(MADISON, Wis.) — April 18-24, 2021 is National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW), a week dedicated to raising awareness of victims' rights and services, highlighting programs, celebrating progress achieved and honoring victims and those who advocate on their behalf. NCVRW also creates an opportunity for communities to come together and reflect on the history of crime victims' rights. This year's themes are Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.
In the spirit of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, DOC's Office of Victim Services and Programs (OVSP) director, Elizabeth Lucas, spoke about how her office helps crime victims and the great work being done to support crime victims year-round:
What are a few things you'd like people to know about OVSP and the work your office does for crime victims?
I'd really like people both within the agency and members of the public to know that we're a great resource for anything victim-related. For example, if there are agents or correctional officers or other folks who come into contact with a victim and have no place to start, OVSP can be that starting point for them. If the folks at OVSP can't help them, we can link them to someone who can help them. Not only are we a good advocacy office for victims, but we're a good connector office.
The goal of OVSP is to promote safety and restore some control in the lives of victims and others impacted by crime. When someone becomes a victim of crime, it's often something they never expected to happen in their life, and it's not something they can ever prepare for. When someone becomes a victim of crime, it can shift a person's worldview when they're traumatized in that way – it's a real shift that doesn't just affect them in one way.
Part of what OVSP has found to be helpful is assisting victims in feeling like they can maintain some level of control over the decisions being made throughout the various processes they encounter. Victims often do not have much control over situations within the criminal justice system, and that can be difficult. They don't have control of whether their perpetrator is convicted, whether they will be incarcerated, or whether they are remorseful for their actions. Victims also cannot control the healing process, whether it's self-healing or the healing of a loved one. That's where OVSP comes in to try to make victims feel some semblance of control by providing as much information as possible and also providing trauma-informed support.
What are a few other ways that OVSP helps victims of crime?
There are four main things that OVSP does for victims:
- Notification Services through DOC NOTIS; we send out letters and emails to victims enrolled in our office, keeping them updated on any person in DOC's care or under community supervision
- Parole and Revocation Information; we act as a support person for victims throughout the parole and revocation process, and we provide information to them. OVSP tries to make it clear that we don't have any authority over parole decisions or recommendations, we are strictly there as a support person for them.
- Restorative Justice; there are a variety of ways for victims to communicate with persons in DOC's care, assuming that's what they want, or try to find some sense of understanding about what has happened to them. We're able to do this through our partnership with the UW Law School.
- Administration, Support and Technical Assistance for the Wisconsin VINE program; this is a service provided by OVSP in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, and it anonymously provides information and notifications regarding persons in custody in county jails to victims, law enforcement and the community.
What are some of the best ways for a victim of a crime or a loved one of a victim of crime to get in touch with your office?
Right now there are two ways that are best to contact us. The preferred way is for people to email us, because we're all working remotely right now. The general OVSP email box can be reached at DOCOVSPAdmin@wisconsin.gov. We also have a phone number that rings in our office, and these messages are checked daily. The local number is 608-240-5888, and the toll-free number is 1-800-947-5777. We also encourage folks to check out our public web page here for additional information and resources.
We strongly encourage our outside partners, such as District Attorneys and Law Enforcement, and our internal partners such as agents and anyone involved with possible victims to refer these folks to OVSP or to call our office to take it from there if that's helpful.
One thing that I want to mention is that OVSP will help any victim who calls or reaches out to our office. However, our primary area of expertise is working with victims post-conviction. There are lots of victim agencies out there – a lot of times, victims are working with their local victim witness office or a community-based victim advocate throughout the trial or arrest process. OVSP doesn't become involved until a person is convicted and transferred into the custody of the Department of Corrections.
Elizabeth also shared a few key accomplishments of her office within the last fiscal year. OVSP has proudly surpassed all of its grant objectives and goals by issuing over 33,000 notifications to victims (goal was 18,000), notifying 1,634 victims of parole hearings (goal was 1,200), assisting 610 victims within the revocation process (goal was 90) and providing information and support related to Persons in our Care to 11,344 unique victims (goal was 1,800).
The DOC is proud of the work being done by the Office of Victim Services and Programs and would like to recognize their achievements as we also celebrate the 40th anniversary of NCVRW.
(MADISON, Wis.) – The latest report from the court-ordered Monitor for Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) was filed Tuesday and, for the sixth straight report, the Monitor found DOC in partial or substantial compliance with every aspect of the consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit against the previous administration over conditions at LHS/CLS.
The Monitor visited the schools on March 19, accompanied by an attorney from the ACLU, and interviewed 48 youth and 33 staff members. The 9th report of the Monitor noted, overall, a “significant improvement in many key areas and in the overall atmosphere" at LHS/CLS, while also pointing out some areas for improvement.
“Our administration is proud of the steps we have taken at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake over the past two years," said Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr. “We look forward to working with the Monitor and engaging our staff in areas that can help lead to better outcomes for youth in our care."
The report praised DOC and leadership at the schools for several initiatives, including:
- Increasing staff-led activities for youth
- Incorporating the Psychological Services Unit more into daily operations
- Resuming in-person education
- Training/ongoing implementation of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the new behavior management system at the schools.
Among the prominent findings, the report provided data noting use of mechanical restraints on youth decreased 63% in this reporting period (Dec.-Feb.) and use of Administrative Confinement over the same period was reduced 36%. In addition, there has also been a precipitous decline in length of time a youth stays in Administrative Confinement. In November, the average length was 143 minutes, which was reduced to 74 minutes in February 2021.
The report also singled out some of the programs for youth at the schools, including art, gardening, welding and a new music program being offered under psychological services. The Monitor's report stated the youth's projects were “very impressive" and that “creative outlet is meaningful for youth who are in prime stages of identity development."
“We're really excited about our growing arts programming, especially our music program," said DOC Division of Juvenile Corrections Administrator Ron Hermes. “It's important to offer youth culturally relevant programs that provide them the opportunity to express themselves creatively. We are seeing the therapeutic impact that music has on our youth, and we are seeing that we have some very talented young writers and musicians who have something important to say through their music."
The Monitor suggested LHS/CLS explore ways to offer these programs on nights and weekends to prevent idleness and boredom, which she believes has contributed to past behavior issues among youth at the schools during the pandemic. She also recommends LHS/CLS continue working towards a full schedule that provides meaningful activities and accountability for youth.
The report also highlights the need for DOC to make staff wellness a major focus moving forward. It finds staff morale seemed improved over the previous visit and staff were more engaged with youth, but some staff appeared exhausted and stressed. Staff expressed concerns about having fewer “tools" available to manage behavior, youth acting out and working a significant amount of overtime. The Monitor emphasizes “staff wellness is a complex issue that impacts the overall culture, atmosphere and environment of the facility."
To help address these concerns from staff, DOC has put added focus on communications with staff, including regularly-scheduled town hall meetings with the Superintendent of the schools. The Monitor also suggests DOC continue its work to improve the new behavior management system, progressing with DBT and improving youth incentives to help alleviate behavioral incidents.
DOC brought teachers back on site in March to resume in-person education, both in the school building and in housing units, for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. The past Monitor's report found remote learning was starting to have a negative impact on overall youth behaviors. In this report, she said she was, “pleased to see that during this site visit, youth were actively engaged in education both on and off the unit … There was a much more positive energy during this site visit."
(UNION GROVE, Wis.) — A Job Center has opened at Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center (REECC) in Union Grove, marking the 5th collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) and Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Develop (DWD) on an institution-based Job Center.
“We're excited because this will allow the more than 400 individuals releasing from REECC each year to set up job interviews with employers before their release and, in some cases, have job offers waiting for them when they return to their community," said DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr. “This partnership between DOC, DWD, and employers is changing the lives of individuals re-entering their communities by linking them with the resources they need to be successful."
The Job Center provides people at the minimum custody facility access to career readiness programs, job search assistance, resume development, services for veterans and registered apprenticeships. It also offers assistance for people with disabilities. Those who use the Job Center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to look for jobs, apply, and set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated.
The opening of the REECC Job Center was originally scheduled for the spring of 2020. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a delay. It will eventually be staffed by individuals from the Workforce Development Board of Southeastern Wisconsin, as well as local DWD Job Service staff. With access to the institution currently limited to essential personnel, DOC staff have been trained to assist those using the Job Center.
"With the opening of the REECC Job Center, DWD continues to expand the workforce readiness opportunities we are offering at correctional facilities across Wisconsin," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. "This critical partnership with the Department of Corrections helps people who have been incarcerated find meaningful employment when they return to their communities."
All three of the facilities in the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System now have a Job Center. By the end of 2021, DOC expects to have Job Centers helping people at ten of its institutions across the state.
The growth in Job Centers is the latest evidence of the Evers administration's commitment to reentry services and efforts to help people be successful upon return to their communities, a commitment that is reflected in the Governor's executive budget proposal, which includes:
Nearly 60% of the population at REECC has one year or less left to serve with DOC and the primary programming is the Earned Release Program (ERP). Participants in this program will get at least three sessions in the Job Center before EPR graduation.
DOC releases roughly 9,000 people from its care into the community each year. The Department's increase in institution-based Job Centers, funded by DWD, helps employers find workers to fill vacant positions and grow their business.
(MADISON, Wis.) – In late 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) facilitated a staff climate and engagement survey, the agency's first since 2017.
Staff responses, expressed through that survey, will be important in helping DOC leadership better understand the needs and desires of staff, and in shaping future decisions regarding the agency. In addition, in line with DOC's strategic priority of Transparency and Public Accountability, the agency has made the results of the anonymous survey available to the public.
DOC has posted Climate and Engagement Survey dashboards here on its public website. The dashboard provides a great deal of information and allows you to break out responses by work location, job category, division, race and gender. Overall, DOC found significantly high scores in some areas, as well as areas where our agency can make improvements to ensure everyone at DOC feels valued.
Protecting anonymity was a priority for DOC in collecting the survey results and reporting them. As a result, if the number of responses is too small when drilling down into a category, the information will not be populated. That is also the reason job groupings are only broken down into three large categories. In addition, certain locations may have only a very small portion of a certain race, age group or gender identity. Where that occurs, the information will not populate to ensure individuals are not easily identified.
(IRMA, Wis.) — The court-appointed Monitor's latest report on conditions at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School (LHS/CLS) again finds the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) in partial or substantial compliance with every aspect of the consent decree stemming from a 2017 lawsuit over conditions at the schools.
The report commended DOC on a number of current and planned improvements at the juvenile facility, including:
- Hiring a Program Director to develop more structured, gender and culturally relevant programming
- Creating and implementing a daily schedule of staff-led activities
- Continued steps toward implementing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an evidenced-based treatment that promotes self-regulation and pro-social interpersonal skills
- All youth now living in cottages that have been remodeled with suicide-prevention design
“The data clearly shows that many trend lines are moving in the right direction and providing a safer environment for staff and youth, particularly within outcome measures reflecting fewer assaults and injury rates of staff," the Monitor noted in the report.
The report also applauded the DOC's efforts to maintain facility operations during a global health crisis, rather than taking the easy approach of putting youth in their rooms as much as possible to promote social distancing and reduce the risk of infection.
However, this latest report noted that the ongoing pandemic is taking a toll on students and staff at the school. The school building has been closed and youth have been e-learning in their housing units since March. The Monitor notes youth are bored, and that both youth and staff are frustrated with virtual studies, leading to increased behavioral and disciplinary issues.
The Monitor cited an increase in use of physical and mechanical restraints over the reporting period. However, she noted, “This is very typical of a facility transitioning from and eliminating the use of OC (pepper spray) as staff develop new skills for de-escalation and behavior response techniques," adding that she feels this trend is reflective of the lack of meaningful education and other programs as a result of the operational changes occurring as a result of the pandemic.
“Progress is not linear. Not every report will be better than the last," said Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr. “This administration has made tremendous progress at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School the past two years. This report suggests we may have regressed in some areas and we will work to address that."
One area where the current administration has made significant strides is eliminating use of OC (pepper spray), which has not been used at the schools in well over a year. DOC has also significantly reduced administrative confinement times for youth, invested millions in facility upgrades that improve youth safety, and enhanced arts programming with the addition of a music therapy program in 2020.
|Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School|
(MILWAUKEE, Wis.) — Fourteen people took steps toward a brighter future today, earning an Associate Degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). The group faced greater obstacles than most to earn their degrees, completing course work while incarcerated.
The 14 honored at a graduation ceremony today all worked towards their diplomas while in the Wisconsin correctional institutions. They are among the first cohort of individuals in the care of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to participate in the federal Second Chance Pell pilot program, which allows a small number of colleges and universities nationwide to provide post-secondary education and training to prisoners. MATC was one of the first colleges selected to participate in this program in 2016.
“I always say the best part of my job is celebrating the successes of persons in our care with their families, our staff and supporters from the community. It's not the same, because I cannot be there in person to feel all the pride and love around our graduates, but I know you feel it," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said during the virtual graduation ceremony.
The graduates honored Friday morning completed their studies online at five separate DOC institutions.
Redgranite Correctional Institution - 1 graduate
Robert E Ellsworth Correctional Center - 4 graduates
Racine Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
Jackson Correctional Institution - 3 graduates
The graduate speaker was Kyle Hansen, who is in DOC care at Jackson Correctional Institution. He notes his grandmothers were his inspiration to earn a degree, and his son was his motivation.
“To the rest of the world, my son is only one person. But to this person, he is the whole world, and my motivation for a better life and education," Hansen said. “I constantly emphasis to him the importance of working hard in school. I would be a hypocrite to not lead by example. I owe it to him to be the best man and father that I can possibly be, and education guides me to that."
All the graduates earned either an Associate of Sciences or Associate of Arts degree from MATC, taking a minimum of six credits per semester. Governor Tony Evers, the Keynote Speaker for the ceremony, praised their determination to reach this day in the face of all obstacles.
“It was a feat, but you did it. And we are all very proud of you and you should be proud of yourselves. And I know your families and loved ones are as well, as they celebrate with us today," Gov. Evers told the graduates.
A 2013 study by RAND Corporation found that inmates who participate in correctional education programs had 43% lower odds of recidivism than those who did not. Also, their odds of getting a job post-release was 13% higher than those who did not participate in correctional education.
“I was motivated by a sincere desire to make positive changes in my life to enhance the likelihood of a successful future," Hansen said, adding that he intends to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Business Management at UW-Milwaukee. “It is very easy to fall into the trap of sitting around and wasting time while serving a prison sentence; to simply count the years. I was motivated to not allow myself to fall into this trap and just simply count the years, but rather to make the years count. Because, anything lost can be found except for time wasted."
Wisconsin DOC would like to thank its education services staff and MATC, Wisconsin's largest technical college, for all the work that went into making this day possible.
(CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis.) — A new correctional job center at Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility (CVCTF) will help individuals there prepare for careers once they reenter the community. The CVCTF site marks the fifth collaboration between Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and Department of Corrections (DOC) on a correctional job center.
CVCTF redesigned and restructured an existing space within the institution's school building to make it feel and operate like a community job center. The space includes secure computer workstations for staff and persons in DOC care, and artwork intended to inspire those working in the space to envision their future outside the institution.
The facility will provide individuals incarcerated in the minimum-security institution access to programs and services related to career readiness, job search assistance, resume development, veteran services, apprenticeship resources, and assistance for individuals with disabilities.
“The job center is a major addition to our facility, and working with several external and internal partners in this development has been exciting," said CVCTF Warden Tim Nelson. “Approximately 600 men release from CVCTF back into the community each year, and the majority need meaningful and active employment upon their release. The programs available through this job center increase their chances for successful reentry into the community after completing the Earned Release Program."
Restructure work wrapped up in early December and DOC is currently working to install DWD software on computers in the correctional job center. Once that is complete, DOC staff will receive training in preparation of a potential soft launch in late January. DWD Job Service staff and the local workforce development board are also working with DOC institution leadership to coordinate hours of operation inside the center, ensuring those close to release have opportunities to use the space and benefit from the many resources available.
“We are excited to continue this meaningful partnership with DOC," DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek said. “In addition to the workforce programs and services, DWD and workforce board staff are working with employers throughout the state to create stronger linkages between the persons in DOC care and employers ensuring that interviews can be conducted prior to release back to the community and linking persons with the resources needed to be successful.“
Persons who use the correctional job center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to craft a resume and cover letter, then to research for open positions, apply and, in some cases, even set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated. Those same JCW accounts can be accessed once they are released, offering a smoother transition from incarceration into the community.
“We are very proud to expand the partnership between DOC and DWD," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “DOC's first institution-based job center came online in 2018. By the end of 2021, correctional job centers will be operating at ten DOC institutions across the state, helping fill the needs of Wisconsin's workforce while providing opportunities to those looking for work upon release from incarceration."
The collaboration aids employers in tight labor markets and in-demand fields, prompting them to consider qualified candidates with a criminal record. Additionally, the services and resources available through the correctional job centers help reduce employment barriers for justice-involved individuals.
(TAYCHEEDAH, Wis.) — The non-profit group, Camp Reunite, and its staff members teamed up with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) to deliver some special holiday gifts over the weekend.
The Saturday and Sunday deliveries wrapped up six days of stops across eastern Wisconsin, delivering gifts to children from their incarcerated parents.
“Providing gifts donated from Kapco's Kids 2 Kids Christmas has been a blessing for the campers," said Camp Reunite Co-Founder Andrew Gappa. “Seeing their smiles, filled with excitement, brings hope to their holidays and makes the holiday season extra special."
The volunteers made 53 stops and delivered 375 gifts to 125 children of individuals currently serving a sentence at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution or Taycheedah Correctional Institution. The gifts ranged from basketballs, to art supplies and board games.
“Seeing the joy on the kids' faces when they received their gifts from Camp Reunite and their moms is not something we will forget," said Jaime Gyr, a social worker at Taycheedah Correctional Institution. “We have seen over and over the positive impact this camp has on the kids and their moms. We are so thankful for being part of this wonderful program!"
The gift deliveries were an extension of Camp Reunite, a program that offers trauma-informed camp activities for kids ages 8-17 who have a parent incarcerated in the Wisconsin Correctional System. The program started in 2018 at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, a part of the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System, as a week-long summer camp that explored ways to help kids cope with separation from their mother. It included two extended visits to see their incarcerated parent.
A winter version of Camp Reunite was later added to the calendar in December, and the program was also expanded to a men's institution, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, for the first time this summer. Both the summer and winter camps in 2020 have switched to virtual visitation with the parent, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the gifts, 97 kids received camp supplies ahead of the virtual Camp Reunite in which they will participate December 28-30. Parents at Taycheedah and Kettle Moraine Correctional institutions will join their children for activities like scavenger hunts and a movie watch party.
If you'd like to donate to Camp Reunite and help expand its mission, please connect with staff by going to www.campreunite.org.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has started the process of closing a cell hall at Waupun Correction Institution (WCI), which is expected to decrease the institution's population approximately 20%.
A majority of the roughly 220 individuals being moved from WCI, a maximum-security institution, are classified as medium-security and will be moved to various medium-security DOC institutions across Wisconsin over the next few months.
“We have been working for more than a year on various ways to better align our institution populations, moving more persons in our care to sites consistent with their security classification. We want more individuals classified as medium security living in medium-security institutions and more individuals classified as minimum security moved into minimum-security institutions." said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “Our adult population is at the lowest point it has been in two decades, which gives us the available space to make these moves."
The move also helps alleviate long-standing staff vacancy issues at WCI, the oldest correctional facility in the state with parts of the building dating back to the 1850s. The proposed decrease in WCI's population will lower the number of direct staffed posts by eight per day, and eliminate daily relief positions needed for the cell hall to further reduce staffing needs.
“Because there are several other DOC institutions in Dodge County and the surrounding area, it has been more difficult to find and recruit new, potential employees in that geographic region," said DOC Division of Adult Institutions Administrator Makda Fessahaye. “We've taken many steps to try and address vacancy rates at Waupun. We think closing the cell hall will help address staffing while meeting the alignment goals of our agency."
“The vacancy issues at WCI are not tied to any one, particular factor and did not happen overnight, so we cannot expect to take one step and fix them all at once," Sec. Carr added. “But we think it is a step in the right direction."
Transfers of the 220 people at WCI are already underway and are expected to continue through the end of February, though COVID-19 outbreaks could lead to delays. As they are transferred to medium-security institutions, there will be corresponding transfers of minimum-classified individuals to minimum-security facilities.
|Waupun Correctional Institution|
(MADISON, Wis.) — Beginning October 24, Medicaid members who are incarcerated will have their health care benefits suspended and then re-evaluated before they are released from jail or prison.
Previously, Medicaid members had their coverage terminated upon incarceration, which often delayed their access to medical and behavioral health care following their release. The Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) have been working with income maintenance agencies and community partners to make this policy change.
Delays in care can result in increased negative health outcomes and rates of re-arrest. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, incarcerated individuals are more likely to have chronic physical and mental health conditions, serious mental illnesses, or substance use disorders. One study in another state found that, in the two weeks after their release, adults leaving jail or prison face a mortality rate that is 12.7 times higher than the rest of the adult population.
“This new policy will increase the likelihood of successful re-entry for Wisconsin residents into their communities," said DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Connecting incarcerated individuals to health care and other support services upon their release is critical to breaking the cycles of chronic homelessness, reliance on emergency care, and re-arrest."
As of October 9, there were 20,983 incarcerated individuals supervised by DOC's Division of Adult Institutions. In the 2019 Federal Fiscal Year, 9,585 people in Wisconsin were released from jail or prison, and nearly 70% of these individuals were eligible for a Medicaid program.
“It is our job to assist persons in our care in making the best possible transition back into society," said DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr. “By having a suspension rather than termination policy in place, we are providing them a better chance to successfully rebuild their lives when they return to their communities."
“We recognized the need to hear different perspectives and we talked to many individuals and groups to get advice on how to get this right," said Wisconsin Medicaid Director Jim Jones. “Having the right players at the table to inform our implementation of this policy helped us implement efficiencies, use best practices, and ensure that the voices of those affected most by this policy were heard."
With the cost of health care services covered by Medicaid immediately upon an individual's release, community organizations and free or low-cost clinics will no longer be responsible for the medical expenses incurred by Medicaid-eligible individuals who require care after release. Because Medicaid will pay for inpatient hospital expenses for inmates with suspended benefits, this policy should result in cost savings for the DOC and county jails.
Learn more about Medicaid in Wisconsin.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is using technology to keep those in its care connected to loved ones during a pandemic hat has limited physical interaction.
The DOC moved to quickly suspend in-person visitation at the onset of the pandemic in Wisconsin, but the agency has since worked to install the necessary technology and provide enough computers to facilitate video visits at all of its institutions.
“The feedback from PIOC who have had video visitation has been positive, with many comments of how nice it was to see a family member or friend's face," said Green Bay Correctional Institution Warden, Dylon Radtke. “In several circumstances, a video visit was able to connect a person in our care with someone in their life who was ill, providing the opportunity to be with them during a time of need."
Over the first 23 days of August, people in the care of the DOC completed more than 7,000 video visits across more than 20 of the agency's institutions. Those at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution completed nearly 600 calls over that time, those at Oshkosh Correctional more than 700 and those at Stanley Correctional more than 800. Racine Correctional Institution logged more than 1,600 video visits over the entire month of August.
“While phone calls, letters, and emails are good forms of communication, they simply do not replace the connection of being able to see another person's face, see them smile and laugh, their expressions and gestures. Video visitation provides the option of connecting in a way more beneficial," Radtke said.
The technology has opened up new opportunities for those in DOC care who have loved ones who cannot visit in person because they live out of state, lack transportation or various other reasons.
That's why Radtke is among the wardens who say they would advocate for keeping video visitation as an option post pandemic. The DOC's Division of Juvenile Corrections Administrator, Ron Hermes, feels the same and has already stated video visits will remain an option for youth at Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School in Irma, even after in-person visits resume.
“Zoom calls are definitely a positive that has come out of this terrible pandemic. Youth in our care are engaging with their families at a level that has surpassed what we thought was possible," Hermes said earlier this summer.
Youth interviewed by the court-mandated Monitor for the schools noted that they miss in-person visits, but that they have enjoyed video visits with their families. It has allowed them to not just see their loved ones, but to see their homes again, and maybe a favorite room or pet.
Youth at the schools have had a combined 1192 video visits since March 26, and 41% of youth who completed a survey regarding their video visits indicated they had not previously received an in-person visit.
(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) Oregon Farm has been honored by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
The farm, part of the DOC's Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE), received a 2019 Achievement Award from DATCP for producing high-quality milk and maintaining noteworthy farm conditions for more than three years.
“The employees and workers on our Oregon Farm team can take pride in this recognition that they continue the tradition of high performance in BCE Agriculture operations," said BCE Director Wes Ray. “They do this work every day, in any weather, and they do it very well."
The Oregon Farm consists of approximately 530 acres of mostly alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat. Those crops are primarily for feeding the Holstein dairy herd. Six Oregon Farm staff members train and supervise 21 workers in custody at Oakhill Correctional Institution.
“The growth of the workers at the farm is amazing. The job skills they gain are great, but the real positive aspect is seeing their confidence rise," said BCE Farm Supervisor Eric Trumm. “I feel the farms give the workers great opportunities to learn and grow."
One of those workers, Donnie, explained why he has been working at the farm for five months.
“(I) Like to learn new life skills and feel like I'm part of the team." He said, “I love taking care of the animals. I'm always looking for cows with poor milk quality or that aren't eating as much as they normally do."
In addition to running three farms and a dairy, BCE operates two warehouses and makes products in 12 industries. Statewide, BCE employed a daily average of 440 people in DOC care last year, paying them a modest wage and teaching them work skills.
“Save money to start over after my release," is the reason Thurman gave for working at the Oregon Farm, adding that he also enjoys the work. “I really like taking care of the calves. I also like hoof trim days because they are interesting and challenging."
The congratulatory letter from DATCP concluded with, “Thank you again for consistently producing the high quality milk that makes Wisconsin's dairy industry a leader in the nation and the world."
(MADISON, Wis.) — Mary Muse has spent a quarter century working in correctional healthcare, a career honored when the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) included Muse among its class of 2020 Fellows. The Academy announced the new Fellows earlier this month, and it will recognize Muse and the other 2020 honorees in a virtual ceremony in October.
“This is an exciting time for me and a huge honor to have my work in correctional nursing and health care recognized," said Muse, the Chief Nursing Officer/Nursing Director for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC). “Twenty-five years ago, I committed to improving health care for incarcerated persons, elevating the level of nursing practice in corrections, and increasing the visibility of correctional nursing within the nursing industry and the public."
An invitation to be a Fellow represents accomplishments within the nursing profession and the ability to transform the American Health Systems. It marks a significant milestone in a nurse leader's career to have their accomplishments honored by their colleagues within the profession.
Previously-elected Fellows review hundreds of applications and select new Fellows based on contributions to advance the public's health.
“To have the privilege to now stand with some of my previous professors and nurse theorists who were once part of my academic study is huge," Muse explained. “I am proud to stand with other nursing professionals whose work and contributions are nationally recognized; individuals who have advanced the science of nursing, influenced health policy and improved care delivery for patients."
Most Fellows come from academia, and a review of recently-elected Fellows shows Muse is the first Fellow to come from the field of corrections since at least 2013.
Those who have worked with Muse during her 11 years at the Wisconsin DOC are not surprised to see her break through.
“Mary stresses nursing accountability and competency. And she challenges nursing and other health care professions to be the best they can be for the betterment of the health care delivery team and, ultimately, the patient," said Steve Linn, a Health Services Nursing Coordinator at the DOC. “Mary strives in her work and oversight of others to increase health equality, especially around the issue of health care access for the underserved and at-risk patient population, while maintaining the overall focus of improving patient population health and health care delivery outcomes."
Muse says friends and colleagues have encouraged her to submit an application for the honor for several years. The process requires defining how one has contributed to advancing nursing and policy, as well as sponsorship from two current academy Fellows.
“To have correctional health recognized suggests others are increasingly understanding the connection between correctional health and public health, and greater appreciation of how the social determinants impact and are linked to incarceration," Muse said.
|Mary Muse, Chief Nursing Officer of Wisconsin Department of Corrections|
(MADISON, Wis.) — A major investment in technology is helping bring the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) into the 21st Century, while speeding up DOC services and saving the agency money.
The DOC's Division of Community Corrections (DCC) officially switched over to an electronic case filing system on Wednesday, the culmination of a project that started more than two years ago.
“Previously, each client under DCC supervision had a paper file," explained DCC Region 1 Assistant Regional Chief Jay Laufenberg, who along with Sally Tess co-chaired the work group that led the project. “They could be anywhere from less than an inch thick to several inches thick."
The old paper files contained all documentation related to DCC clients, from supervision history to any investigative documents. Starting Wednesday, all newly-created client files and related documents will be entered into the OnBase software installed by the DOC's Bureau of Technology Management. The new system has multiple benefits.
“With staff working remotely, they can now access documents from home or from anywhere else in the state," he said, adding that the new system also saves the cost of mailing heavy, paper files to other DCC offices when a client moves to another region of the state.
In addition, the change to electronic filing removes the need for DCC staff to scan paper documents related to public records requests.
Roughly 1,600 DCC staff members have undergone training in recent months on how to use the new system, and Laufenberg says he has heard positive feedback.
“One agent, after reviewing the training video, sent us a message about how excited they were," he said.
Laufenberg knows not all the feedback will be that positive. The agency has set up a mailbox where agents can ask questions or offer advice as DCC works through this change.