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7/29/2021https://doc.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/Secretaries.JPG


​(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."




  
7/27/2021

​(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  

  
7/26/2021https://doc.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/LHS-CLS.JPG


(​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.​

  
7/20/2021https://doc.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/09%20Lincoln%20Hills%20School%20visiting%20area%203-1-11.jpg

​(MADISON, Wis.) — The last 16 months have been undeniably difficult on persons in our care (PIOC), their friends and family, and our staff due to the COVID-19 health pandemic. However, the DOC recently took an encouraging step forward on the road to a new normal, announcing the return of in-person visitation beginning July 6, 2021.

"Having in-person visits again with my husband after not seeing him for more than a year meant the world to both of us," said Michele W., who was able to visit a loved one at John C. Burke Correctional Center. "It helped us both feel reconnected and reassured that everything is getting back to a new normal after COVID."

The decision to resume in-person visits was made in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI DHS) and CDC guidelines to ensure the continued health and safety of those in our care, our staff, and our surrounding communities. There are several precautions that have been put into place to keep persons in our care (PIOC) and their loved ones safe during in-person visits, such as social distancing and a mask requirement for anyone two years or older.

The DOC also understands the importance of in-person visits for the well-being of those in our care and their loved ones, and the agency has been happy to see folks around the state overjoyed at the ability to see their loved ones in person once again.

"For me to see and hug my husband, my children to see their dad, and our granddaughter to finally meet her Papa, meant more than words can describe," said Liz L., who recently visited Oakhill Correctional Institution. "The staff were also incredibly nice and helpful."

"In-person visits made us stronger as a whole, as a family," said Lucia S., who visited a loved one at Kettle Moraine Correctional Facility. "We were able to do a lot of reassuring. The warmth of just being in their presence was great."

For more information on DOC's updated precautions, rules and guidelines for in-person visits, please visit DOC's public website page titled Resuming In-Person Visitation. The agency is also pleased to announce that the COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered free of charge to vaccine-eligible people coming for an in-person visit at six DOC facilities: Fox Lake Correctional, Green Bay Correctional, Kettle Moraine Correctional, Racine Youthful Offender Correctional, Stanley Correctional, and Taycheedah Correctional. Those who sign up for an in-person visit at the mentioned facilities will be asked if they want a vaccine while there. The vaccine will be administered by DOC Health Services staff.  

DOC will also continue to offer video visits as a supplement to face-to-face visitation, allowing PIOC's one video visit a week free of charge. Each person in DOC care will also continue to receive two free phones calls weekly and a free pre-embossed envelope every two weeks.

  
7/15/2021https://doc.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/Belda%20Innoculation.jpg


​(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is offering free COVID-19 vaccination to those visiting loved ones at some state correctional facilities.

In-person visitation resumed at DOC institutions on July 6 for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of in-person visits and other operations in March 2020. Doses are being offered to vaccine-eligible people coming for an in-person visit at six DOC facilities: Fox Lake Correctional Institution, Green Bay Correctional Institution, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility, Stanley Correctional Institution and Taycheedah Correctional Institution.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the people of Wisconsin to become vaccinated against COVID-19,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “The ease of availability, having vaccine available at a site to which you are already travelling, is something this administration hopes people do not pass up.”

In Wisconsin, 58.8% of the state’s 18-and-older population has been fully vaccinated. The rate is even higher in DOC institutions, with 67.2% of the Department’s eligible population fully vaccinated and the number increasing to 96% for those who have not declined vaccination. There are currently two active cases of COVID-19 among people in DOC care.

“Vaccination is the best tool we have to protect ourselves, family members and loved ones from COVID-19,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The level of vaccination rates we are seeing in Wisconsin communities have allowed in-person visitation to resume safely in DOC facilities. However, COVID-19 is still infecting unvaccinated people across our state, so we are working to make sure everyone who still needs a COVID-19 vaccine is able to get one. We are using all available avenues to make vaccination as easy as possible, including offering free COVID-19 vaccination during visits.”

People who sign up for an in-person visit at the six identified facilities will be asked if they want a vaccine while there. The vaccine will be administered by DOC Health Services staff.

Since resuming in-person visits​ this week, most DOC institutions report visitation running at about 50-75% of capacity, with some higher. Special rules are in place to protect against COVID-19 transmission during visits and, if COVID-19 cases in a specific DOC facility or surrounding community begin to rise, face-to-face visitation may be suspended again at that facility.

  
7/14/2021

(MADISON, Wis.) — Lincoln Hills School/Copper Lake School hosted the We Believe in YOU Awards on Wednesday, a ceremony to honor the outstanding work of individuals and groups across the Wisconsin Department of Correction's (DOC) Division of Juvenile Corrections. DOC Secretary Kevin Carr came to honor the award winners at the ceremony, then stayed to help serve lunch to LHS/CLS staff at the brat fry that followed.

“It was a such a pleasure to be there for the We Believe in YOU Awards," said Sec. Carr. “To speak with the award winners and hear about the work they are doing was inspiring."

Here is a list of those honored Wednesday and a summary their award-winning work:

Cindy Leskey – For creating new, engaging activities that harvest a positive work environment, and creating projects focused around building trust with youth and their families.

Jennifer McFadden – For ensuring staff had the technology they needed, the support to operate remotely, and that professional partnerships were maintained.

Supervising Youth Counselors (Kurt Annis, Greg Brasure, Thomas Cimino, Rebecca Cleveland, Rafael Dones, Rosemary Esterholm, Matt Ferge, Kyle Hoff, Laura Kernan, Levi Lassa, Clyde Maxwell III, Brandi Maxwell, Curissa Mitchell, Luke Myszka, Brett Schafer, Jesse Severt, Jared Tomany, Chue Yang) – For implementing changes which have greatly reduced incidents of use-of-force, administrative confinement & mechanical restraints, while helping staff to work through challenges. 

J-Tracker Team (Holly Bester, Laura Gebhardt, Kristin Nissen) – For spearheading the transition to J-Tracker, one of the most significant and technically-challenging projects the Division has undertaken in recent decades.

Youth Counselor Advanced Crisis Awareness Response Effort (CARE) Team (Chris Behling, Alan Gillis, Jean Iribarren, Rick Lamere, Whitney Annis, Patricia Soward) – For their work de-escalating situations by attempting to resolve issues and stressors with an end goal of the youth or living unit re-engaging in regular schedules. 

Building & Grounds Team (Trevor Asmundson, Darrin Heckendorf, Chuck Jacobs, Trevor Jacobs, Keith Jaecks, Dean Jaeger, Mike Kaplanek, Bill Schroeder, Mike Stockowitz, Tom Stockowitz, Quentin Trevino,  Jeff Zahn) – For continuing to maintain a safe environment for youth through both planned and unplanned projects, while also mentoring and training youth.

Music Recreation Team (Rich Ouimette and Dr. Maggie Watters) – For launching the Music Art Initiative, and individual-focused, trauma-informed program for youth that also promotes collaboration with living unit staff and provides a positive, artistic outlet.​

  
7/12/2021

(MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and Department of Corrections (DOC) have collaborated on another institution-based Job Center. The Job Center at Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution (PDCI) opened with a soft launch on June 15. 

“We want the persons in our care to have a head start on finding a job when they're making the transition back to their community," said DOC Sec. Kevin Carr. “I'm very proud of the work our Reentry Unit is doing with DWD to extend opportunities at more institutions." 

The number of institution-based job centers has increased dramatically over the past year. PDCI is the third DOC facility to open a Job Center in 2021, for a total of six institution-based centers across DOC. There are plans to have Job Centers up and running at 10 DOC institutions, plus a mobile Job Center, before the end of the year. 

The Job Center at the minimum-security facility of PDCI is providing persons in our care with career readiness programing, job search assistance, resume development, services for veterans, and registered apprenticeships. It also offers assistance to people with disabilities.

Those who use the Job Center will create a Job Center of Wisconsin (JCW) account, allowing them to search for jobs, apply, and set up interviews with employers while still incarcerated.

“DWD is dedicated to providing the people of Wisconsin opportunities for employment," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pehachek. “By providing workforce readiness opportunities through these Job Centers, we're expediting the process of persons in DOC care finding meaningful employment once they return to their communities."

The first group at PDCI to receive Jobs Center services will be five participants in DOC's Earned Release Program, who have an anticipated program completion date of July 16th. They are scheduled to access the Job Center on five separate occasions before they complete the program, receiving assistance from PDCI staff and virtual career services provided by DWD staff.

​DOC releases roughly 9,000 people from its care into the community each year, and more than 50% of PDCI's population has a year or less to serve with DOC. The increase in institution-based Job Centers, funded by DWD, assists them in getting a head start on their job search, and helps Wisconsin employers find workers to fill vacant positions and grow their businesses. ​

  
6/23/2021

​(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin is well known as “America's Dairyland" for the amount of milk, cheese and other dairy products the state produces, with the dairy industry contributing more than $45.6 billion to Wisconsin's economy each year.

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' (DOC) Bureau of Correctional Enterprises (BCE) has three agricultural sites where persons in DOC care at Oakhill Correctional Institution and John Burke Correctional Center develop marketable skills and gain work experience to assist their transition back to the community.

The Oregon Farm and Waupun Farm/Fox Lake Farms produce a variety of crops, including alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat, that feed the 1,100 milk cows and heifers raised onsite, helping BCE farms produce an average of 40,000 pounds of milk per day.

The Waupun Dairy takes the raw milk produced at these two sites and processes it into five-gallon and half-pint containers of skim milk and individual servings of ice cream and sherbet, which are sold to Wisconsin correctional facilities and mental health institutions, as well as Minnesota correctional facilities.

While working for BCE is hard work, the approximately 415 jobs in BCE's three operational areas (i.e., agriculture, industries and logistics) are highly desirable for persons in DOC care. BCE workers learn general work skills that help them in their transition back to the community and earn money to pay financial obligations so they have more stability upon release.

“BCE workers are re-incarcerated at a lower rate than statistically similar persons in DOC care who did not work for BCE," said Wes Ray, BCE Director. The most recent data shows 71% of BCE workers have not returned to DOC custody three years after release. That's a rate about 3% higher than for statistically similar people who returned to the community and did not work for BCE.

When asked about his experience as a BCE worker, Timothy said, “[I] have all the skills to work anywhere."

The employer of another former BCE worker said that “[He] is awesome. He's one of my best employees. He's extremely motivated. Everything you want in an employee."

Before returning to their families and the community, BCE's Transition team helps BCE workers with work search skills, potential job leads and connections with community service providers who can assist with their transition. The Transition team may also be able to provide short-term supplemental funds to former BCE workers for work-related items such as tools, special work clothing, transportation and rent.

This June, let's raise a glass of milk to all of the BCE workers and staff to celebrate Dairy Month. ​

  
6/21/2021https://doc2016-auth-prod.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/TCC%20Juneteenth%20Flag%2006-18-21%202.JPG

​(MADISON, Wis.) — ​Wisconsin's Department of Corrections (DOC) raised the Juneteenth Flag at its Central Office building in Madison on Friday, marking the first time the agency has flown the flag. Several DOC institutions and offices also raised the Juneteenth Flag over the weekend, after the Governor's Office encouraged agencies to fly the flag at state buildings.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 because that is the date, in 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston and announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

"Today, the fight for equity continues against the racial, economic and educational disparities that are deeply rooted in our nation's institutions," DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said to DOC staff that gathered for the flag raising on Friday. “Some of those disparities even exist within our own agency. At times, the fight can seem insurmountable, but history has shown that when people come together in the fight for a more just system, they can do great things."

The Pride Flag has been flying, along with the United States and Wisconsin flags, at DOC's central office for Pride Month. The Pride Flag was taken down and the Juneteenth Flag raised Friday morning. The Juneteenth Flag flew throughout the weekend. The Pride Flag will be raised again on Monday and fly through the remainder of the month.

  
6/7/2021

(MADISON, Wis.) — Wisconsin's Department Corrections (DOC), in consultation with Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS), has determined it is safe for the state's correctional facilities to begin the transition back to normal activities, including in-person visitation with the proper precautions beginning July 6. This decision is based on a real and sustained downward trend in COVID-19 infections across the state and in DOC facilities.

“We are very happy to again offer in-person visits," said DOC Sec. Kevin A Carr. “Soon after the pandemic began, we transitioned to video visits as a way to protect our staff, persons in our care and Wisconsin communities. Now, with COVID-19 infection numbers down and vaccination rates up, those in our care and their loved ones can again enjoy each other's company face-to-face."

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of DOC staff and persons in DOC care has been a top priority. After months of COVID-19 surveillance and outbreak investigations in DOC facilities, cases are down substantially while vaccination rates continue to climb. Wisconsin DOC's COVID-19 dashboards indicate only 11 active cases currently among the more than 19,000 people in the department's custody across 37 institutions. In addition, the dashboards show 57% of DOC's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 90% of those who have not declining vaccination have received at least one dose.

“Vaccination is an incredible tool against COVID-19," said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “The level of vaccination rates we are seeing in DOC institutions and Wisconsin communities allows in-person visitation to resume safely in these facilities, with precautions in place."

Those precautions include:

  • Modified or different visiting rooms that allow for appropriate physical distancing
  • Cleaning protocols for visitation areas
  • New entrance procedures for visitors, which will include a COVID-19 screening for temperature and symptoms conducted by security staff
  • Masks will be worn by staff, persons in our care and visitors age two and up, per CDC guidelines
  • No sharing of food or drinks between visitors and persons in DOC care

For a full list of COVID-19 precautions and other visitation guidance please visit the Resuming In-Person Visitation page on DOC's website.

“We understand being able to see loved ones in-person, in some cases for the first time in close to 18 months, will be an emotional experience for many. However, due to continued COVID-19 activity throughout the state, we're putting safety precautions in place when face-to-face visitation resumes on July 6 to protect those still vulnerable to COVID-19." Sec. Carr said.

If COVID-19 cases in a specific DOC facility or surrounding community begin to rise during this transition period or after July 6, face-to-face visitation may be suspended again at that facility. DOC will consider several factors, including the opinion of health experts at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in determining if face-to-face visitation needs to be suspended at a DOC facility.

DOC expects initial demand for in-person visits to be high. Due to physical distancing and other preventative measures related to COVID-19, capacity in visitation areas has been decreased. However, DOC institutions will attempt to honor up to two face-to-face visits per week for each person in our care at most facilities. In addition, DOC will continue to offer a video visit option to augment in-person visitation, and create more opportunities for those in our care and their loved ones to stay connected. Each person in DOC care will also continue to receive two free phone calls per week until DOC returns fully to pre-pandemic operations.

People can begin to schedule in-person visits at 9am on Wednesday, June 16. Visitors are asked to schedule their in-person visits at least two business days (excludes Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) in advance. They are encouraged to schedule by emailing the same address they have been using to set up Zoom visits, which can be found by going to the individual institution's page on the DOC website.  Those without internet access can call the institution's main line. Whether calling or emailing, visitors are asked to specify whether they are requesting a zoom or in-person visit.

People on approved visitors' lists are eligible for visits. Initially, up to three approved visitors will be allowed for a specific visit. Relationship does not matter but at least one visitor must be an adult. Vaccination is not required and all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must abide by the mask requirements.  

The Department is also transitioning to a safe restart of other areas of pre-pandemic operations, including work release, project crews, volunteer and religious visits. Resumption of these programs may vary by facility, and anyone with questions about these programs should contact the institution directly or email DOCGeneral@wisconsin.gov.

  
5/28/2021https://doc.wi.gov/PublishingImages/NewsItems/DSC_0384.JPG


(MADISON, Wis.) —
 ​The leaders of Wisconsin's Department of Corrections (DOC) and Department of Children and Families (DCF) recently took a tour of the GROW Academy, a residential program offering comprehensive treatment for County and State-supervised youth as an alternative to incarceration, as well as a step down for DOC-supervised youth returning to the community. The visit to the facility in Oregon coincided with the early Spring growing season and Earth Week activities across Wisconsin.

“It's so inspiring to be out here in the spring to see everything starting to grow," said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. “Especially with Earth Day and the metaphor of thinking about youth and growth. This is about the youth and it's about what they need to be successful, contributing adults, and I think that's where DOC and DCF can really come together. We think about the youth, their treatment needs and really supporting them through enriching programs and evidence-based practices." 

“The kids that graduate from the GROW Academy tend to do well when they return to their community," said DOC Sec. Kevin Carr. “After being given this opportunity, they have a different perspective."

GROW utilizes community-based programming and an agricultural-based curriculum to help youth who may struggle to learn in a traditional classroom setting. The facility creates opportunities for youth to work with animals, build in the woodshop, tend to their own garden plots and prepare and cook their own dishes. The youth occasionally compete in an “Iron Chef"-style showdown to see who can create the best dish. Youth in the program have the ability to plan their own garden plot using seedlings grown in the school, helping them feel a sense of responsibility and connection. They are then allowed to give the produce they grow to family or choose to make fun recipes of their own.

The youth learn about much more than organic farming. Program components include:

  • Aquaponic technology for seedling growth
  • Composting
  • Nutrition and meal planning, meal preparation
  • Marketing and sales skills
  • Restorative justice
  • Financial literacy
  • Job readiness and employment placement

During their visit, Secretaries Carr and Amundson met 16-year-old Keyshawn, a youth who recently completed his time at GROW and shared how the program benefitted him.

“One thing I learned here is just connecting with people," said Keyshawn. “Really connecting with people based off their backgrounds and things they like. Connecting with people is pretty much everything, you're going to have to make connections with people everywhere you go."

When asked if he ever saw himself taking part in some of the everyday activities at GROW, such as working with chickens and growing plants, Keyshawn responded, “To be honest, I didn't really see myself anywhere until I got here." 

GROW Academy operates on an incentive-based behavioral system that allows youth to start fresh every day. This system recognizes not every day is going to be a great day, but each day is an opportunity to start fresh. The structure identifies individual strengths, motivates youth to make positive decisions, and provides rewards for meeting expectations and taking initiative to go above and beyond. Rewards and privileges include the use of MP3 players, access to the TV room, off-grounds recreational activities such as field trips and extra phone calls.

The youth at GROW also take part in traditional curriculum. A school is located on the grounds, where youth are taught by a full-time, licensed teacher. On average, youth earn three high school credits in math, science, reading and social studies.

Due to COVID-19, GROW is currently in use as a day report center, meaning youth are dropped off in the morning and picked up at 5:00 PM every day during the week. However, staff at GROW are excited to report they are in the process of transitioning back to a live-in facility, with youth scheduled to arrive for residential programming beginning in early June.  

  
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​In an effort to increase the efficiency of its public records responsibilities and meet its strategic initiative of Transparency and Public Accountability, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections recently launched a new Public Records Center that provides the public an easy way to file public records requests, receive updates and retrieve records.

The new online DOC Public Records Center, managed by DOC's Office of Records Management, provides a centralized portal for filing DOC public records requests, processing requests, and posting and retrieving public records.

New users can set up an account by providing a name and, at minimum, an email address. Once an account has been established, users can log into their own personal Records Center to file a new records request, check the status of a previous request, review communications or retrieve records. If someone wants to file a request anonymously, the DOC Public Records Center includes an option for that, as well.

New capabilities built into the DOC Public Records Center will allow the state's largest agency to be as efficient and expeditious as possible, while uniformly managing the thousands of records requests filed with DOC each year.

“DOC processes far more public records requests than any other state agency, averaging more than 3,300 requests in each of the past five years. In 2019, the agency received a record 3,881 requests for public records," said Nathan Harper, Director of the DOC's Office of Records Management. “That's why we are focused on making the process as efficient as possible."

The new DOC Public Records Center will be used to manage all requests for DOC public records. However, use of the system to file a request is not mandatory and all requests, regardless of how they are communicated to DOC, will be met. 


  
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​(MADISON, Wis.) — ​The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) has added Month-End Prison Population dashboards to its public website in an effort to further improve transparency and public reporting of data.

The Month-End Prison Population dashboards provide a recent snapshot of the population similar to what is available in DOC's Division of Adult Institutions At-a-Glance brochures, only the dashboards provide the option of using filters to retrieve more specific data about the current DOC population.

“Transparency and public accountability are among our priorities," said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “A sizeable number of the data requests our agency receives involve the current prison population, so we thought it only fitting that we make it more accessible and easier for the public to drill down into that data."

“Because our other prison population dashboards show historical trends and aren't updated monthly, we wanted to have something separate that could be used to get at data related to current PIOC," said Dr. Megan Jones, DOC Research and Policy Director.

The new dashboards allow anyone to see the demographics – age, gender, ethnicity, etc. – of the population at each DOC institution at the end of every month.

They always reflect the population on the last day of the previous month, and will be updated with new data between the 16th and 20th of each month. For example, between May 16 and May 20, the dashboards will be updated with data for the prison population on the last day of April.

  
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​(​MADISON, Wis.) — The Wisconsin Department of Corrections showed support for its correctional brothers and sisters in Iowa this week, delivering a pair of memorial benches dedicated to the two Iowa Department of Corrections employees killed while on duty last month at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

The benches were part of a Pay It Forward campaign by Wisconsin DOC, which also included individualized plaques and more than $2,000 in donations for the impacted families. Wisconsin DOC also delivered more than 700 gift bags for Anamosa employees dealing with the loss of their colleagues, each of which included a card with a message from Wisconsin DOC Secretary Kevin Carr.

“The Wisconsin Department of Corrections offers our deepest condolences to all of the colleagues affected by the recent tragedy that resulted in the loss of two corrections professionals," the card read. “I hope these gift bags can offer a small sense of support and comfort in the midst of this tragedy, and serve as a reminder that you are not alone. Your Corrections brothers and sisters across the nation are thinking of you, and praying for solace and peace during this difficult time." 


​On March 23, nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland were found lying on the floor of the prison's infirmary. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation says the employees were intervening to stop an attempted escape of two men now charged with their murder. 


Wisconsin Division of Adult Institutions Assistant Administrator Paul Kemper, Wisconsin Secure Prison Facility Warden Gary Boughton and Program Director Trina Kroening-Skime delivered the benches and gift bags to Anamosa on Wednesday. The bags included things like candy, gum, stress balls and gift cards. Staff at Anamosa expressed their appreciation and noted they have been overwhelmed with the amount of support they have received in the weeks following the tragedy.

Anamosa State Penitentiary
  
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​(MADISON, Wis.) — Raising a child can be overwhelming for many, and those challenges are magnified for parents involved in the justice system. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) recognized the need for an evidence-based program that addresses the unique challenges faced by parents in DOC care and their children. In 2019, the DOC's Reentry Unit partnered with The Pathfinders Network at UW-Madison's School of Social Work to implement the Parenting Inside Out-90 Hour (PIO-90) curriculum at Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) and the Wisconsin Women's Correctional System's (WWCS) three facilities.

Parenting Inside Out (PIO) fosters a collaborative approach between the participant and the parenting coach. In a classroom setting, parenting coaches lead students through a cognitive-behavioral parent management skills course to help them develop a parenting plan specific to the needs of their family.

Parents identify the qualities/characteristics they hope their children will possess when they reach adulthood and, together, coaches and parents build a metaphor for their parenting journey on the Backbone Highway, depicted in the mural below that was painted by persons in DOC care at GBCI. The cars on this highway represent children and the gas station attendants represent parents who are responsible for fueling their children with helpful nurture and love. The words along the highway represent guardrails. The guardrails and signs symbolize the structure in parenting that will help children safely and successfully reach their destination, adulthood.


The program has proven to be successful. In a randomized controlled trial of 359 incarcerated mothers and fathers, participants showed a 34% reduction in post-release arrests, a 29% reduction in self-reported criminal behavior, significantly more positive parent-child contact and an increased use of positive reinforcement with their children.

Over FY20, thirteen social workers, recreation leaders, teachers and security staff at GBCI and the WWCS completed the 13-hour PIO-90 Facilitator Training and earned lead facilitator certification. Twenty-three persons in DOC care started the curriculum in late 2020, despite the challenges of COVID-19, with the first group at Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center successfully completing the program in early March. The remaining three sites anticipate additional completions in mid-2021.

The UW-Madison School of Social Work continues to collaborate with facility staff to develop best practices, resources for caregivers and ongoing technical assistance. This work will continue throughout FY22.​​​​

PIO coach Captain Cummings stands next to the Learning Tree that was painted by PIOC at GBCI. The leaves are removed from the tree when parents believe they’ve achieved their personal learning goal.
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