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​(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:


(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

“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."


(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.) — 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 (


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 or call Royal Credit Union at 800-341-9911 for more information.


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​(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'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

  • Resume writing

  • 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.

by Jessica Wagner, Safety/Service & Transition Manager, Wisconsin Bureau of Correctional Enterprises

(​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.

Photo by National Commission on Correctional Health Care

​(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.) — 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 em​ployees 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.

Renovations began in May 2021 and most major cosmetic changes have been completed, but there are still a few more exciting changes coming.
9/2/2021Volunteers in the LHS/CLS Foster Grandparents Program accept their 2021 Governor's Service Award

(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:

  • “I just wanted to give back to the community and I saw there was an opening there and I enjoy working with kids."
  • “It gives me a reason to get up in the morning."
  • “I like helping kids and motivating them to learn!"

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 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. 

Jack is a supported worker who has been employed with the DOC for 31 years and is a familiar face at Central Office.

(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.

The recidivism report below provides recidivism rate trends and recidivism rates by gender, age at release, race, length of prison stay and original offense type for all three measures of recidivism.

​(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 cele​brate 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."


​(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  


(​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.​

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