crews, volunteer and religious visits. Resumption of these programs may vary by facility, and anyone with questions about these programs should contact the institution directly or email DOCGeneral@wisconsin.gov.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin's Department of Corrections (DOC) raised the Juneteenth Flag at its Central Office building in Madison on Friday, marking the first time the agency has flown the flag. Several DOC institutions and offices also raised the Juneteenth Flag over the weekend, after the Governor's Office encouraged agencies to fly the flag at state buildings.
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 because that is the date, in 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston and announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Today, the fight for equity continues against the racial, economic and educational disparities that are deeply rooted in our nation's institutions," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said to DOC staff that gathered for the flag raising on Friday. “Some of those disparities even exist within our own agency. At times, the fight can seem insurmountable, but history has shown that when people come together in the fight for a more just system, they can do great things."
The Pride Flag has been flying, along with the United States and Wisconsin flags, at DOC's central office for Pride Month. The Pride Flag was taken down and the Juneteenth Flag raised Friday morning. The Juneteenth Flag flew throughout the weekend. The Pride Flag will be raised again on Monday and fly through the remainder of the month.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin is well known as “America's Dairyland" for the amount of milk, cheese and other dairy products the state produces, with the dairy industry contributing more than $45.6 billion to Wisconsin's economy each year.
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE) has three agricultural sites where persons in DOC care at Oakhill Correctional Institution and John Burke Correctional Center develop marketable skills and gain work experience to assist their transition back to the community.
The Oregon Farm and Waupun Farm/Fox Lake Farms produce a variety of crops, including alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat, that feed the 1,100 milk cows and heifers raised onsite, helping BCE farms produce an average of 40,000 pounds of milk per day.
The Waupun Dairy takes the raw milk produced at these two sites and processes it into five-gallon and half-pint containers of skim milk and individual servings of ice cream and sherbet, which are sold to Wisconsin correctional facilities and mental health institutions, as well as Minnesota correctional facilities.
While working for BCE is hard work, the approximately 415 jobs in BCE's three operational areas (i.e., agriculture, industries and logistics) are highly desirable for persons in DOC care. BCE workers learn general work skills that help them in their transition back to the community and earn money to pay financial obligations so they have more stability upon release.
“BCE workers are re-incarcerated at a lower rate than statistically similar persons in DOC care who did not work for BCE," said Wes Ray, BCE Director. The most recent data shows 71% of BCE workers have not returned to DOC custody three years after release. That's a rate about 3% higher than for statistically similar people who returned to the community and did not work for BCE.
When asked about his experience as a BCE worker, Timothy said, “[I] have all the skills to work anywhere."
The employer of another former BCE worker said that “[He] is awesome. He's one of my best employees. He's extremely motivated. Everything you want in an employee."
Before returning to their families and the community, BCE's Transition team helps BCE workers with work search skills, potential job leads and connections with community service providers who can assist with their transition. The Transition team may also be able to provide short-term supplemental funds to former BCE workers for work-related items such as tools, special work clothing, transportation and rent.
This June, let's raise a glass of milk to all of the BCE workers and staff to celebrate Dairy Month.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and Department of Corrections (DOC) have collaborated on another institution-based Job Center. The Job Center at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution (PDCI) opened with a soft launch on June 15.
“We want the persons in our care to have a head start on finding a job when they're making the transition back to their community," said DOC Sec. Kevin Carr. “I'm very proud of the work our Reentry Unit is doing with DWD to extend opportunities at more institutions."
The number of institution-based job centers has increased dramatically over the past year. PDCI is the third DOC facility to open a Job Center in 2021, for a total of six institution-based centers across DOC. There are plans to have Job Centers up and running at 10 DOC institutions, plus a mobile Job Center, before the end of the year.
The Job Center at the minimum-security facility of PDCI is providing persons in our care with career readiness programing, job search assistance, resume development, services for veterans, and registered apprenticeships. It also offers assistance to people with disabilities.
Those who use the Job Center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to search for jobs, apply, and set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated.
“DWD is dedicated to providing the people of Wisconsin opportunities for employment," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pehachek. “By providing workforce readiness opportunities through these Job Centers, we're expediting the process of persons in DOC care finding meaningful employment once they return to their communities."
The first group at PDCI to receive Jobs Center services will be five participants in DOC's Earned Release Program, who have an anticipated program completion date of July 16th. They are scheduled to access the Job Center on five separate occasions before they complete the program, receiving assistance from PDCI staff and virtual career services provided by DWD staff.
DOC releases roughly 9,000 people from its care into the community each year, and more than 50% of PDCI's population has a year or less to serve with DOC. The increase in institution-based Job Centers, funded by DWD, assists them in getting a head start on their job search, and helps Wisconsin employers find workers to fill vacant positions and grow their businesses.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School hosted the We Believe in YOU Awards on Wednesday, a ceremony to honor the outstanding work of individuals and groups across the Wisconsin Department of Correction's (DOC) Division of Juvenile Corrections. DOC Secretary Kevin Carr came to honor the award winners at the ceremony, then stayed to help serve lunch to LHS/CLS staff at the brat fry that followed.
“It was a such a pleasure to be there for the We Believe in YOU Awards," said Sec. Carr. “To speak with the award winners and hear about the work they are doing was inspiring."
Here is a list of those honored Wednesday and a summary their award-winning work:
Cindy Leskey – For creating new, engaging activities that harvest a positive work environment, and creating projects focused around building trust with youth and their families.
Jennifer McFadden – For ensuring staff had the technology they needed, the support to operate remotely, and that professional partnerships were maintained.
Supervising Youth Counselors (Kurt Annis, Greg Brasure, Thomas Cimino, Rebecca Cleveland, Rafael Dones, Rosemary Esterholm, Matt Ferge, Kyle Hoff, Laura Kernan, Levi Lassa, Clyde Maxwell III, Brandi Maxwell, Curissa Mitchell, Luke Myszka, Brett Schafer, Jesse Severt, Jared Tomany, Chue Yang) – For implementing changes which have greatly reduced incidents of use-of-force, administrative confinement & mechanical restraints, while helping staff to work through challenges.
J-Tracker Team (Holly Bester, Laura Gebhardt, Kristin Nissen) – For spearheading the transition to J-Tracker, one of the most significant and technically-challenging projects the Division has undertaken in recent decades.
Youth Counselor Advanced Crisis Awareness Response Effort (CARE) Team (Chris Behling, Alan Gillis, Jean Iribarren, Rick Lamere, Whitney Annis, Patricia Soward) – For their work de-escalating situations by attempting to resolve issues and stressors with an end goal of the youth or living unit re-engaging in regular schedules.
Building & Grounds Team (Trevor Asmundson, Darrin Heckendorf, Chuck Jacobs, Trevor Jacobs, Keith Jaecks, Dean Jaeger, Mike Kaplanek, Bill Schroeder, Mike Stockowitz, Tom Stockowitz, Quentin Trevino, Jeff Zahn) – For continuing to maintain a safe environment for youth through both planned and unplanned projects, while also mentoring and training youth.
Music Recreation Team (Rich Ouimette and Dr. Maggie Watters) – For launching the Music Art Initiative, and individual-focused, trauma-informed program for youth that also promotes collaboration with living unit staff and provides a positive, artistic outlet.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is offering free COVID-19 vaccination to those visiting loved ones at some state correctional facilities.
In-person visitation resumed at DOC institutions on July 6 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of in-person visits and other operations in March 2020. Doses are being offered to vaccine-eligible people coming for an in-person visit at six DOC facilities: Fox Lake Correctional Institution, Green Bay Correctional Institution, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility, Stanley Correctional Institution and Taycheedah Correctional Institution.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for the people of Wisconsin to become vaccinated against COVID-19,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “The ease of availability, having vaccine available at a site to which you are already travelling, is something this administration hopes people do not pass up.”
In Wisconsin, 58.8% of the state’s 18-and-older population has been fully vaccinated. The rate is even higher in DOC institutions, with 67.2% of the Department’s eligible population fully vaccinated and the number increasing to 96% for those who have not declined vaccination. There are currently two active cases of COVID-19 among people in DOC care.
“Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect ourselves, family members and loved ones from COVID-19,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The level of vaccination rates we are seeing in Wisconsin communities have allowed in-person visitation to resume safely in DOC facilities. However, COVID-19 is still infecting unvaccinated people across our state, so we are working to make sure everyone who still needs a COVID-19 vaccine is able to get one. We are using all available avenues to make vaccination as easy as possible, including offering free COVID-19 vaccination during visits.”
People who sign up for an in-person visit at the six identified facilities will be asked if they want a vaccine while there. The vaccine will be administered by DOC Health Services staff.
Since resuming in-person visits this week, most DOC institutions report visitation running at about 50-75% of capacity, with some higher. Special rules are in place to protect against COVID-19 transmission during visits and, if COVID-19 cases in a specific DOC facility or surrounding community begin to rise, face-to-face visitation may be suspended again at that facility.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The last 16 months have been undeniably difficult on persons in our care (PIOC), their friends and family, and our staff due to the COVID-19 health pandemic. However, the DOC recently took an encouraging step forward on the road to a new normal, announcing the return of in-person visitation beginning July 6, 2021.
"Having in-person visits again with my husband after not seeing him for more than a year meant the world to both of us," said Michele W., who was able to visit a loved one at John C. Burke Correctional Center. "It helped us both feel reconnected and reassured that everything is getting back to a new normal after COVID."
The decision to resume in-person visits was made in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI DHS) and CDC guidelines to ensure the continued health and safety of those in our care, our staff, and our surrounding communities. There are several precautions that have been put into place to keep persons in our care (PIOC) and their loved ones safe during in-person visits, such as social distancing and a mask requirement for anyone two years or older.
The DOC also understands the importance of in-person visits for the well-being of those in our care and their loved ones, and the agency has been happy to see folks around the state overjoyed at the ability to see their loved ones in person once again.
"For me to see and hug my husband, my children to see their dad, and our granddaughter to finally meet her Papa, meant more than words can describe," said Liz L., who recently visited Oakhill Correctional Institution. "The staff were also incredibly nice and helpful."
"In-person visits made us stronger as a whole, as a family," said Lucia S., who visited a loved one at Kettle Moraine Correctional Facility. "We were able to do a lot of reassuring. The warmth of just being in their presence was great."
For more information on DOC's updated precautions, rules and guidelines for in-person visits, please visit DOC's public website page titled Resuming In-Person Visitation. The agency is also pleased to announce that the COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered free of charge to vaccine-eligible people coming for an in-person visit at six DOC facilities: Fox Lake Correctional, Green Bay Correctional, Kettle Moraine Correctional, Racine Youthful Offender Correctional, Stanley Correctional, and Taycheedah Correctional. Those who sign up for an in-person visit at the mentioned facilities will be asked if they want a vaccine while there. The vaccine will be administered by DOC Health Services staff.
DOC will also continue to offer video visits as a supplement to face-to-face visitation, allowing PIOC's one video visit a week free of charge. Each person in DOC care will also continue to receive two free phones calls weekly and a free pre-embossed envelope every two weeks.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) continues to make steps towards positive change at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS).
The court-appointed Monitor tasked with tracking progress at the schools filed her latest report today. It noted DOC has gained “substantial compliance" with an additional two elements of the consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit against the previous administration over conditions at the schools. This also marks the 7th straight report from the Monitor in which the DOC has been in partial or substantial compliance with all elements listed in the consent decree.
However, in this latest report, the Monitor notes that staff wellness, if it does not improve, will continue to challenge progress at LHS/CLS.
The report notes the overall atmosphere at the facilities during the Monitor's site visit was good and that a large majority of staff were in good spirits during her visit. Some staff, though, expressed anxiety, which the Monitor believes impacts their wellness and negatively impacts the overall environment.
“Staff wellness is something that has to be a continued focus for us at Lincoln Hill and Copper Lake," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr, adding that the agency is in the process of hiring a position that will be working on approaches related to wellness. “We've asked our staff to make major changes in the way we run our juvenile facilities, and change can be difficult. But we are committed to those changes and to helping staff navigate them."
The report states some staff feel frustrated and shared concern about having fewer “punitive tools" to manage youth behavior. This has been a common theme in the Monitor's reports since the DOC eliminated the use of pepper spray and administrative confinement, and the report emphasizes that staff perception of a lack of ways to hold youth accountable “seems to be due to restrictions on engaging in past practices such as confinement."
Dozens of youth were interviewed for the report and expressed a variety of concerns, including lack of structured activity and excessive use of force from staff. The Monitor also states concern about “inadequate accountability for staff who have engaged in improper behavior (such as excessive force or verbal abuse) towards youth." However, the report also notes use of physical and mechanical restraint were down compared to six months prior and appeared to be trending in the right direction, and the DOC believes it is holding staff appropriately accountable through the discipline schedule for state workers.
“We have no tolerance for abuse of those in our care, youth or adult, and take accusations of abuse seriously," said Sec. Carr.
The report credits the DOC for creating an outdoor visitation space for the resumption of in-person visits from families earlier this month, making safety improvements in youth cottages, and using the Care Team concept as a way to reduce the need for restraints in dealing with youth.
Moving forward, the Monitor recommends the DOC continue its work to increase staff morale, but also recommends staff take ownership of creating a safe environment by building a better rapport with the youth, creating meaningful activities for youth, providing consistent and air treatment, and utilizing the skills they are learning through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which the DOC is transitioning to as the primary behavior therapy in its juvenile facilities.
“Improving the behavior management system, improving the rewards and incentives, and developing engaging programming will have a positive impact on the overall behavior and atmosphere issues that are driving the main issues that are frustrating both staff and youth. Implementation of the new behavior management system is one of the most critical next steps for the agency and facilities," the Monitor wrote in the report, adding that fully integrating DBT into programming at LHS/CLS will lead to a significant reduction in actual and perceived safety concerns.
The Monitoring team observed “several very good interactions with youth by staff", but also pointed out that, despite adequate staffing levels during the visit, staff in some living units did not engage with or position themselves near the youth, which she believes would create more positive staff-youth relationships and promote a safer environment for all.
The report notes a significant increase in the average amount of time youth spend on education, but adds that youth still have too much idle time, particularly on weekends. To illustrate those concerns, the Monitor noted 42% of incidents involving youth at LHS/CLS happen on either Saturday or Sunday, and suggested a plan to expand the successful music, art, welding and gardening to the weekends. The report also stressed the importance of closing LHS/CLS and moving youth closer to locations where gender and culturally competent programming and services are available.
(WAUPUN, Wis.) — Twenty people receive their diploma Tuesday morning at Waupun Correctional Institution and become the first class of individuals in a Wisconsin DOC-sponsored program to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
All earned a liberal arts degree in Biblical Studies from Trinity International University (TIU), with a minor in Psychology. The program is fully funded by a private foundation and delivered at no cost to those enrolled or Wisconsin taxpayers. TIU established a branch campus at Waupun Correctional Institution, developed the curriculum and hired staff to run the program.
“What an amazing day for each of you," DOC Sec. Kevin Carr said when addressing the graduates. “We can sit here and talk about all the people, partnerships and resources it took to make this happen, but really at the end of the day, it came down to each of you setting a goal, making a commitment, and then working hard every day over the last four years to complete this program."
There are roughly 75 persons in DOC care currently enrolled in the program, including the 20 graduates. Each was held to the same admissions standards TIU applies to all students, including having at least a high school equivalency diploma.
“Even though we have reached the point of graduation, we know graduating is not the end result," said graduate speaker August White. “We will be at the beginning of being more exemplary, resilient, kinder, creative and empathetic, and practicing and building upon the beneficial things we have learned."
Enrollment was offered to persons in DOC care across the state, and the applicant pool narrowed down based on behavior and education. Fifteen of the 20 graduates of this first class are classified as minimum or medium security, and understood they would have to transfer to or remain at WCI, a maximum-security institution, to take part in the program.
“I think it is important to consider 'why' these graduates chose to pursue a degree," said TIU President Nicholas Perrin. “Some will be in a prison for the rest of their lives. For them, this degree is not about setting themselves up for success upon return to their community, but about making a difference inside the walls of Wisconsin's institutions and serving fellow prisoners."
The Biblical Studies degree through TIU is just one of many educational opportunities offered to persons in the care of the WIDOC, including:
Adult basic education services
High school equivalency
Career technical education/vocational programs
Associated degrees through Second Chance Pell-funded programs
UW's Odyssey Behind Bars program
(UNION GROVE, Wis.) — Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Amy Pechacek and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes joined Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Kevin Carr to celebrate the opening of a new Job Center at Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center (REECC) and to call attention to the importance of justice-involved initiatives in Wisconsin. This opening marks the fifth collaboration between DWD and DOC.
"Many people in DOC care, unfortunately, will face the same challenges that resulted in their incarceration when they return to their communities upon release," DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek said. "Combining state agency efforts to provide robust justice-involved programming is an important way to break the cycle of recidivism and offer second chances for success."
REECC is a minimum-security facility entrusted with the custody and supervision of adult females. The new Job Center provides career readiness programs, job search assistance, resume development, services for veterans, apprenticeship opportunities, and educational and vocational training opportunities in many in-demand careers. It also offers assistance for people with disabilities. Those who use the Job Center can create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, which allows them to look for jobs, apply, and set up interviews with employers while still in DOC care.
"This project is another example of state agencies coming together and connecting the dots," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said. "Through our collaboration, the more than 400 persons in our care at REECC now have access to a host of programs and services, as well as the opportunity to connect directly with employers prior to release, and, in some cases, have job offers waiting for them when they return to their communities."
All three Wisconsin Women’s Correctional System facilities now have a Job Center. By the end of 2021, DOC expects to have Job Centers helping people at 11 of its institutions across the state.
The collaboration between DWD and DOC highlight innovative workforce solutions. "Projects like this are exactly the kind of things that help people get off the sidelines and into the workforce," WEDC Secretary & CEO Missy Hughes said. "The $100 million Workforce Innovation Grant Program announced by Gov. Evers last week encourages regions and communities to develop similarly creative, long-term solutions to workforce challenges that our state faces in the wake of COVID-19."