(STANLEY, Wis.) — Every November, Americans come together to recognize and thank Veterans who have protected our freedom through their military service. The Department of Corrections (DOC) joins in honoring these heroes who not only work alongside us, but who reside in our care.
Brandon Drost, Corrections Program Supervisor (CPS) and U.S. Army Veteran, believed he could expand on the agency's efforts to recognize and support Veterans living in DOC facilities. With the help of his colleagues at Stanley Correctional Institution (SCI), he created the Veterans Wing, a residential unit designated for military members.
SCI's Veterans Wing aims to provide resources and services to incarcerated Veterans. CPS Drost drew on his experiences to help build better foundations for those who served their country. He works with community organizations, higher education providers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to name a few, in order to offer targeted resources for the unit. This includes mental health and substance use disorder treatment, trauma-informed care, and even restorative justice efforts. While the pandemic delayed some of the progress towards reaching their goals, CPS Drost, SCI staff, and the residents are eager to get back on track.
Four of the men currently living in the Veterans Wing – Todd, Calvin, Jeff, and Dilley – talked with us about their experiences in military service. Todd, Calvin, and Dilley all served in the U.S. Army, while Jeff served in the U.S. Navy. Todd spent three years as a Petroleum Supply Specialist. He is also one of the original members of the Veterans Wing, also known as (what else?) “The Dirty Dozen." Calvin was a Combat Medic for eight years, during which he was deployed for both combat and humanitarian tours. Dilley served for three years as a Combat Engineer. Jeff spent two-and-a-half years as an Electronics Technician. They also spoke about the benefits the Veterans Wing is providing them, and what they hope to achieve when they return to their communities.
What made you want to join the military?
Calvin: “I just wanted to find my own way, you know, outside of the traditional … that's what sparked me joining the military. I fit in for a while until the medical portion became a bit heavy. Obviously, when you're subjected to certain experiences, it can be a bit much after a while."
Dilley: “My dad. He was a Combat Engineer also. I feel like it was a great fit, but maybe not at the time I did it. I was a kid … [laughs] thinking about girls and stuff."
What are some skills you learned during your time in the service that you brought with you here, or that you can take with you back into the community?
Calvin: “I've used a plethora of skills. I learned a lot of administrative skills, of course my medical knowledge in regards to healthcare and trauma treatment, it's pretty vast. I was a Sergeant, so leadership and managerial skills … I'm a jack of all trades."
Jeff: “A lot of the technical skills. I was an Electronics Technician."
Dilley: “Maturity, patience, just being able to motivate yourself to keep going. To not give up."
What's different about the Veterans Wing versus other wings?
Jeff: “The people here are more courteous. They're kinder to each other. Here, I feel like I could go through my entire stint without any problems partly because of the Veterans Wing. It helped get me on the pathway for release."
Todd: “It's a lot mellower. It's easier going, lighter. There's more maturity here."
Calvin: “The conception of the wing itself was a great idea. Putting Veterans around other Veterans, it really helps to be around more likeminded individuals. It translates into less issues for the Veterans themselves."
Dilley: “It's quiet. There's a little bit more respect. Obviously, talking to other Vets is not as hard. As soon as you talk to somebody who's a Vet, there's just that trust."
What kinds of opportunities or activities have you been offered in the Veterans Wing that you may not have gotten in other units?
Dilley: “Our fundraisers are probably the best thing about this wing. We've been raising money to give back to the community. We have them every couple of months. People can buy donuts or whatnot, and the profits go towards whomever we pick. We just had a fundraiser for a fallen police officer for their wife and children to pay the bills. That was pretty cool. CPS Drost gives us some ideas and then we pick it from there. We get things like donuts, cheesecake, ice cream … all types of stuff."
Todd: “The Veterans Day activities. They brought horses in, therapy horses, that was pretty cool. We also have a resource room with books, benefits information. Some people use them … like if they have disabilities, that kind of stuff."
Calvin: “… the amenities of the wing. We have research tools, like certain books or encyclopedias where we can research history … tools in the form of audio-visual equipment, things of that nature."
Dilley: “… there's a guy that comes in from the V.A. in Minneapolis. He does meetings and stuff. He tries to help us with housing and health insurance. We also come up with meeting ideas that we want, and they'll have somebody come in. Mental health, homelessness, drug addiction, and then they'll have a meeting that we can attend. The mental health and probably housing are the most popular. And transportation once people get out of prison."
Jeff: “The wing has been pretty decent overall for me. I got into the welding program, I just completed that. Right after that I got to start work camp, so I can't complain. I was able to make the most of this situation."
What do you think you'll be able to take away from the Veteran's Wing when you're back in the community?
Todd: “The resources, that will help, like if I need to get a place somewhere … probably a few people here I would still keep in contact here."
Calvin: “The outside Veterans resources, the conjoined representatives from the V.A., that's helpful for everyone."
What are some of the goals you are working towards when you return to the community?
Todd: “Working on sobriety, keeping up with that. Getting a job … my family, being with them. Becoming a regular part of society again."
Calvin: “My goal is to educate Veterans and other demographics in regards to some of the snares and pitfalls they may encounter coming into a system like this. I believe that a little proactive education could prevent the Veterans and other individuals from even coming into contact with systems like this. I'm studying law and Veterans' issues, that way I can educate Veterans and others."
Dilley: “I'd like to go to college for mechanics. I've been thinking about mentoring kids. I go back through my life and think about the mistakes I've made, and I know it's because I didn't have anybody. I would like to be there for some kids who don't have anybody."
What resources do you feel will help you be successful when you return to the community?
Todd: “There's AA and other groups. There are a lot of resources in my county when I'll be back there."
Calvin: “We have the privilege here in Wisconsin of having 1A trauma centers throughout the entire VA system. The VA system is the largest healthcare network in the country. We have dozens of VA clinics and hospitals in the state of Wisconsin which have specialty clinics specifically dedicated to treating the Veteran."
Dilley: “I've had two P.O.s [Probation Agents] who were Vets. That helped a lot. The P.O. understands the issues at hand and can help us. If you put in the legwork, you're going to get some help. The help is out there, you just have to apply yourself. Sometimes that can be very stressful. A lot of us have a lot of mental health issues that don't really allow us to talk to a lot of people … ask for help."
Do you have any other thoughts you would like to note about the Wing?
Todd: “It's just nice to have it available to us. You know, being around other likeminded individuals, other Vets."
Dilley: “We just have our own little community over here. It's really awesome, and I hope that every institution can do something like this."
Jeff: “The wing has been a pocket of tranquility in this environment. The events are fun. I like the ceremony [Veterans Day ceremony]."
And indeed, this year's ceremony was a great example of the camaraderie and respect throughout the Veterans Wing. On Friday, November 10, SCI residents and staff participated in a number of events, including Color Guard, the National Anthem, speakers, live music, and refreshments. The ceremony concluded with smiling faces and more ideas for next November.
The DOC is thankful for the staff and various community partners who help make these opportunities possible for Veterans. Are you interested in volunteering services or resources for the wing? Send an email to CPS Drost at Brandon.Drost@wisconsin.gov. Please visit wisc.jobs to view all of the available career opportunities at SCI and other DOC locations!
|Pictured (left to right): Todd, Jeff, Calvin, and Dilley in the Veterans Wing Resource Room
(OSHKOSH, Wis.) — Oshkosh is home to a number of dining options, but many people may not be aware of one particular restaurant serving delicious meals to guests each week.
The New Beginnings restaurant, operated by a group of Persons in our Care within the Oshkosh Correctional Institution (OSCI), serves a variety of menu items to residents, staff and visitors alike. The restaurant offers daily specials as well as “to go" options for lunch and dinner. For those who prefer to dine in, the facility offers banquet space where staff and guests are provided table service.
The restaurant doesn't just provide a tasty culinary experience, it also benefits those who are part of the operation. Thanks to the DOC's partnerships with Fox Valley Technical College's Culinary Arts program and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the restaurant is currently run by 31 workers, including five apprentices and two journeymen (graduated apprentices). Participants learn how to handle a busy and stressful work environment while also focusing on teamwork and customer connections. Those completing the apprenticeship will receive a “Restaurant Cook Journeyman" certification, which offers a leg-up when applying for restaurant or catering employment in the community. The opportunity is not only appreciated by those in the kitchen, but by the guests who are able to have a face-to-face experience while enjoying a flavorful meal.
Though they were busy preparing lunches, three of the restaurant workers—James, Vidal and Jaron—took time to sit down with us to share their experiences with the program.
What do you feel are some of the benefits of this program?
James: “People can find themselves. They can find their talents that are hidden. I always liked to cook, even when I was on the streets. And that's what motivated me to come to the program, to want to do the program. And there's a lot of individuals who don't know their talents until they work in here, and they find their talents, and the idea goes on."
Vidal: “I would like to encourage people around here to enroll into the program. It's a good thing for everybody to do. The food is great … I just encourage people to learn and take the journey. I'm happy I did."
Jaron: “This program means a lot to a lot of people, and some people don't get a chance to see that. We go through our ups and downs, our back and forths … It's also a chance to learn with that. The camaraderie around here, the teamwork, the dedication and the time that people put into it, I just feel like a lot of people appreciate it, and they should, and we appreciate what we do for the people here."
How do you think this program will benefit you when your time here is complete?
Vidal: “This program has taught me a lot. I come from not knowing how to cook at all to being decent, so hopefully I could be able to make that special person proud when I come home. Also take care of myself. I came a long way, I'm still learning. I decided to do the apprenticeship soon, so I'm looking forward to doing a lot of things."
Jaron: “I feel like this program is going to give me the opportunity to excel out there in the world. As far as working in food productions, or any food preparations … whether it's a restaurant, whether it's a hotel, or any of those types of jobs … I feel like it'll give me a fighting chance to actually go into that field and be successful."
James: “I want to go into catering when I do get out. So, the program itself gives you motivation to do so. It motivates a lot of individuals. There's a lot of good cooks, good chefs out there."
What is your favorite meal to make or eat?
Jaron: “I don't really have a favorite dish to make. My favorite to eat is the chicken parm. It is delicious. The chicken breast with the cheese on top, fried … You can't go wrong."
James: “I like to do breads … And I'm a pork guy, I love pork."
Vidal: “I found my niche in bacon. So honestly, I like doing bacon. And I'm an artist, so I like to express my artistic ability designing and decorating cakes, so that's my favorite thing about it."
Senior Social Worker Tamara Boche also spoke with us prior to sitting down with her team in the banquet room.
“I'm new to Oshkosh Correctional Institution and I love the training kitchen. It is really amazing. Their food is so good, they have a great variety, and they are so friendly and helpful every time you walk in the door. I'm really blessed."
The DOC is grateful for our many partnerships throughout Wisconsin that allow for these opportunities. Our partners and staff involved with these programs help change lives each and every day.
“Let your achievements today serve as a testament to your abilities and a reminder that you are capable of greatness."
The words of Michael Lozano, Correctional Education Coordinator at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) helped kick off a celebration of five special students Monday. They wore gowns and tasseled caps, and had completed their studies at MATC like many others before them. However, these five men completed their work while incarcerated.
“Your past mistakes, whatever they may have been, do not define you," MATC instructor David Lunz reminded the men, the latest cohort of people in Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) care to complete Welding Fundamentals certification through MATC.
All five men honored at the ceremony are currently serving a sentence at Marshall Sherrer Correctional Center or Felmers Chaney Correctional Center in Milwaukee. Both centers are part of the Wisconsin Correctional Center System, a group of minimum-security facilities focused on preparing people in DOC care for safe and successful reintegration into the community by providing the resources necessary to make positive life changes.
“These programs are key to sending people home for good. They are key to reducing recidivism," student speaker Mark Roberson noted in his remarks Monday.
The completion ceremony was the result of just one partnership DOC has in place with the state's technical colleges to provide vocation and technical training to men and women incarcerated in Wisconsin. The training focuses on skills that are in high demand and pay good wages. Combined with a partnership through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to open Job Centers in DOC facilities, the technical education training has allowed some people in DOC care to return home with job offers in hand.
“You will face obstacles and struggles, but when you do I hope you will look back on today and remember how far you have come, and feel the strength to continue on this path you've chosen," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr told the students. “If you keep recognizing opportunities and doing the work that comes with them, I believe you will keep taking positive steps as you have in your education, and you will continue to be successful and do great things."
Under the Evers administration, DOC has expanded technical and traditional education opportunities in its correctional facilities.
Monday's ceremony at MATC was part of a big week of graduations for DOC. Also on Monday, New Lisbon Correctional Institution hosted a graduation ceremony for men completing training in Career Technical Education and Adult Basic Education, as well as Pell Grant-funded studies. On Wednesday, a group of men from John Burke Correctional Center celebrated their completion of welding training through Moraine Park Technical College at the school's Beaver Dam campus.
(PLYMOUTH, Wis.) — On March 31, 2023, President Joe Biden proclaimed April 2023 as Second Chance Month. This is a time dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of ensuring the safe and successful reentry of more than 640,000 people returning to their communities after incarceration each year in America. Throughout the month of April, we all recommit to helping people with the new beginnings they have earned, and building a safer and more just society.
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) believes second chances are crucial, however, they are often hard to come by for those releasing from prison. A criminal record can prevent people from securing a family-supporting job, a place to live, the chance to go back to school, and much more. In addition, it's been proven that joblessness is one of the top factors when it comes to predicting recidivism. This is why we need resources like the Job Center at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (KMCI), which helps provide those in DOC care with the skills and knowledge they need to get a job in a high-demand field, and oftentimes, it helps them find a job before they step foot outside of the institution.
KMCI's Job Center opened in March of 2022, and the staff there have already seen their fair share of successes. One of KMCI's most recent success stories, Ray Jones, a 31-year-old from Milwaukee, is set to take the next step in his second chance journey. Mr. Jones will release on Tuesday, April 11, and with the help of one of DOC's valued partners, LIUNA, he has a union career position lined up in road construction and paving that has a starting wage between $26-$28/hour.
“Overall, the experience has been great," said Jones when asked about completing the Wisconsin Laborers' Apprenticeship Program. “In the beginning, I was reluctant [to come to the Job Center] but I went over my options and my situation, and it was obvious I needed a change, so I decided to come. I thought about my kids and my situation and re-entering the community, and I just said why not? What can I lose? This is going to help me provide for my family. That's the main thing I want."
Jones had nothing but positive things to say about the people who helped him along the way, especially Maria Rodriguez, who is a Correctional Systems Career Coach for the Bay Area Workforce Development Board.
“Like I said, the opportunity has been great, working with Ms. Rodriguez. She's real genuine about helping people find job placements. And it's not only that she helps you find a job, she helps you find a career," stated Jones. “She goes above and beyond, she drills us, makes sure we're on top of it. It's not like she's only helping us find a job, she's bettering the individual for their future."
Though she's only been in this role since July of 2022, Ms. Rodriguez has already seen the impact of providing people with second chances, and she believes strongly in the work she's doing with those at KMCI's Job Center.
“I try to be as much of a mentor as I can to help the PIOCs here. I myself have ones close to me that have been incarcerated and who've had a rough time, and I have a lot of contacts out there and a lot of friends, and I thought if I have the opportunity to do this, why not? I want to help reduce the recidivism rate, that's the main goal, so that's why I took this job."
Rodriguez also talked about the impact that her successes have on her, even when she leaves work.
“It's amazing. I think about it when I leave work and on my drive home, it's what I have a passion doing," stated Rodriguez. “These guys deserve a second chance, and the guys who come to this Job Center and who are sincere about finding work, if I can help find them meaningful careers in any way, that's my goal. I tell all the guys when I do orientation that my goal is to get them a job before they leave this institution. I do anything and everything I can to give them the second chance they need and the second chance they deserve."
The Department of Corrections is proud to partner with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and regional Workforce Development Boards in creating and staffing Job Centers at 11 DOC facilities. The Job Centers help people like Jones leave prison with a family-supporting job.
“It's partnerships like this that go a long way toward reducing recidivism and helping folks receive a strong second chance," said DOC's Reentry Director Ray Woodruff. “This is only one example of many collaborative efforts that are ongoing throughout the agency and the state, and we want to thank all of our partners that lend a hand in giving those in need a proper second chance."
When you first walk through the entrance at Stanley Correctional Institution (SCI), you may not think about the hard work that went into the facility becoming fully operational on January 1st, 2003. The path to the facility's completion included a series of hurdles over several-years, partially due to the facility being privately built and subsequently needing to be purchased by the Department of Corrections. The scheduled 18-month building project also took almost five years to complete. Thanks to patience and support from the City of Stanley and hard work from Department of Corrections staff, construction of Stanley Correctional was completed, and it has become a successful correctional and rehabilitation facility. Today, SCI and its staff not only care for more than 1,500 people, but the facility has also added infrastructure and stability to a growing area. Staff continue to go above and beyond to ensure the facility upholds its values as a place where residents focus not only on their success, but also giving back to their community.
On March 1, SCI hosted a 20-year anniversary celebration to honor its achievements. Former and current staff, including Stanley's first Field Superintendent Paul Smith, as well as City of Stanley Mayor Al Haas and former State Senator Dave Zien, were in attendance. Warden Chris Buesgen spoke to the audience about Stanley's accomplishments over the years, which includes an emphasis on the institution's community enrichment. Guest speakers, including former SCI Warden and current Waupun Correctional Warden Randall “Randy" Hepp, reiterated the team goals to offer individualized, community-based opportunities for persons in DOC care and the early steps taken to make these goals a reality.
“This is such a different place than it was in 2003," said Warden Hepp to the ceremony guests. “And it's because of the work that everybody has done, and it's been because of perseverance and resilience."
During the event, guests were invited to view twenty years of progress firsthand through guided tours. Areas of interest included a live look at the institution's current work with Can Do Canines, a community group that helps persons in DOC care at SCI learn how to train dogs to assist individuals with disabilities. Guests also viewed the Veteran's Wing, where eligible residents are able to participate in Veteran's Day celebrations and Veteran organizations throughout Wisconsin. Throughout the buildings, guests were able to see some of the workshop projects created by men at the facility, including paintings, woodworking and metal signs. Guests were even treated to a delicious cake and fun trivia, such as which Governor's wife accidentally locked herself in a cell once during a tour. (Answer: Mrs. Sue Ann Thompson.)
(IRMA, Wis.) — Governor Tony Evers recently visited the state’s juvenile correctional facility, where he was able to meet with some of the youth currently in state care there. Gov. Evers’ latest visit to Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS), in Irma, also included an update on current efforts underway at the schools, including:
- Implementation of a Behavior Motivation System that launched in the Fall of ’22
- Ongoing efforts to recruit and boost staffing
- Efforts related to staff wellness and critical incident review
The Governor spent some time with youth, both in living units and a school classroom, and he dropped in on a staff training session.
“We’re very proud of the efforts you’re making here,” Gov. Evers told the training group. “Keep up the good work.”
LHS/CLS was the subject of an FBI raid, lawsuits, and allegations of unsafe conditions for both staff and youth under the previous administration. Since taking office, the Evers Administration has led a transformation at LHS/CLS from a facility with a punitive approach to one focused on treatment and rehabilitation of youth.
A lawsuit over those prior conditions led to a court-appointed monitor being assigned to produce quarterly reports on conditions at the schools. Under the Evers Administration, Wisconsin DOC has gained partial or substantial compliance in all areas the Monitor is required to observe.
“Every positive improvement we’ve been able to make here is due to the team at LHS/CLS and leadership in the Division of Juvenile Corrections,” Sec. Kevin Carr remarked to Gov. Evers at the conclusion of the tour.
DOC intends to implement the same model of care at a new youth facility in Milwaukee. Plans for the proposed north Milwaukee site recently won approval from the City. Available evidence points to a smaller facility, closer to the homes of many youth currently in DOC care, being better for young people involved in the criminal justice system.
(FOND DU LAC, Wis.) — The non-profit organization Camp Reunite partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) on December 28 and 29, 2023 to host holiday events at Taycheedah and Kettle Moraine Correctional Institutions. Camp Reunite hosts both an annual Winter Camp and Summer Camp for children ages 8-17 who have a parent currently in DOC care. The trauma-informed camps provide a week of activities and events designed to help the children build bonds, coping skills and resiliency. For two days during the week-long camp Winter Camp, the children are able to join their parent at their assigned location for an extended visit and holiday celebrations. After the day ends, they take a bus back to camp for evening meals, movies and bonfires.
This year, Camp Reunite's Winter Camp at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI) offered parents and their kids two days of movies, crafts, games, and quiet time together in the facility's school building. It provided a shared holiday experience as Santa made an appearance to hand out gifts. The parents of the children had previously provided a list of each child's gift choices to Camp Reunite team members. Thanks to donations from Kapco's Kids 2 Kids, Camp Reunite was then able to provide their elf-like assistance to fully stock Santa's gift bag with presents. These two days of fun were also fully catered, which included a full lunch buffet, movie popcorn and frosted cookies.
We had the opportunity to sit down with two of the participating mothers and their children to talk about what Camp Reunite means to them.
Ashley and Ariah
Interviewer: (To Ariah) What is your favorite part about today?
Ariah: Probably where we are right now. (Ariah was snuggled near Ashley during the interview.)
Interviewer: What was your favorite activity from today?
Ariah: The bus ride here! I got to talk to my friends and I got to sleep. Because I woke up at 6:15 this morning. I woke up to music. They play music in the morning.
Interviewer: That's nice! How often do you get to come visit your mom?
Ariah: This is the only time I usually get to visit.
Ashley: She was able to attend the July one, also. So, this is her second Camp Reunite.
Ariah: In the summer one, you get to go swimming.
Interviewer: Wow! How about this week? What was your favorite present that you got today?
Ariah: Headphones. (Ariah received a set of headphones with cat ears on top.)
Ashley: Those were super cool. I need a pair of those for myself.
Interviewer: What about you, Mom? What does this program mean to you?
Ashley: This program means the world. Under the circumstances, this is the only time I'm actually able to see my daughter. This program has been able to open the door with me and my daughter with communication, and the love that we share between mother and child. I think that the biggest part, amidst the gifts and everything…it's very, very nice, but I do want to stress that having the relationship and the communication between me and my daughter has been the biggest gift of all. The biggest gift of all for me.
Interviewer: So, it's not just about the holiday events today, but overall being able to bond with your daughter, and have a sense of normalcy today?
Ashley: Absolutely. And…today, we get a little free rein. Even the difference between having a visit on site and having this, we have a lot of movement which is awesome. And a lot of entertainment for the children, more focused on the entertainment…which is amazing. Because honestly, she's never come to see me on the other side with visitation, but I can tell you right now this is way better.
Ariah: Because then all you get to see is them through the glass.
Ashley: In County (jail), yeah.
Ariah: And you only play with you and your mom instead of other children, too.
Interviewer: So, that is kind of a fun aspect. You get to play with everybody when these happen, right?
Ariah: And you also get to make new friends.
Ashley: Yep. Friends that are going through the same thing, right?
Ariah: (Nods in agreement)
Interviewer: That's great. How helpful is that, to be around kids who are going through the same thing?
Ariah: I thought I was the only one who had that (referring to having a parent who is incarcerated.) But now I know that I'm not.
Ashley: That's important.
Interviewer: That's really good. Is there anything else either of you would like to add?
Ashley: Anything I can do in my power to help here, and be able to donate my time, I would be happy to do that.
Interviewer: Is it safe to say after you complete your time in the institution, this is a program you would love to volunteer for, or even help start more of these Camp weeks?
Ashley: Absolutely. Being a supporter for the moms, being able to say I've been there, I'm thankful for the program, and I would just do anything to share the joy with other mothers here…getting the right education to the moms about this program is important, too. If we can create time where we can explain the program a little better, a little more fully about the situation, that would open up the opportunity to many other women and PIOCs (Persons In Our Care).
Interviewer: Kind of get it more well known, not just maybe at Taycheedah, but at other institutions and facilities, as well?
Ashley: Correct. And it gives you a big incentive ... I'm so happy. This program is wonderful. The people who do the camp … they're not just Camp Reunite, I understand that they have their own camp (Hometown Heroes). I appreciate the time, and they really bond with the children. (Talking to Ariah) And you got your hair braided by one of them last night? Which was so nice.
Ariah: And we can go to the other cabin with the older girls, we can go over there. And I know the other counselors…I basically know every counselor.
Ashley: That's good! And you're able to talk to them and everything?
Ariah: Yeah. We can talk to them.
Interviewer: (To Ariah) What's your favorite part about staying overnight at the camp?
Ariah: Probably that we get to run around, and we get to watch movies…and we get to see the other girls and play with them, too.
Viviana and Nathan
Interviewer: (To Nathan) How are you feeling about today?
Nathan: I like it. I like that I get to see my mom.
Interviewer: What do you and your mom like to do together during the holidays?
Viviana: Cook and eat, watch movies…
Nathan: Play video games.
Interviewer: You're doing a lot of that here today it looks like! What's your favorite part of today with your mom?
Nathan: Probably getting to see her and do stuff with her.
Interviewer: What's been your favorite activity to do with your mom today?
Nathan: Probably making this calendar (one of the many craft projects offered during the event.)
Interviewer: How about you, Viviana?
Viviana: My favorite part is going to be opening presents. It's been a lot of fun so far.
Interviewer: Is there anything you could tell us about the program and what it means to you?
Viviana: We're really thankful that this is even a thing. I know that not a lot of other facilities get to do something like this. And I know for the people that have a lot of time away from the family, it's really hard to stay connected and to really keep that bond. So, we get to spend a lot of quality time today. It's really fantastic.
Interviewer: Is this a type of program you'd like to see expanding into other institutions if possible?
Viviana: Absolutely. It's really important for mothers and fathers both to remember that children are our priority. A lot of the time, regardless of the mistakes and the bad choices we made, we can always turn everything around for them. For the first year that I was here, I didn't really get to see Nathan a lot. So as time went on…as your day-to-day life goes on here, it's hard to remember how it feels to be a mom. So, I feel like this program is really amazing because it really helps us to still focus, and stay connected. It's really important to stay connected.
Interviewer: That connection is important.
Viviana: Yes. And I really like that this program focuses on trauma and a lot of things like that. There's a lot of things that our kids don't realize that we're all going through, and we have the opportunity here to talk to them, and really bring these things to light. We can say to them, “our lives here aren't so easy." But today is a really different ambiance. We feel more human today than other days. It's really good for us to remember. It definitely helps you to stay motivated, as well.
To learn more about Camp Reunite and how you can help these programs grow, please visit www.campreunite.org.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Matthew Reuter has been sober for more than a year, an accomplishment he admits he never thought would happen. Reuter, 34, says he started experimenting with substances at just 14 years old. By age 20, his substance use had worsened and he entered the criminal justice system. That's when he says everything began to go “downhill."
Fast forward to September 2022. The Division of Community Corrections (DCC) held its first “180 Award" ceremony, where DCC clients on community supervision were recognized for their hard work and dedication to their recovery, and for making a complete 180 in their lives. Reuter was among the names called during the ceremony.
He learned about his recognition when his Probation and Parole agent, Samantha Damijan, called him to deliver the good news. “She told me she had some cool and exciting news," says Reuter. “She shared the nomination and award ceremony information with me. It was really cool as I was also celebrating my graduation from the Dane County Drug Treatment Court Program."
Dane County's Drug Treatment Court Program works to enhance public safety through the reduction of recidivism by coordinating effective and accountable treatment and supportive services for people with substance use disorders. Every participant is assessed and receives an individualized treatment plan. The Drug Court team works to help participants achieve the goals outlined in their treatment plan.
In the nomination form, his agent noted, “Mr. Reuter has truly done a 180 in life, he started off on supervision struggling with employment, his sobriety, and having nowhere to live, he is now finishing the Drug Court Program, he has a home, a good job that he is successful in and is working on repairing his relationship with his daughter. Being a part of his journey has been so exciting for me and everyone else who has gotten to work with him, and is so great to see what someone can do when they really set out to do the work and make the changes."
Reuter's journey to get to this point was long and not without difficulty. “I was in and out of prison and jail all of the time and recognized that's no way to live. I had no freedom, not from a prison cell or my substance use."
When Reuter was released from jail in October 2021, he immediately relapsed. “I used the first night out, and that was it. That was the end of my use. Something in me snapped and I knew that it was a life I no longer wanted, and I really started setting goals for myself."
But Reuter recognized he couldn't do it alone, a practice reinforced in Drug Court. “I began reaching out. I learned reaching out and asking for help was okay, and I began talking and opening up about things … that has really helped me."
When asked what this award means to him after such a long struggle with substance use, Reuter stated, “To me, the award celebrates the accomplishment of a goal... It's something that blows my mind. I never thought I would be sitting here in this position, even a year ago I would not believe I could have done this."
The Award Ceremony was organized by DCC Clinical Supervisor Holly Stanelle and her Treatment Unit team. The Treatment Unit is the first of its kind in DCC, and helps to increase critical treatment and programming services to persons in the community on probation, parole and extended supervision. Stanelle noted the importance of this unit, stating, “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."
For Reuter, sobriety and treatment offers a glimpse into a now hopeful future for him and his family. “What I am looking forward to most in the future is getting my kid back, having her in my life and being involved in hers," he states.
In all, thirty-one DCC clients on community supervision in Wisconsin were honored with “180 Awards." Each received a certificate, a copy of their nomination submission and a token medallion to celebrate.
(RACINE, Wis.) – It is often difficult to find the proper channels and motivation to express creativity while incarcerated. Institutions offer classes and programs that allow those in DOC care to engage in learning opportunities, however, these resources can only go so far. One group of men at Racine Correctional Institution (RCI) has found a way to not only express themselves on paper, but to also share their truth with those around them.
Prose & Cons is a creative writing group made up of persons in DOC care. The members of Prose & Cons often showcase their talents by performing spoken word and poetry at institution graduations and putting on their own productions at RCI. The men meet weekly in a group setting, often completing homework assignments and sharing pieces with one another.
Many of the men involved in this group have at least some prior writing experience, but few have dabbled in spoken word. Through Prose & Cons, they enjoy the opportunity to share their work, to learn from each other and to be part of something bigger than just themselves.
Pros & Cons' most recent performance took place at the end of October, as the men put on an original production titled A Matter of Time for institution staff and persons in DOC care. The production focused on the lifecycle of a person in DOC care from arrest to release, and in the final scene, showed how individuals can have a positive impact after release by reaching back out to those still incarcerated.
After a successful opening night, the group wanted to give thanks to their fearless leader, Ms. Pritzlaff, who also serves as the librarian at RCI. They insisted that without Ms. Pritzlaff, none of their work would be possible.
The members of Prose & Cons stuck around after the performance to talk more about the reason for their involvement with this group, as well as their motivation for writing and sharing their work with others.
Can you talk about why you decided to join Prose & Cons?
It's one of the few genuine outlets for self- expression that's not regulated in any type of way. Between ourselves, we are able to be authentic, we don't have to worry about judgement in any way shape or form or fashion. Also, as far as the structure of it, it's constructive because we all hold each other accountable for this production. We all had to make sure we were all here on time, make sure nobody was being sent to the hole. We had to put our egos to the side. That's why I'm involved with this group personally, because it's one of the positive things that is an outlet for self-expression.
Prose & Cons came to me at a time where I had a lot of pain in my heart, a lot of grief, and I was going through a lot. And a lot of my poetry expresses that, after my loss… it's allowed me to express myself creatively and release that pain in a positive manner instead of holding it in and doing something destructive or hurting myself or hurting someone else. So it's given me that outlet and provided me with a stepping stone to elevate and progress in life, and I really appreciate having this.
There's a truth that we all have that everybody knows. They can Google it, they can read it in a newspaper, see it on the news, but then there's the truth in us they don't know. Or a bettering of ourselves, like a reconciliation, a reformation, and that's the truth we're trying to work towards. The criminal part is the past.
Creative expression is a way of retaining my sanity in an environment that is quite often insane.
Not many times do you get to work with people of all different races, all different backgrounds, different ages, and this brings us all together. And I think I can call all these gentlemen my brothers.
Prose & Cons for me is therapy. You know, when my mother passed away, I was in darkness, and it helped me navigate back towards the light.
I love Prose & Cons because it's very therapeutic for me, and I, within myself, am a voice for the voiceless. I'm big on mental health, so for me just professing spoken word, I feel like it manifests good for humanity.
For me, Prose & Cons comes with artistic expression and it's a representation of freedom. I've always been a huge fan of poetry and spoken work and I've always wanted to be a part of that, so this right here kind of gave me my wings to express that.
It gives me a sense of purpose, you know. It gives me a chance to share my work, because I love writing and I always have. I learn so much from each and every one of these guys with their different styles and expressions and types of poetry, spoken word has been my opening, honestly.
For me, it's like expressing the property of words. Hearing others' truths, where they come from, their backgrounds, expressing my background and where I come from, just coming together collectively to work with this group of guys. I'd work with you all any day, I appreciate all your hard work, and keep up the good work.
Did any of you have experience with poetry or spoken word prior to joining Prose & Cons?
I've written extensively. I write short stories and plays, I dabbled in writing little songs and stuff like that. But something like this? No. This is, even if you were able to attend one of our classes, this is a writer's group of talented men. We have homework assignments every week and we bring them to group the next week, it would blow you away the things that some of these gentlemen come up with in a week's time. This is a really talented group of gentlemen. I've been involved with this since 2018, and when I first joined, I was almost scared to get up and read my little stuff in front of them, because there's some really talented guys that come through here. But through their tutelage and being around them and pick little things up, I've grown as a writer, and I know it's the same for everybody else because I hear the progression in their craft.
Before this class, I wrote back when I was younger, but I never really stuck with it. When I came here, it's like, it gives me an outlet and a voice to voice my opinions, especially with the things I'm dealing with and going through. It's given me that voice to share that in a positive manner because when you hold all of that in, it can manifest and you can either allow it to electrify, or allow it to deteriorate.
For me, I started writing in February after I was sentenced. And I had to do it as a way to rebuild who I thought I was. The opposite of writing is reading, and when you read, you get to live a life of whatever it is you're reading. You could read one thousand lives. In writing, we get to write our lives, and everyone gets to read that too. We get to feel the healing from other members of group, the learning we get from everyone in group, I love this group, I do.
I've been writing for a couple of years now, working on screenplay writing and short stories. I entered a few writing and poetry contests and stuff like that, so that's how I kind of got into it. I came to this prison and bumped into these guys and got into Prose and Cons, but poetry and creative writing has always been the backbone of my foundation while incarcerated, because in a lot of our situations, we've been incarcerated in these confined and condensed cells for years, especially during the pandemic, so when you write, that's a form of therapy. It takes your mind out of prison bars. I also love poetry because there are guys that have their own demons, they don't know how to express that. So when I get up here, I mostly represent or express poetry so I can be a voice for them so they can relate to that.
There's a song called I Wrote My Way Out, and I feel that here, that's what we get an opportunity to do. We get a chance to write our way out.
It really is an escape. We've been working on this production for 3-4 months now, but it seems like it went in like a couple weeks, because there's so much that goes into it, getting input from everybody. It constructs your time different, and you really don't have time to do anything else. The time just goes.
Can you tell me about some of the challenges that come along with being part of this group? How do guys in this group challenge you, and how do you go on to challenge each other?
I've never dealt with rap or other forms of poetry, I'm a Robert Frost person. But I can sit down now, and some of these gentlemen can testify, I can write a little bit of rap. I can be part of the group, and that's one thing that's allowing me to grow. I'm able to be a member of the community, and that's what I like."
I'm still young, I got a little bit of a ways to go in life, thank God. But for me coming into this class, not only this environment being in prison, but I've always had a problem with speaking and other people's opinions about just what men go through on a day-to-day basis. It could be relationship, family problems, whatever, but this class made me more confident about myself and with that, seeing everybody uplift each other, I can actually help my family and be more supportive of them. So that was one thing that drove me down a little bit, but I'm actually starting to open up.
It challenges me to stay focused because for me, if left on my own, I would be in the hole a lot if left to my own will and desire. So Prose and Cons helps me stay focused, it challenges me to be focused all the time. There are at least a couple incidents I wouldn't have let go if I didn't have this show to do. This actually challenges me to stay focused because I don't want to let my brothers down.
I want to elaborate on not letting each other down. Coming into this, it was a lot of pressure for me. I came in on short notice, I didn't want to let these guys down and I appreciate these guys giving me a chance to come in here and articulate words and express it so other people can understand where I come from.
As far as obstacles and things of that nature, there are a lot of things that people want to do within the DOC that kind of get stonewalled. But because this is a positive thing, through the course of time I've been involved with this, the DOC has permitted or advocated for us to do more and more. We perform twice a year at the graduations now, we recently shot a documentary, so there's a lot of things they've given us the leeway to do… And you can tell in the performance that this is genuine.
Accountability has already been mentioned, but I think another element of this group is that we do challenge each other with feedback and ideas. That challenge is a good thing because when you come together, you suddenly discover that someone might have a different perspective than you do that is actually a valid perspective. Maybe I don't agree with what he said, but I can understand where he's coming from. When we share our poems in class and such, you'll find sometimes someone will say something that you never would have conceived of before, that has suddenly opened your world to something new. So I find that to be a really great challenge.
For me personally, it was really hard for me to accept someone else's feedback and tell me that you should do this or you should do that, and pretty much tell you how to tell your own story. But taking everybody's stories and being able to mold them into something and create something, it's a beautiful thing and it was a challenge for us, for everybody to accept that criticism. It allowed us to communicate with each other and build that communication.
For us, we've got to get our truth out there, and that's not easy. As men, we're taught to hide and to be undercover and whatnot. My very first time in class, I cried, and I've been brought to tears at other times. I've had other people come and ask me about me because they wanted to get to know me. So you've got to be honest and get it out there."
Opening for Act 1
Excerpt 1 from Prose & Cons
Excerpt 2 from Prose & Cons
Individual Piece - Prose & Cons
|Prose and Cons Program from "A Matter of Time"
(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Kevin Carr welcomed Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Randy Romanski Thursday for a tour of DOC's Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE) agriculture facilities in Waupun. The two walked the grounds at BCE's Waupun Farm for a look at the operation there, including the facility's new transition barn, part of a $6 million facilities project.
The barn, which has 260 stalls, was completed in 2021 and includes sand beds to improve cow comfort. This is part of BCE's continued efforts to promote a healthy and productive dairy herd. Across the U.S., the average milk cow produces 68 lbs. of milk per day. Cows at the Waupun Farm produce an average of 90 lbs. of milk per day.
“A more-productive herd means more money for our operations," noted BCE Director Wes Ray, who led the tour. “We're almost entirely self-funded. So, the more money we make, the more we can re-invest in our facilities and the more people in DOC care we can offer jobs and training."
The Waupun Farm, along with the Waupun Dairy where the milk is ultimately processed, are both staffed by BCE employees, as well as men in the custody of DOC at John C. Burke Correctional Center in Waupun.
“It was great to have the Department of Corrections host a tour of the Waupun Farm and Dairy. These are impressive facilities," said DATCP Sec. Romanski. “There are a lot of needs in the workforce right now. With the programs DOC has in place, they are offering training that builds job skills for people in correctional facilities. This can provide an opportunity to hone their skillsets and possibly find employment when they return to the community."
“This farm provides a tremendous opportunity for persons in our care to work in an environment that provides them with jobs skills that I believe are not only going to allow them to pursue a career in agriculture when they leave our care, but these will be transferrable to many other industries," added DOC Sec. Carr.
In addition to the transition barn, the secretaries toured the farm's milking parlor and the hutches where calves were being fed. They also spoke with a few of the men working at the farm who are learning skills related to the agriculture industry, and soft skills applicable to many jobs.
“Working long hours, getting my body in shape … Also, patience in dealing with different people from different backgrounds, and operating different machinery. I've learned a lot here and I continue to learn every day," Anthony said.
“Discipline, getting up in the morning, showing up for work, being part of a team, being on time for each assignment you have while you're here," added Bernie.
After touring the Waupun Farm, Sec. Romanski toured BCE's Waupun Dairy, where the raw milk from the dairy herd is processed into skim milk, ice cream and sherbet. BCE is not allowed to compete with private businesses to sell these products to the general public. Instead, its primary customers are the Wisconsin DOC, Wisconsin Department of Health Services' facilities, and Minnesota Department of Corrections facilities. In fiscal year 2021, the dairy produced:
89,000 five-gallon containers of skim milk
350,000 cases of skim milk half-pints
18,000 cases of ice cream
7,000 cases of sherbet
For Sec. Carr, the job training and rehabilitative aspects of the operation are as important as the production of the herd and annual sales. He explains that BCE workers are re-incarcerated at a lower rate than comparable persons in DOC care who did not work for BCE. Data shows 75% of BCE workers have not returned to DOC custody three years after release.
“Ninety-five percent of the persons in our care are going to return to our communities. That's just a fact. So, when they're in our care, we have every obligation to try and provide as many of those folks in our care as possible, with the skills, training and treatment to be successful when they leave us and not return to custody. That's the most cost-effective form of public safety."
BCE workers apply for their jobs. They have to have a high school degree or equivalent, and they must maintain a clean discipline record to keep their jobs.
The Waupun Farm, one of two farms managed by BCE, is approximately 1,650 acres. The primary crops - alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and wheat – are grown primarily for consumption by the Holstein dairy herd, which includes around 360 milk cows.
Since 2017, BCE has earned annual, formal recognition from DATCP for producing high-quality milk and maintaining noteworthy farm conditions.
(PLYMOUTH, Wis.) — Enoch Arteaga had not seen his children in person for two years. The long stretch had nothing to do with living too far apart. His kids were a relatively short drive away. It also wasn't because he didn't want to see them. Their absence in his life was solely due to him being incarcerated.
“This is something that we don't get. So, the moments I can get with them, it means more," Arteaga said while painting wooden cars with his children at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (KMCI) earlier this month. “Especially seeing them grow, and having gaps where I don't see them, it's something incredibly special."
Arteaga's kids were among the roughly 30 boys and girls participating in Camp Reunite, 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).
Camp Reunite included two trips to KMCI, where the kids had extended visits with their fathers. Hometown Heroes began offering Camp Reunite to the children of men incarcerated at KMCI in 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, previous camps only offered father-child interactions through video visits. This summer marked the first time campers came in person.
“It's been amazing. Three years coming," said Timothy Gessner, Corrections Program Supervisor at KMCI. “Virtual, virtual, virtual. And now to have them in person, seeing their faces light up. We went to camp yesterday and got to talk to the kids, and just seeing how excited they were to come to KMCI today, and then to see them embrace their dads was a pretty neat feeling."
Children with an incarcerated parent often feel forgotten or left behind, and can struggle with feelings of anger, frustration, low self-esteem and motivation. Along with traditional recreational summer camp activities, Camp Reunite promotes mental health while providing hope, healing and resiliency through the strengthening of the connection between children and their incarcerated parent.
Youth who attend the camp fill out surveys using a “Hope Scale" to measure the level of hope they feel at a point in time. Hometown Heroes says those surveys reveal that campers feel increased hope at the end of camp. And caregivers of the campers have noted a lasting resilience in the children after they attend Camp Reunite.
“I think most importantly, (the experience) lets them know Dad's safe. He's okay." Arteaga explained. “And just lets them know that I'm here. I'm with them even if I'm separate from them. I still think about them all day."
The visits to KMCI are less restrictive than normal visits to a secure correctional facility. They include both indoor and outdoor recreation areas inside the institution's fence, where the families can move about somewhat freely and enjoy activities like cornhole, frisbee, football, soccer, painting, board games, face painting and photo booths.
“These visits are so much different than your normal in-person visits on a daily basis, so being able to interact at a more human level is huge," said KMCI Sgt. Kelsey Kemnitz
“I think it kind of makes it feel a little less like prison. You still remember where you're at, while having this less-restricted visit where they can embrace more, and play these games and be outside doing actual physical activities – throwing the football around, things like that," Gessner added.
“Some of these kids hadn't seen their dads for a long time. So, to open this up in this way, with this type of lack of restrictions, and activities and games and things to do, you can see it in their faces how much it impacts them. Just running up and embracing their dad when they came in, it was pretty powerful."
Camp Reunite is a collaboration unique to Hometown Heroes and the Wisconsin DOC. The program started in 2018 at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), 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. Since then, a winter version of Camp Reunite was added at TCI, and the program was also expanded to a men's institution, KMCI, in 2020.
Sgt. Kemnitz worked at TCI before transferring to KMCI, where she serves on the institution committee responsible for facilitating Camp Reunite. While noting it takes a large effort to pull off the extended visits, she believes the program has a positive impact on staff, as well as the parents and kids.
“It literally takes an entire institution to make one day, two days, a week happen," Sgt. Kemnitz said. “It was amazing how many people started coming out of the woodworks who weren't even part of the committee or didn't previously have interest, and this last week said, 'Hey, what can I do to help?'"
Part of this program is being able to join all the disciplinary teams and say, 'Hey, we're all still people. It doesn't matter if you're wearing gray or green and I'm wearing blue.'"
(BEAVER DAM, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) and Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC) celebrated the results of a collaborative vocational education program last Thursday, July 28, on the College's Beaver Dam campus.
Six men in DOC care at the minimum-security John C. Burke Correctional Center (JBCC) received their certificate of completion from a 12-week, 12-credit program offered by the College. The men received lab and classroom instruction at MPTC's Beaver Dam campus, learning how to perform basic welding processes, interpret blueprints, apply welding symbols and operate equipment.
“Being able to learn the team-building, problem-solving and other commonly used skills in real world manufacturing and management roles is going to be a great tool for me in my future career path," said Jeremy Thompson. “I took the initiative to enroll in this program expecting a basic understanding of some welding processes, and I walked away with a reinforced understanding and ability to use advanced math and blueprint reading, as well as very thorough knowledge and skill of setting up and performing GMAW, which is known as MIG welding, and GTAW, which is known as TIG welding."
All six men who started the training went on to complete the program. DOC worked with DWD Apprenticeship staff on getting this program approved as a certified Pre-Apprenticeship program. As a leader in apprenticeship, Wisconsin relies heavily on partnerships to develop high-quality, effective programs that address the state's workforce needs. This program helps participants develop new skills and prepare for Registered Apprenticeship opportunities.
DOC also worked with the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin (WDBSCW) to combine funding sources to enroll participants in this program. The students received a total of $2,850 through their work in the program and they will also receive a $100 completion bonus.
During his remarks, Sec. Kevin Carr thanked all the groups and people involved in the collaboration.
“I can talk all day about all the people, partnerships and resources it took to reach this day, but at the end of the day, it came down to the will and drive of our graduates," Carr said during the completion ceremony. “You all set a goal, made a commitment and then worked hard to complete this program. You should be extremely proud of what you've accomplished."
The students began their training in March and finished in June. More than 60% of persons in DOC care have five years or less left to serve on their sentence. DOC's mission includes providing opportunities and tools people will need to be successful when they return to the community.
(MADISON, Wis.) — When Probation and Parole Agent Intern Stephanie Faudoa thinks about her summer internship with the Department of Corrections (DOC), she reflects on the impact of her mentor from the Division of Community Corrections (DCC).
“My mentor and supervisor have allowed me to take my leadership skills to a new level," Faudoa states. “They have allowed me to become more knowledgeable in the legal system as well as helped me to not be afraid to challenge myself . . . they have taught me to lead with passion, dedication, and most importantly, hard work."
This summer, Faudoa has gained a variety of experiences including effectively communicating with clients, reading and writing legal documents, conducting office visits, and learning how custodies are conducted.
Faudoa is one of 15 interns working at the DOC this summer as part of the State of Wisconsin Student Diversity Internship Program (SWSDIP). Since its creation in 1974, the program has placed nearly 4,000 students in summer internship positions throughout the state.
This year, more than 190 internship opportunities were offered throughout all state agencies. Candidates were selected out of a pool of over 850 qualified applicants. The opportunity provides students interested in public service with professional work experiences and a chance to dip their toes into the public sector.
When Melany Lorge, Facility Manager Intern for the Bureau of Budget and Facility Management in the Division of Management Services (DMS) looks back on how her experience has been this summer, she thinks about the impact of her team, stating, “I think what surprised me the most is the amazing team that I've worked with during my time here so far. Everyone has been incredibly open to teaching and helping advance any goals that I might have for my time at the DOC.
“On top of that, they are all genuine people, and it has been a pleasure to get to know everyone and work on their team. Their attitude toward their jobs has shown me what I am striving for in the future . . . Going forward, I know that I will compare a lot of my future jobs to the experience that I had here and know what work culture I operate the best in."
For potential candidates thinking about applying to the program for next summer, both Lorge and Faudoa had insightful advice to give:
“My advice for someone coming into the program next summer would be to not be afraid of change," states Faudoa. “There are many times in our lives that change is viewed as something that is scary. Although, the way I look at it is that change can actually be beautiful and it can push us to reach goals we never thought possible. It is through change that a person finds their true self and without change, people wouldn't know the wonders of their true potential."
“My advice would be to really evaluate what you want out of the internship before you get started," states Lorge. “The people here really want to make this the best experience for you as possible, and they are willing to mentor in a variety of different ways! My boss has made it abundantly clear that I can choose to shadow any position that I am interested in. Try not to be intimidated by the size of the department overall. Having a large state department to work for, means that you have more resources and connections to explore!"
To learn more or apply, visit the State of Wisconsin Student Diversity Internship Program website here. Individuals are encouraged to monitor this site early and often for the most up-to-date information.
|Interns Stephanie Faudoa (L) and Melany Lorge (R) are part of the State of Wisconsin Diversity Internship Program (SWSDIP) working at the Department of Corrections this summer.
(MADISON, Wis) — The National PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) Coordinator Working Group recently selected its Chair and Vice Chair for the next two years. The incoming officers are Chairperson Leigha Weber, who has served as the PREA Director for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) since 2018, and Vice Chair Jason Effman, Associate Commissioner and PREA Coordinator for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
We recently spoke with them about the National PREA Coordinator Working Group, its work and goals for the future.
First off, for those not familiar, what is the Prison Rape Elimination Act or PREA?
Weber: PREA became federal law in 2003 after being passed with unanimous congressional support. The legislation requires confinement facilities – like prisons, jails, halfway houses, and youth detention – to establish policies and implement procedures that will eliminate sexual abuse and sexual harassment of people in our care. It's zero tolerance in practice – so that facilities are safer and people return to our communities healthier.
And what is the National PREA Coordinator Working Group?
Effman: We are a group of agency PREA coordinators/directors from states across the country focused on organizing communication on PREA issues while working with federal partners to identify meaningful ways to help prevent sexual abuse in confinement settings. The National PREA Coordinators Working Group was formed to facilitate collaboration amongst the agency-wide PREA Coordinators for the states and the United States Territories, and to serve as a collective voice for these Corrections Professionals on important policy and practice matters.
How is it helpful to the agencies involved?
Weber: The group facilitates collaboration among the state correctional agencies involved in reaching shared goals, including operationalization of the National PREA standards and, ultimately, prevention of sexual abuse. The group also serves as a collective voice in response to common and evolving challenges faced by PREA coordinators among state, county and private agencies.
Effman: By working together, we help each other identify promising practices and innovative strategies. We also offer support to peers who are newer to this work.
How long has this group been together?
Weber: Just a few years. The Working Group came from discussions at the 2019 PREA Coordinators National Conference. Currently, Coordinators from nine states make up the PREA Working Group. In this relatively short amount of time, we've developed a strong working relationship with the PREA Resource Center (PRC), which has shown to be mutually valuable. For example, we've had the opportunity to offer our collective perspective and solutions on auditing issues created by the pandemic; review technology and tools for use in the field; and partner on conference planning.
What other groups do you work with?
Effman: We have ongoing communications with the U.S. Department of Justice, PREA Management Office (PMO) and other national subject matter experts in the field like Just Detention International and The Moss Group. We hope to cultivate a reciprocal partnership with the PMO in response to the development of best practices, as the PMO/PRC continue to refine protocols primarily around the audit process.
Weber: We believe the experience of the members of the National PREA Coordinator Working Group is diverse, vast, meaningful and practical – all of which helps our partners develop strategies and solutions that have real-life value.
Leigha Weber has been with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections' PREA Office since 2014. She is a certified USDOJ PREA Auditor. Prior to joining Wisconsin DOC, she oversaw all major service delivery functions as the Director of Social Services for The Salvation Army of Dane County. She came to Madison from San Diego, where she was the Community Health Program Manager for the Transitional Case Management Program, a joint re-entry initiative of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the University of California-San Diego.
Jason Effman has been Associate Commissioner at the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision since 2013. He was certified by the USDOJ as a PREA Auditor in 2015. He has been with NYS DOCCS since 1999 where he started as an Assistant Counsel. He started working on policy and practice issues pertaining to sexual abuse and misconduct through litigation and regulatory compliance in 2003. Since 2005, he has been representing NYS DOCCS in national activities related to the implementation of PREA. He is also a member of the New York State Interagency LGBTQ Task Force, has served as a subject matter expert on projects with the National Institute of Corrections, and had the privilege of serving in an advisory capacity on the DOJ/PREA Resource Center project to develop the PREA Audit Instrument.
|Incoming officers Chairperson Leigha Weber (L), PREA Director for Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Vice Chair Jason Effman (R), Associate Commissioner and PREA Coordinator for New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
(MADISON, Wis.) — Many take pride in Wisconsin's label as “America's Dairyland." With Wisconsin accounting for 14% of U.S milk production and producing a record number of 31.7 billion pounds of milk in 2021 according to the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, the impact of Wisconsin on the dairy industry is undeniable.
The impact of dairy can even be seen in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). DOC's Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE) has many agricultural sites. Two farms near Oregon and Waupun & Fox Lake have a total of approximately 1,000 cows, with 550 to 600 milking cows at a given time. Each milking cow generally produces 90 pounds of milk per day, surpassing the national average by about 24 pounds or 35%, according to Wes Ray, director of BCE. None of the milk produced goes to waste either – any unprocessed milk is used to feed the calves.
Part of how employees accurately track milk production is through a radio frequency ID ear tag on each cow. Employees utilize the software, DairyCOMP 305, to track the production lifecycle of a cow, every lactation, and the amount of milk produced during lactation. This allows staff to make data-informed decisions.
But dairy isn't the only thing being produced at these farms. The self-sufficiency of the farms and dairy allows workers opportunities to learn skills, work on a team and receive some much-needed funds.
Persons in DOC's Care from Oakhill Correctional Institution are employed at Oregon farm, and individuals from the John Burke Correctional Center are employed at the Waupun & Fox Lake farms and Waupun dairy. As members of these teams, they are provided training and work experience that help lead to success in prison and in the community upon re-entry.
One BCE worker reflects on how working at Waupun dairy has set him up for success before he returns to the community. Starting work folding half-pint containers and moving to roles with more responsibility, he's managed to network and impress employers on the farm, stating, “I have jobs lined up once I get out. People I've met while here have already told me when this is over, you've got a job."
According to BCE's outreach brochure, within three years after being released, 88% of former BCE workers are employed, and 71% have not returned to DOC custody. Additionally, Ray says when former BCE workers get out, they have generally $3,000 more in their accounts than non-BCE workers. This money helps workers pay restitution and provides a little financial cushion. “I think it gives people a little more room to make the decisions they ought to make," Ray shared.
Through roles on the farm and at the dairy, BCE's mission of providing jobs and training for persons in DOC's care to enhance public safety and lead to long-term success has been highly impactful. Learn more about BCE's mission and benefits to those in DOC's care here.