(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."
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) new recidivism report represents a change in the way the current administration measures recidivism now and into the future.
Like the agency's previous reporting on recidivism, the Recidivism after Release from Prison report measures reconviction rates at one year, two years and three years after release from a DOC institution. However, in this new report, the agency also measures re-arrest and reincarceration rates over the same timelines.
“It's a first for us," said DOC Research and Policy Director Megan Jones. “Driven by our strategic priority of Transparency and Public Accountability, we continue to look for ways to provide relevant agency information to our stakeholders and the public. This change to three measurements should allow us to provide a clearer and more comprehensive picture of recidivism in the state for years to come."
Wisconsin DOC's last report on recidivism was published in 2016. Jones' Research and Policy unit is currently working on interactive data dashboards for Wisconsin DOC's public website that would contain the same three measures and be updated annually, showing trends in re-arrest, reconviction and reincarceration rates, and allowing users to drill down into the data using a number of different filters.
Data in the new Recidivism After Release from Prison report includes individuals released from prison between 2000 and 2018.
Wisconsin DOC uses recidivism rates and other data to examine the impact of evidence-based decision making, with the goal of identifying and implementing policies that work and result in the best possible outcomes for those in our care, our staff and Wisconsin taxpayers.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Department of Corrections (DOC) values the diversity of its more than 9,000 employees, recognizing them as the agency's most valuable resource. That's one reason DOC partners with Community Work Services, Inc. to hire supported workers at Central Office.
Community Works Services supports individuals with a wide range of developmental disabilities by providing them with individualized assessment, job development, on-the-job training, and job retention services. Their goals include finding a "good fit" for both the individual and employer. The DOC has hired many supported workers over the years to perform a wide variety of tasks for the agency; there are currently 16 supported workers employed by DOC.
The DOC receives a number of benefits by hiring supported workers. First and foremost, supported workers complete a vast quantity as well as a variety of work. That work is then quality-checked by Community Works Services staff to ensure it's done correctly and in a timely manner. In addition, the jobs done by supported workers aim to free up the workload of different staff within the agency, allowing them to focus on other tasks.
The supported workers also see benefits, including a paycheck, a feeling of accomplishment and pride in the work they do, the chance to learn new work and social skills, and the development of camaraderie with their coworkers. Agencies such as Community Work Services, Inc. were initially started due to a lack of vocational services for individuals with disabilities after exiting high school. This partnership is truly making a difference in the lives of not only supported workers, but their families, guardians and Community Works Services staff.
One of the supported workers who has benefited from this partnership is Jack, who has been employed with the DOC for the last 31 years and is well-known by his peers at Central Office. For those of you who don't know Jack, one of his main tasks is to deliver the mail at DOC's Central Office. When Jack started with DOC in 1990, a mail delivery position hadn't yet been established. He took it upon himself to start a delivery service, something staff found incredibly helpful, as they no longer needed to take time out of their day to visit the mailroom. Jack starts his mail route in the Corrections Training Center (CTC), and works his way to the Bureau of Technology Management (BTM), Legal, the Secretary's Office, then down to the first floor, finishing his deliveries at the Division of Adult Institutions (DAI). Staff often look forward to seeing and visiting with Jack on his mail route.
Jack also does a number of other tasks, such as shredding, filing, and occasionally moving boxes. Jack truly appreciates the assistance he receives from his coaches, though for the most part, he's an independent employee. He'll occasionally ask his coaches from Community Works Services a question about a task, and they're always there to offer guidance and extra jobs that may need to be done.
Jack's mail delivery service has been truly appreciated over the years, and rightfully so. He has made a number of important deliveries while in his position, and he even mentioned that he used to deliver mail to the agency's legal team right away in the morning, ensuring all time-sensitive documents were promptly received by the correct individuals.
One of the most important things Jack has learned over the last 31 years working for the DOC is the power of connections. He has also honed in on his writing skills, writing letters and sending postcards to his work friends, resulting in many great connections and friendships. It's safe to say that one of Jack's favorite things about coming to work is seeing his friends.
Outside of work, Jack enjoys riding his bike, occasionally stopping at the UW Arboretum or Picnic Point. He also enjoys traveling, relying on his income to save up for trips. Jack has a great love of music and has collected many CDs, tapes and vinyl records over the years. He has no problem staying busy, as he has worked several other jobs while also maintaining his DOC position.
The DOC would like to thank all supported workers for their hard work and dedication. DOC truly appreciates the value these workers bring to the Department, and we look forward to continuing this partnership moving forward.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Foster Grandparents Program at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) was recently honored with a Governor's Service Award, earning the award for AmeriCorps Seniors Program of the Year at a ceremony in Madison last month.
Several of the Grandparents were there to receive the award in-person, and a video of the award presentation posted by Serve Wisconsin can be found here on YouTube.
The group earned the award by making a difference in the lives of youth within a challenging environment. They have had an invaluable impact on the young people at LHS/CLS, offering them educational assistance while also serving as caring mentors that demonstrate a willingness to invest their time and heartfelt attention to connect with youth.
“The benefits … are tutoring and mentoring," one of the Foster Grandparents said via email. “(the youth) are less like to act out if they have a Foster Grandparent there to help and support their learning. Foster Grandparents also help the youth with social and emotional skills while mentoring the youth, using pro-social engagement in positive activities."
The Foster Grandparent Program at LHS/CLS is one of the longest operating AmeriCorps Seniors Programs in the state, starting at Copper Lake School in 1973. While most Foster Grandparent Programs in the state operate at typical K-12 schools, this one is inside a Type 1 correctional facility for youth. The Foster Grandparents volunteer in the LHS/CLS living units, school classrooms, and/or their reading buddy program. Wherever they volunteer, the goal is to bring a spirit of love and care to the young people within these facilities. Outside of tutoring, they engage the youth in activities like playing cards and other games, baking treats together, crafting, outdoor planting, or simply talking and offering a willing ear.
The Foster Grandparents have an amazing ability to communicate with the youth and form connections in ways facility staff often cannot. The youth know they are volunteers who do not have to be there, but still commit to coming there and offering to help. The Foster Grandparents shared a variety of reasons for wanting to volunteer:
After being away from the facility and trying virtual services for a time during the pandemic, the Foster Grandparents were able to return in-person once COVID-19 vaccines were available. Since roughly 95% of the youth were new to the facility since the beginning of the pandemic and had not met the Foster Grandparents, it took a little time to build a rapport with the kids. Staff say, by the end of the second week, the youth began to open up to the volunteers.
“We have a climbing course here and last week several of the grandparents watched as the youth climbed the rock wall or as they zipped down the zip line. Grandparents cheered as each youth reached the top," said Cynthia Leskey, a Senior Recreation Leader at LHS/CLS who works with the Foster Grandparents. “Our grandparents really look for the little successes in life and give our youth the encouragement they need to succeed here."
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) recently made several upgrades and updates to its Corrections Training Center at the agency's Central Office in Madison. From new flooring and paint, to the customized, one-of-a-kind artwork, the space feels modern and inviting, sending a message to staff that DOC is invested in their learning.
Training Director Shannon Butcher said there were two primary goals tied to the renovations: to increase accessibility to DOC staff statewide, and to invest in agency employees by encouraging ongoing trainings beyond what you may receive as a new employee.
“Walking into the training center sets the tone for how staff see the agency," said Butcher. “I feel privileged we had the resources to do this." The classrooms have all been renamed after NASA missions: Curiosity, Pioneer, Explorer, Insight, Pathfinder, Opportunity, Perseverance and Discovery.
“Space is the furthest place we can take our brains," said Butcher. “Whether it is a nuanced connection or symbolic, the hope is staff can stretch their thinking as far as they can."
Most of the renovations were agreed upon as tenant improvements when DOC renewed its lease in 2019. Renovations began in May 2021 and most major cosmetic changes have been completed, but there are still a few more exciting changes coming. This fall, there will be a new reception area, helping to make the space feel more welcoming to visitors. The remodeled reception area will feature open sight lines, complete with digital and interactive signage and monitors hanging from the ceiling and walls. This will help showcase what is happening on-site and better direct staff coming in.
The training center will also be increasing accessibility through a full technology upgrade. All classrooms will be equipped to allow trainings to happen virtually, in-person or offer a hybrid option.
“Offering these options ensures there is no disparity in experiences for our staff statewide," Butcher said. Offering in-person, virtual and hybrid options removes many of the barriers associated with staff being unable to attend trainings that may be hours away, for example. Instead, they will be able to choose what learning style works best for their particular situation.
With the increased accessibility, the hope is staff will take advantage of the continued learning opportunities DOC provides to them, and supervisors will encourage and support them along the way. Butcher stated that, historically, trainings have always felt like “this thing that we have to do." Instead, she hopes to show staff that trainings are designed with them in mind, and that as an agency, DOC supports continuing education and professional development.
All updates are expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year. To learn more about DOC's commitment to staff development, please visit our Workforce Investments page.
(FOND DU LAC, Wis.) — Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) has again earned accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) by demonstrating compliance with NCCHC's Standards for Health Services in Prisons.
“Accreditation recognizes our continued dedication to compliance with the most respected standards in correctional health care," said Sarah Cooper, Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections'(DOC) Division of Adult Institutions. “I want to thank the health services/institution leadership teams and staff, as well as our DOC Bureau of Health Services for their work to uphold these standards."
TCI is a maximum/medium-security institution in the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System that currently houses about 750 persons in DOC care. The institution underwent a virtual survey October 29-30, 2020, and it was found to be in full compliance with all essential and important standards applicable to the facility. An experienced physician and other experts surveyed the facility for compliance with standards on continuous quality improvement, safety, infection control, personnel and training, medical and mental health care, health records and legal issues.
"It's our obligation to provide those in our care with the best health care possible," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “I salute the health care staff, supervisors and officers at TCI for their commitment to providing quality health care in a secure environment."
NCCHC is dedicated to improving the quality of correctional health services and helping correctional facilities provide effective and efficient care. It has surveyed and accredited prisons, jails and other confinement facilities for 40 years, and uses accreditation standards that are developed with input from national experts in correctional health care.
"In achieving NCCHC accreditation, TCI has demonstrated its commitment to meeting constitutional requirements for health care for incarcerated individuals," said National Commission CEO Deborah Ross, CCHP. “Accreditation is a voluntary process and we commend Wisconsin DOC for successfully undertaking this challenge to provide quality health care and instill confidence in the community it serves."
TCI was first accredited in 2014, with NCCHC surveying three years of data, and has maintained its commitment to meet NCCHC's standards for 10 years. It is anticipated the next scheduled NCCHC survey of TCI will occur sometime before October 1, 2023.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Change is an inevitable aspect of our everyday lives, but those who have experienced any type of organizational change at their workplace know it can be a frustrating, slow and sometimes confusing process. But change is also necessary. Simply challenging the status quo and asking “why" we do things the way we do, can lead to new, creative, innovative ideas and changes that strengthen the way we operate.
The Corrections industry has been evolving for years. Instead of focusing on punitive actions, states have recognized the value and success of having a system built around rehabilitation. In Wisconsin institutions, additional programming is helping persons in our care successfully reenter the community upon the completion of their sentence. Revocation and supervision rules are changing so as not to disrupt the lives of those under supervision when it's not necessary and safe to do so. Telehealth has been recognized as a practical option, especially where there is a scarcity of resources, giving us a greater reach to those in need. Opportunities for education within our institutions are also growing, with institution-based job centers and mobile training labs helping those in our care secure jobs before they've even been released.
All of these changes center on a shift in mindset regarding justice-involved individuals. It's no surprise then to see corrections professionals and agencies in Wisconsin and beyond have begun using person-first language. This follows the lead of DOC Secretary Kevin Carr, who has been committed to using person-first language since being appointed to the position in 2019, hoping DOC staff and other corrections professionals would understand the importance and embrace the change.
Person-first language describes putting a person before a label in an effort to show respect and avoid dehumanization. For DOC, this means using the label Persons in our Care (PIOC) in place of inmates, clients in place of offenders, and youth in place of juveniles. This simple act may seem insignificant, but it fosters communication rooted in respect and hope, and helps to eliminate stereotypes that can inhibit a person's ability to succeed.
“I've thought about how person-first language has impacted me over the last decade. It has a lot to do with my confidence at any given moment, and can be expressed in actions as much as in language," said Jesse Ruegsegger, who is currently a client on DOC community supervision. “While I was locked up, many inmates told me I wouldn't be able to succeed on supervision. A lot of their stories scared me that the system was built to see my failure. I believe that system is neutral. However, the agents dictate positive or negative experiences. I have an agent that supports my good decisions and encourages me to do positive things. The lack of negativity and labels makes me comfortable discussing things with her when my life doesn't go as planned. I've had a lot of titles come and go from my life: I've earned them all at some point in my life, yet, some of these titles no longer dictate who I am or what I do."
The use of first-person language goes hand-in-hand with hope. Researchers and scientists define hope as "a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively-derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)." According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufmann, cognitive scientist and humanistic psychologist (Ph.D), "Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system. Under this conceptualization of hope, emotions follow cognitions, not the other way around. Hope-related cognitions are important. Hope leads to learning goals, which are conducive to growth and improvement." Simply put, person-first language can both motivate and inspire hope, which can ultimately drive success.
“As an agent, I always made a point to call people by their preferred name during interactions. I found that it was important in order to gain trust, build rapport, and to have real and sometimes very difficult conversations," noted Region One Assistant Chief Sarah Krahn. “All people want to feel like they are respected and using person-first language is one simple way to do this. As a Corrections Field Supervisor, and now Assistant Chief, I often speak with friends, family, or victims who are concerned or have questions about someone on supervision. I've learned that using a client's name during these discussions is equally as important and can sometimes even deescalate a situation. It is important to acknowledge that some of the people that we supervise in the community have engaged in some very harmful behavior and created victims in the community. I don't believe that using person-first language diminishes the harm or impact that has been caused, and instead may even empower the client to have more respect for themselves and in turn make better decisions in the future. I believe that person-first language can assist in our efforts to reduce risk in the community while simply respecting people that we interact with daily."
Additional peer-reviewed research has shown that the use of person-first language does have a positive impact on those in our care. Dr. Alexandra Cox, Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex (UK) states, “An argument for the use of person-centered language is that is a generally destigmatizing approach to people who face innumerable consequences -- politically, socially and psychologically -- as a result of being affixed with a label that identifies them as "criminal".
Research also explains the power of using person-first language. According to Professor Nguyen Toan Tran, at the University of Technology Sydney, "Language used to describe individuals and populations, either respectful or stigmatizing, matters and shapes people's views and understanding of past and present events, as well as future possibilities." Erin George, and Ravi Mangla at Citizen Action of New York, explain it this way: “Words like felon, convict, criminal, prisoner, offender, and perpetrator create a paradigm where the person is removed from the equation and individuals are defined by a single experience. These labels ignore the social, economic, and political drivers of mass incarceration and deprive people of their complex identities. They make reentry into society increasingly difficult due to stigmas and prejudices associated with these labels."
In talking with staff from around the agency, it's evident that person-first language has not only been identified as a source of hope in research, but it's a source of hope for DOC staff, PIOC, clients and youth.
“Using terms like “youth" or “youth in secure treatment" humanizes their experience when with us," said Lincoln Hills School (LHS) Treatment Specialist Dylan Wilson. “It invests in them as soon-to-be adults and doesn't treat them like numbers. By using person-first language, it supports the building of rapport and establishes professional relationships. It also demonstrates respect, which youth are then more apt to show back."
“For really my entire career working in DAI, DCC, and DJC with both male and female persons in our care, I've addressed them as Mr. or Ms. for adults, and youth/kids for juveniles," said Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI) Warden Jason Benzel. “Whether we utilize those titles or PIOC, the whole purpose to me is to show those we work with that they matter and are respected."
“I believe the use of person-first language, such as referring to offenders as clients, is important as it inexplicitly shapes how we view our clients," said Probation and Parole Agent Mai Lor. “The term “offender" tends to have a negative connotation, focusing on primarily the wrongful or illegal behaviors. I personally believe that when we refer to them as an offender, we may retain the stigmas and negative thoughts associated with the word instead of focusing on who our clients are beyond their involvement with the justice system. As a change agent, our position allows us to work collaboratively with our clients to support re-integration and rehabilitation towards pro-social behaviors to reduce recidivism. Therefore, it is essential to also view our clients as adaptable to change, which starts with how we refer to them."
Corrections is not the only industry moving towards the use of person-first language. This simple language change has also impacted how we speak about disabilities in our society and really began when the Americans with Disabilities Act used person-first language to emphasize the importance. The use of person-first language is now widely accepted as the “default" language choice when referring to individuals with any disability. By contrast, using person-first language in corrections is still a newer endeavor. However, Wisconsin DOC is already seeing considerable and positive steps towards this change throughout the agency, as agency leadership continues to encourage staff to find new ways to treat people with respect and dignity.
Jesse Ruegsegger, a client currently on community supervision.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin's Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE) has operations in four distinct areas: agriculture, industries, logistics and transition. While teams of civilian staff and incarcerated workers in the first three areas make, sell, deliver and install a wide variety of products and services to our customers, the fourth area (transition) provides BCE's primary product… opportunity!
BCE's Transition Team partners with employers throughout Wisconsin to provide successful re-entry opportunities for BCE's incarcerated workers. This partnership also helps those employers build a more skilled and talented workforce. BCE builds relationships with employers through its employer outreach campaign. Through this campaign, BCE helps employers better understand that when BCE's incarcerated workers win… Wisconsin also wins. The success of this campaign may start with presentations and other methods of outreach, but relies on periodic follow-up with employers, as well as quick and accurate responses to their inquiries.
The BCE Transition Team works closely with employers and staffing agencies to help them meet recruitment needs and fill openings. Here are a few examples:
Machine operators, forklift drivers and maintenance technicians were placed with a large wood fabrication operation
A cheese/dairy product manufacturer needed to fill dairy production associates and packaging positions in a number of plants across Southeast Wisconsin
A zinc plating company was looking for production hangers/rackers and forklift operators
Candidates for these types of positions are contacted via email, telephone or mail with the employer's position information and detailed instructions on how to apply. A number of formerly incarcerated BCE workers have been successful in gaining employment with employers with whom our program has built a relationship with.
These success stories are shared with current incarcerated workers to help alleviate the uncertainty and concern many have regarding finding gainful employment when released from DOC custody. Seeing formerly incarcerated individuals obtain and keep a great job gives those preparing for release more confidence in their own ability to get a job when they are released. The BCE Transition team conducts presentations to BCE's incarcerated workers to discuss the current job market, as well as ways to maximize one's skills and abilities upon release. Additionally, the team distributes educational materials, discusses the BCE Transition Team benefits, and provides resume writing resources. By conducting these presentations and educating BCE's incarcerated workers on opportunities and the program's resources available to them upon release, enrollment in the BCE Transition Team program has grown exponentially.
The BCE Transition Team also provides a wide range of informational materials to incarcerated workers on topics such as:
How to gain employment
Interviewing for a job
Marketing employment skills
Another critical resource for incarcerated individuals relates to societal changes that may have occurred during incarceration. Smart phones, social media, changes in traffic laws, and the latest consumer scams are new to those serving long sentences. And by introducing these developments to incarcerated individuals as they are preparing for release, the pro-gram helps to alleviate the stress of returning to the community and the feeling of being a “fish out of water." Additionally, addressing common concerns of workers like navigating the banking system or the need for insurance has also been welcomed.
In 2020, data analysis completed by the Wisconsin DOC shows that three years after going home to their families and communities 71% of BCE's formerly incarcerated workers have not been re-incarcerated. The same analysis shows that 88% of BCE incarcerated workers have gained employment in their communities after release. It is encouraging to see the success that incarcerated workers achieved through all the work they have done and all they have learned as part of the overall BCE team.
The BCE Transition team works diligently to ensure all incarcerated workers at BCE have job leads available at the time of release. These leads are also provided based on the incarcerated workers' skills and experience while employed with BCE and with other employers, helping the formerly incarcerated individual more easily obtain and keep a job.
This article was originally published by the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA) in the Fall 2021 Edition of NCIA News here.
(MADISON, Wis.) -- The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) honored some of its outstanding staff recently at the Secretary's SALUTE Awards at the Assembly Chambers of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building.
The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled last year's intra-agency awards presentation, so Wisconsin DOC honored SALUTE Award winners for 2020 and 2021 at the event. The awards honor individual DOC staff members or groups nominated by their peers or supervisors. There are winners in six categories, one for each letter in SALUTE: Service, Awareness, Leadership, Unique, Team and Excellence.
The SALUTE Award winners are:
Service – Sheryll Anderson - Special Management Unit Social Worker, Columbia Correctional Institution
Awareness – Augustus “Gus" Durdin – Correctional Sergeant, Dodge Correctional Institution
Leadership – Jaime Adams – Health Services Manager, Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Unique – Maintenance Team, Redgranite Correctional Institution
Team – Program Department Team, Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Excellence – Michele Burgener – Program Support Supervisor, Division of Community Corrections (DCC) Region 6
Service – DOC Emergency Operations Center Team
Awareness – David Bowen – Correctional Sergeant, Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution
Leadership – Katrina Kleven – Program and Policy Analyst-Advanced, Prison Rape Elimination Act Office
Unique – Computer Numerical Controls Team, Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center
Team – Overdose Death Review Team
Excellence – Gretchen Burg – Probation and Parole Agent-Senior, DCC Region 7
At each year's SALUTE Awards, Wisconsin DOC also takes the opportunity to honor staff nominated for life-saving and valor awards, based on actions taken either inside or outside the workplace.
DOC staff honored with Life-Saving Awards:
Adam Groark – Supervising Officer 2, Wisconsin Women's Correctional System
Tristan Payton – Correctional Officer, Stanley Correctional Institution
Robert Garduno – Correctional Officer, Stanley Correctional Institution
John Severson - Correctional Officer, Stanley Correctional Institution
Jason Kulow – Correctional Officer, Stanley Correctional Institution
Thomas Taylor – Supervising Officer 2, Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Joshua Funk – Correctional Officer, Taycheedah Correctional Institution
Jeb Searls – Corrections Field Supervisor, DCC Region 1
Kari Spaeth – Probation and Parole Agent, DCC Region 1
Nicholas Johnson – Captain, Wisconsin Resource Center
Angela Thompson – Health Services Manager, Redgranite Correctional Institution
Jasmine Wilburn – Probation and Parole Agent, DCC Region 1
DOC staff honored with Valor Awards:
Luke Myszka - Supervising Youth Counselor, Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School
Earl “Dru" Heier - Deputy Superintendent, Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School
Jesse Severt - Supervising Youth Counselor, Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School
Ryan Adams - Youth Counselor, Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School
Andrew Lyga – Captain, Fox Lake Correctional Institution
Joe Layton – Correctional Officer, Waupun Correctional Institution
Shawn Gallinger - Correctional Officer, Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Keith Wiegel – Correctional Officer, Wisconsin Secure Program Facility
Ryan Disterhaft – Social Worker, Waupun Correctional Institution
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Kevin Carr and Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld joined leaders from Royal Credit Union today, to observe financial literacy instruction the credit union is providing to men at Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility (CVCTF).
The credit union has been offering lessons in budgeting and financial management at CVCTF for two years. Royal Credit Union Board Chair Tom Huffcutt and the credit union's President and CEO Brandon Riechers joined the Secretaries to drop in on a lesson Wednesday morning, before speaking with some students who have either completed or are currently taking the course.
“Royal's correctional facility financial education program is designed to help individuals achieve financial well-being, and supports our core purpose which is to create a positive impact in the lives we touch," said Riechers. “We are proud to have provided financial education to more than 1000 people in the care of area correctional facilities and hope our program provides them with the tools they need to accomplish their financial goals."
“Financial literacy programs, such as this one developed by Royal Credit Union, focus on knowledge acquisition and skill development with the goal of helping people in DOC's care understand best practices in money management, like how to save money, build credit, and budget," said DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld. “By providing financial literacy education, we can help these individuals learn a way to secure a better future for themselves and their families. Financial literacy has a way of paying itself forward across communities and generations."
Every year, about 9,000 people in DOC care return to their community, and roughly 65% of those at CVCTF have a year or less remaining on their sentence. Providing tools to help people achieve success once they return to their home and community is vital.
Darrin Cowser has been at CVCTF since June. He says he took the three-week course to learn better spending habits and improve his understanding of how to build credit.
“It's important to have a credit history. If you don't have a credit history no one is going to want to deal with you or try to help you make the big purchases," Cowser said. “I'm trying to figure out, when I go home, how I can build credit history and start, so when I get to those big purchases I could possibly buy a home, get a vehicle."
“This is a great example of state agencies and private businesses collaborating to reach a shared goal," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “A better understanding of budgeting and financial management is important to anyone, and I'm glad those in our care here at CVCTF have a chance to receive this knowledge."
Royal Credit Union provides the curriculum and instruction for the program. Since it launched at CVCTF in 2019, Royal Credit Union and the DOC have been able to help 400 people before they returned to their community. There are currently 12 receiving instruction in the program.
In addition to the correctional facility financial education program, Royal Credit Union also operates 29 student-run credit union offices in schools, and has created multiple innovative financial education programs for people of all ages. For more information on Royal's financial education programs visit Financial Education Programs For All | Royal Credit Union (rcu.org).
About Royal Credit Union Royal Credit Union is a federally insured credit union proudly serving over 240,000 Members in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Royal is driven by a core ideology built on a strong purpose and values. You can open an account or apply for a low-rate loan at Royal Credit Union if you live or work in 26 counties in western Wisconsin or 16 counties in Minnesota. Counties served in Wisconsin include Adams, Ashland, Bayfield, Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Lincoln, Marathon, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Washburn, and Wood. Counties served in Minnesota include Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Isanti, Olmsted, Pine, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Wabasha, Washington, Winona and Wright. Realtors in the state of Wisconsin or Minnesota are also eligible to join the credit union. Visit rcu.org or call Royal Credit Union at 800-341-9911 for more information.
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(BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis.) — Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek and Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld recently joined Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Kevin Carr to celebrate Manufacturing Month and a new job-training program at the Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI). The Secretaries participated in a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) certificate of completion ceremony for the first group of people in DOC's care to train in the institution's new CNC Mobile Lab, and then took a tour of the lab where a second group is currently learning.
CNC is a computerized manufacturing process that takes digitized data to control, automate, and monitor movement of a machine to route, weld, grind, laser, stamp, or control a robot to produce machined parts. DOC partnered with Western Technical College, which creates the curriculum and provides an instructor to conduct the training.
“As soon as we walk through the doors to the mobile lab, it's like we're not even in prison anymore," stated a student who was part of the first graduating cohort at JCI. “We're focused, talking to each other about our work and learning."
“I went to college before my incarceration, and passed some classes and failed some. I never graduated and didn't think college was for me," said another student who received his program completion certificate. “The CNC program got me back into thinking about getting a job, and it gives me an opportunity to go out and have an income to support my family when I release."
Jackson Correctional Institution is a medium-security facility entrusted with the custody and supervision of adult males. It has a population of around 950, and 45% of the men there have a year or less remaining in the confinement portion of their sentence.
“What an incredible collaboration between DOC, DWD and Western Technical College," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said. "Wisconsin employers are looking for skilled workers and, through this partnership, we're providing people in our care at Jackson Correctional Institution knowledge and tools that can help them successfully transition back into their communities. It's great to see the men here are taking advantage of that opportunity."
“Education remains a powerful tool that uplifts individuals into high-demand and high-paying jobs," said Kat Linaker, Vice President of Academics at Western Technical College. “This partnership is providing first-class advanced manufacturing education to individuals at Jackson Correctional Institution, providing them an opportunity to contribute to their communities upon release. With our continued labor shortage in the region, this is an investment in the future."
The CNC Mobile Lab is a self-contained training lab designed to deliver an advanced manufacturing training curriculum. As a climate-controlled unit, it is equipped with wireless technology and provides a space where instructors can teach and train advanced manufacturing skills. Persons in DOC's care will train and receive a CNC Operator Certificate and CNC Set up Certificate, earning a total of 13 credits, from Western Technical College.
“Certificate programs, such as this one from Western Technical College, help individuals returning from DOC's care obtain employment, gain access to housing and medical care, and start building financial capability," said DFI Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld. “Being able to support themselves upon release with steady employment in a high-demand and well-paying field is an essential step on the path to achieving financial security for themselves and their families."
A new correctional job lab will also be opening at Jackson Correctional Institution later this fall and will provide the persons in DOC's care with the ability to search for jobs throughout Wisconsin in advanced manufacturing, before they return to their homes and community.
"Many individuals leaving DOC care face a lot of barriers to seeking full time employment," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. "And we know that one of the best ways to positively change someone's life is to have a stable, well-paying job that supports them in their transition back to the community."
The ultimate goal of DOC's Reentry Unit is crime reduction, fewer victims, reduced state and local criminal justice costs, and most importantly, safer families and communities. More than 95% of Persons in our Care (PIOC) will return to their communities. The public is best served if those in our care are not only held accountable for their actions, but also have the opportunity to become law abiding and successful members of society. Reentry promotes success for PIOCs from admission through discharge through the application of evidence-based practices. The Department's Reentry philosophy is governed by the Reentry Business Plan and calls for the engagement of persons in our care as early as possible through risk assessment and case planning in the COMPAS system, treatment and motivation for change.
(MADISON, Wis.) – The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) released its first stakeholder newsletter this month as part of its ongoing commitment to the agency's Transparency and Public Accountability strategic priority.
The newsletter showcases the work happening across the agency, focusing on the agency's goals and highlighting accomplishments from the previous six months. While this publication may be the first, DOC plans to provide both a Spring and Fall edition each following year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been front and center in the operation of the agency over the past 20 months. However, DOC Secretary Kevin Carr noted, “This newsletter goes beyond what is happening in our agency related to COVID-19. It's a way of showcasing all the hard work our staff have been doing and will continue to do in the months ahead. We haven't stopped working on important initiatives; we've adapted to the circumstances while still working to accomplish the agency's goals for the future."
DOC stakeholders, which include friends and family members of loved ones, local businesses, non-profit organizations, government and elected officials, law enforcement agencies and community members, are encouraged to read the newsletter and provide feedback on improving future publications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I hope people find this to be a useful tool to understand what's happening throughout our agency" said Secretary Carr. “Strong community relationships are a large factor in our success. This [newsletter] is one small step we are taking to fulfill our mission to serve the people of Wisconsin with transparency and earn their trust."
(FOND DU LAC, Wis.) — Camp Reunite returned to Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) this summer, though the bonding experience that embodies the camp looked a little different this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
Young campers were able to attend in person from July 25–30, 2021 to participate in recreational activities and interact with other children of incarcerated parents. However, due to the safety precautions currently in place, they did not get to experience Camp Reunite's typical, extended in-person visits with their moms. Instead, parents found creative ways to strengthen bonds, making welcome baskets that included handwritten letters and crafts for their children. The campers' moms also put together a video with skits and personal messages.
Camp Reunite is a week-long, trauma-informed summer camp serving youth ages 8-17 who have a parent currently incarcerated in the Wisconsin Correctional System. It is a partnership between Hometown Heroes, Inc., the Turning Rivers youth camping facility and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). The program was first introduced in 2018 at TCI, a maximum-security facility for women. TCI later added a winter Camp Reunite in 2019, and the program was expanded to Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility for men, in 2020.
Sarah Cooper, Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections' Division of Adult Institutions, was TCI Warden when the program began. She recalls it had a profound impact, not just on the children and their moms, but also on the institution's staff.
“It was a great reminder for our staff of why we do the work we do every day," Administrator Cooper said. “These are real people with lives outside of prison; mothers with children. It is one thing to hear their stories, but another to see those experiences."
Losing a parent to incarceration can be traumatic and a time of stress for a child. Feelings of shame or stigma related to having an incarcerated parent can lead to depression, aggression, poor academic performance, truancy and other negative behaviors. Even after their parent returns home, disrupted family relationships and weakened parent-child bonds can be difficult to repair. Along with traditional recreational summer camp activities, Camp Reunite offers activities that promote mental health while providing hope, healing and resiliency through the strengthening of the connection between children and their incarcerated parent. Additionally, pre-pandemic, children were able to enjoy two meaningful visits to the correctional institution to see their parent. All the campers share a common bond of having an incarcerated parent, and lifelong relationships are built from a place of acceptance and understanding.
At the end of each camp session, staff from Turning Rivers youth camping facility and Hometown Heroes, Inc. distribute surveys and assessments for campers, using a “Hope Scale" to measure the level of hope they feel at a point in time. Kenzie Gonzalez from Hometown Heroes, Inc. says what they have learned from that data is that “campers feel increased hope at the end of camp" and that this is supported when they talk with the caregivers of those campers weeks, and even months, later. Those caregivers note seeing lasting resilience in the children after they attend Camp Reunite.
Children with an incarcerated parent are often forgotten or left behind, but Camp Reunite addresses the issues of having an incarcerated parent by understanding and addressing the child's feelings of anger, frustration, low self-esteem and motivation. Staff are able to cheer on each child and help them become more confident and successful, and for a short period of time during the visits, parents get to just be parents and connect with their child.
Now, with the proven success of these initial camps in Wisconsin, Camp Reunite is looking to partner with correctional systems in other states to have a positive impact on some of the millions of other children impacted by incarceration throughout the country. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed down efforts to expand Camp Reunite's reach, Hometown Heroes, Inc. is working with partners in other states in anticipation of holding additional camps in summer 2022. Gonzalez said, “We are hopeful that these camps will include in-person visits with the campers' mother or father, which is a major highlight of the program."
For more information on Camp Reunite, please visit: https://www.campreunite.org.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is partnering with a company to start photocopying the personal mail of all adults in its care, a response to the growing problem of dangerous drugs being sent into DOC institutions through personal mail.
DOC has seen an increase of drug incidents among persons in its care, including increased use of K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids, which have no odor and can be difficult to detect. Paper and envelopes can be sprayed with or soaked in these drugs. This paper is then sent into DOC institutions via mail, where some persons in DOC care tear it into small strips, and use it or sell it to others.
Synthetic cannabinoids can cause violent behavior in some cases. In others, it can cause serious medical distress that may require emergency medical treatment.
“Our agency's mission and core values include protecting the safety of our staff and those in our care, and that is what's driving this decision," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “By stopping the original pieces of paper from entering the institutions, we can greatly reduce the amount of drugs coming in and create a safer environment."
Despite increased searches on living units, K9 searches, increased urinalysis testing and sharing of information about the dangers of synthetic cannabinoids, DOC still had 182 drug incidents in its facilities in the month of September, with 16 of them resulting in persons in DOC care needing emergency treatment at a medical facility.
DOC saw success when it piloted a photocopying process at Fox Lake Correctional Institution (FLCI), which was the first DOC facility to see a large spike in drug incidents earlier this year. FLCI switched to photocopying mail in mid-April, a month in which the institution had nine potential overdoses and two incidents of violent behavior related to drug use. Numbers in both categories fell in the ensuing months before reaching zero in August.
Wisconsin DOC cares for about 20,000 people at 36 adult institutions. To photocopy the personal mail for that large a group, DOC is contracting with a mail management service named TextBehind, which already provides mail photocopying services to the corrections agency for the state of North Carolina and around 30 individual counties in multiple states. Personal mail for those in DOC care will be sent to TextBehind, which will do the following within 24 hours of receiving it: open the mail, photocopy the envelope and contents, and send the photocopies to DOC institutions for delivery. TextBehind will make color copies of photos and drawings.
“The amount of copying is too much to ask of DOC staff, so we decided to work with a vendor," said DOC Division of Adult Institutions Administrator Sarah Cooper. “Also, hiring a group that specializes in this type of work should minimize any issues with the photocopies."
During the pilot, some persons in DOC's care at FLCI complained of photocopies that cut off parts of the original mail. Under this contract, TextBehind will be required to hold the original mail for 30 days after receipt. Any person in DOC care with a concern about their photocopied mail will have 14 days from receipt of the mail to file a complaint. Holding the original for 30 days gives TextBehind the time and opportunity to address any complaints.
Wisconsin DOC will begin this new practice on December 6, 2021. Starting on that date, anyone sending personal mail to persons in DOC care will have to mail it to TextBehind, making sure the address on the envelope includes the information below:
PIOC full name (first and last) and DOC #Correctional Facility name (do not abbreviate)P.O Box 189Phoenix, MD 21131
PIOC full name (first and last) and DOC #
Correctional Facility name (do not abbreviate)
P.O Box 189
Phoenix, MD 21131
TextBehind's customer support center will be available to family and friends with questions about mail delivery.
There will be no added cost to persons in DOC care or those exchanging mail with them. Legal, medical and other protected mail are excluded.
For faster delivery and convenience, family and friends will also have the option to electronically send letters, greeting cards and drawings to their loved ones in DOC care.
(NEILLSVILLE, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) hosted its annual Veterans Recognition Ceremony at The Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville Wednesday morning.
A large group of DOC staff and their families came for the agency's first ceremony since 2019, after concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled last year's gathering.
“I want to thank each of you for being here today. I am thrilled to be with you all in person," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr told the crowd attending the event. “In the Department of Corrections, we very much understand the value and bravery of our armed forces. I am proud of the fact that our agency employs more military veterans than any other agency in the state."
Wisconsin DOC employs nearly 1,000 military veterans. The ceremony's other featured speaker, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Secretary Mary Kolar, paid tribute to all veterans, including DOC staff who came from offices across the state to be at the ceremony.
“I appreciate your commitment as veterans working for the Department of Corrections, all the while keeping the great state of Wisconsin secure for our friends and loved ones," Sec. Kolar told the crowd, encouraging them to contact DVA at 1-800-WIS-VETS or www.WisVets.com to learn about all the benefits available to veterans in Wisconsin.
The ceremony included presentation of colors by the New Lisbon Correctional Institution Honor Guard, and the ceremonial reading of the names of some killed in action in Operation Desert Storm/Shield, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Highground Veterans Memorial Park is a 155-acre park designed to “honor, educate and heal" military veterans, their families and all others who visit the site. Located three miles west of Niellsville in Central Wisconsin, it has become the nation's leading and largest manned veterans park.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The court-appointed Monitor's 11th report for Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School was filed with the court today, and noted multiple improvements at the juvenile facility and in DOC's efforts to meet the requirements of a court order.
The report highlights Wisconsin DOC's continued steps to achieve compliance with elements of a consent decree, stemming from a 2017 lawsuit and investigation into substandard conditions at the facility under the previous administration. In the first report from the Monitor, filed shortly after the Evers Administration took office, DOC was in substantial compliance with just one of roughly 50 benchmarks measured by the Monitor. Less than three years later, this latest report shows DOC is now in substantial compliance with 12 items, with the Monitor noting the agency is close to substantial compliance with a handful of others. In addition, DOC continues to be in at least partial compliance with all requirements.
“I always say progress is not linear, but the trend line points to continued improvements that will make the facility safer for both youth and staff," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “The steps this administration has taken at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School have not always been easy. However, I believe they were necessary to transform the schools into a facility where youth are provided evidence-based treatment and education, not just punishment."
One major highlight of this latest report is the relationship between youth and staff seemed improved during the site visit in October, compared to the Monitor's previous visit. The Monitor cited positive body language and tone from both youth and staff.
“None of the youth made a single complaint to the Monitoring team even when asked probing questions," the Monitor wrote in the report. “Previously, youth complained about food, education, not being let out of their rooms to use the bathroom when needed, being confined, staff not engaging with them, staff going hands on too soon, staff not caring about them and general treatment. Youth did not make any of these complaints this site visit. In fact, several youths spoke to the Monitoring team and indicated that the facility culture, programs, and safety is much better now compared to their previous commitments to the facility. This is a good sign that the facility is moving in a positive direction."
The Monitor also specifically pointed out facility improvements this administration has made, saying, “The physical plant is significantly safer than three years ago."
Some of the latest facility-improvement projects include:
Continuing installation in all living units of windows made of safety glass, which is very difficult to break and will improve safety while reduce the need to replace windows at the schools.
Replacement of failing boilers in some living units
New LED lighting in youth rooms and dayrooms that should make a critical difference in the coming winter months
The Report indicates the Monitor's opinion that the youth have responded positively to less idle/unstructured time. However, she states a need for even more structured and meaningful activities for youth, particularly during nights and weekends. To this end, Wisconsin DOC recently expanded weekend programing, but those steps will not be taken into consideration until the next report from the Monitor.
Another concern noted in the report was an increase in use of mechanical restraints on youth in the summer months, numbers which have since come down. Also, the report notes an agreement between DOC and youth advocates on how to ensure observation status is not being used as a form of punitive confinement. Observation status is designed to be short-term confinement that allows for confined observation of youth who have been exhibiting behavior that could be dangerous to themselves or others. To address concerns about observation status being punitive, DOC will only be placing youth in observation status if they are a danger to themselves moving forward.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Department of Corrections (DOC) is excited to announce the creation of a new Treatment Unit in the Division of Community Corrections (DCC). The Treatment Unit is the first of its kind in DCC, and will help to increase critical treatment and programming services to persons in the community on probation, parole and extended supervision.
Since 2019, the Evers Administration has been actively working with the DOC to safely lower the prison population. In his Executive Budget, Governor Evers outlined a number of investments to improve outcomes, lower the prison population in Wisconsin, and increase treatment and programming. “Unfortunately, a number of the initiatives put forward by the Governor were either removed or significantly reduced by the legislature," said DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr. “While the inaction of the legislature is unfortunate, our agency is committed to looking internally at the steps we can take to improve outcomes and help folks be successful."
As part of that commitment, DOC has been working on several internal initiatives to safely reduce the number of people in Wisconsin prisons. One such initiative looked at practical ways to increase efficiency in violation responses while safely reducing the number of revocations. However, with an established commitment to keep more people out of prison, comes an increase in need for acceptable treatment options and programming in the community; a need that was already critical and lacking throughout the state.
“It's our duty to help folks get the treatment and programming they need so they can be successful in the community before incarceration becomes our only option," said Carr. “By creating a Treatment Unit in DCC, we are relying less on outside resources and are better able to connect them to the services they need in a more timely and cost-effective manner."
When an institution-based Alternative to Revocation program at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) was closed, DOC was finally able to seize upon an opportunity to increase out-patient services for DCC clients. DOC reallocated positions from the program at MSDF to DCC, creating one Clinical Supervisor position and seven new Treatment Specialist positions to serve clients throughout the state. The Treatment Specialists will assist in filling in the gaps in service DOC was finding in vendor programming in the community. They will be providing programming for substance use disorder, cognitive behavioral interventions, anger management and domestic violence.
Holly Stanelle is the Clinical Supervisor overseeing the unit and believes the addition of this unit couldn't come at a better time. “With the pandemic, there has been an increase in substance use in the community, including those on community supervision. The opioid crisis has been particularly difficult and this initiative will allow our agency to tackle it head on," she said.
The Treatment Unit will also be piloting a cognitive behavioral intervention for substance use - open ended curriculum, meaning individuals can enroll and start programming at any time. “Typically, most community providers aren't able to provide open-ended curriculum and we've found it can create issues with long wait lists for individuals who desperately need programming," said Stanelle. “So this will be an exciting change coming that will help get people the treatment they need, when they need it."
Several of the Treatment Specialist positions have already been filled and all positions are expected to be filled by early 2022.