Bridge Of Voices # 13 page one thru four

Forum for understanding prisons newsletter
Pages One Through four

contents post one:
1) introduction
2) solitary from one warden's point of view- (from 3 part National public radio series)
3) my life in prison by WSPF prisoner
4)Judge Rips Supermax as Gulag

This is not a regular edition of Bridges, as our editor is not available for this one. The professional touches are not here nor the fine editing. There also isn't the intertwining of themes we have become used to, nor the balance of the positive and gloomy: but this newsletter will go out and we will be back to fine editing in our next edition.
One of the sad truths that all activists encounter, is that those in power have very little incentive to strive for real change, that their power depends on their ability to maintain the status quo while pretending to want truly representative institutions. The push for change must come from the people whose lives are most affected by the injustice. Yet there is a profound lack of advocates for prisoners, of a voice for prisoners and their families, of the poor in general in this country. To help connect families, activists and prisoners and then to connect with similar groups around the country is the overall goal of FFUP- to support each other, to nurture the prisoner back to meaningful participation, and together help change the way this country is run. Our penpal program is one of the tools we offer and FFUP's offer of Post office box, advise and support does help overcome some fears about writing prisoners and the number of writers slowly grows.
Another connecting tool is our newly formed families and friends of prisoners letter writing network . We have been working with prisoners and their families long enough to realize that most families turn away from their incarcerated loved ones- partly because of the heartbreaking difficulty of keeping in touch. At all points helping the incarcerated is difficult if not impossible. We have also found that having a friend with whom to share the difficulties helps families keep in touch with their prisoner relatives and with this network we hope to provide broader support for families by making it easy for them to connect to others who care. Although families of prisoners will form the core of this network, everyone interest in helping is needed. We will have periodic letter writing opportunities where we join together and write the authorities on issues of specific inmates and general conditions. For more information, see box below.

To find out about FFUP's letter writing network contact swansol@mwt.net; FFUP 29631 Wild Rose Drive; Blue River, Wi 53518; or call 1-608-536-3993. To check out our penpals, go to http://friendsofprisoners.blogspot.com
To find out about our group and general prison issues, go to www.forumforunderstandingprisons.org. Help at all levels is appreciated and any comments or $donations are welcome.

part 2 of National Public Radio's 3 part series on solitary confinement.
Solitary from one warden's point of view
All Things Considered, July 27, 2006 · A growing number of prisoners are spending years in solitary confinement in prisons across the country. These prisoners eat, sleep and exist in their cells alone, with little, if any, physical contact with others.
Experts say there are more than 25,000 inmates serving their sentences this way. A handful of them have been in isolation for more than 20 years.
Almost every inmate in isolation will be released back into the public one day. But there are a few prison officials who are rethinking the idea of isolation -- and wondering if there might be a better way.
One of them is Don Cabana. He began his career in corrections the way most people did 30 years ago in the South: On the back of a horse, a shotgun in one hand and 100 prisoners below him, picking cotton.
The inmates were prisoners at a place called Parchman, a prison deep in the farmlands of Mississippi.
For almost a century, Parchman was notoriously violent "Nobody ever cared about it or cared what went on there," Cabana says. "And there's no question inmates were beaten and abused. I would go so far as to say some were probably even murdered."
By the time Don Cabana became warden in 1981, things had changed at Parchman. Much of the prisoner abuse had subsided, but there were new problems.
It was overcrowded, underfunded and full of bored, violent inmates -- the result of an explosion in gangs and drug crime. Assaults on staff were increasing. Instead of worrying about the guards killing the inmates, Cabana says he worried about the inmates killing his guards.
"I had three officers stabbed one morning by one inmate," he says, "and the only reason he stabbed them is because he was trying to elevate his status in the Aryan brotherhood. Damn near kills all three of them. You know, you take your staff being injured by these people very personally, because you feel like you have failed somehow. And a warden's worst nightmare is losing a staff person."
Locking Down a Lawless Prison Environment
Cabana looked at states including California, Arizona and Illinois and saw they were creating a new place to put bad inmates:1,000-bed, high-tech isolation units known as Supermax prisons. That meant 23 hours a day in a cell, one hour alone in an exercise pen. No television, no contact with the outside world, nothing but a concrete cell.
Making Meaner Inmates
Cabana says he didn't have any trouble getting money to build the Supermax prison and for a while after it was completed, the facility seemed to work well. Cabana says the threat of going to long-term isolation was making the rest of the inmates in general population behave.
But then, Cabana says some things started to trouble him. Inmate behavior got worse, in ways that seemed almost unbelievable. Inmates were smearing themselves with urine and feces and throwing it at the officers "Some inmates were crazy, and wouldn't know they were throwing urine at somebody, others were just mean and doing it out of pure spite," Cabana said. "But many of them did it out of utter frustration."
And there was another problem: the staff.
"A lot of the staff would just be flat-out abusive to the inmates. They would taunt them, ignore them," Cabana says.
Cabana says he would lie awake at night under the pressure of having to decide whom to send to isolation and whom to release. Then one day, as he walked the tier of his Supermax facility, Cabana says something occurred to him.
"Inmate hauls off and spits at you -- yeah, you want to slap the total crap out of them into the next cell," Cabana says. "Problem is, that takes you down to his level, and we're supposed to be better than that. And as a society, one of the best measures of how far a society has come is what their prisons are like. I think what we're doing in Supermax is, we're taking some bad folks, and we're making them even worse. We're making them even meaner."
Second Thoughts About Supermax
Don Cabana is no longer the warden of Parchman. He retired last year. But his feelings about Supermax haven't changed.
"The biggest single regret I had in my career was having built that unit," he says.
Cabana is not the only one with second thoughts. Brian Belleque, the warden of the Oregon State Pennitentiary in Salem, has them, too. "We realize that 95 to 98 percent of these inmates here are going to be your neighbor in the community," Belleque says. "They are going to get out."
In 1991, Oregon built something it calls the Intensive Management Unit, or the IMU. Inmates are locked in their cells all day long, for years. It's dark. There are no windows inside.
On a recent visit, many inmates were pacing back and forth in their cells, talking to themselves or hollering at inmates down the hall.
Rethinking Isolation
The IMU looks like a standard isolation unit. But these days, there are some big differences, including therapy for many of the prisoners. One prisoner named Gregory says that therapy has really helped him. "Some changes took," Gregory said recently while having a session with the psychiatrist. "I was just a mess. I was a straight mess. I was an animal, and I acted that way."
Oregon has also adopted a system that allows inmates like Gregory to earn their way out of isolation. The longest an inmate can stay in isolation is three years. And the decision of who is and isn't sent to isolation is no longer in the warden's hands. A three-person panel outside the prison system decides.
'You Need to Change the Inmate'
But changing the system wasn't an easy sell. It took years. Mitch Morrow, the deputy director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, says even now, there are state officials who cling to the idea of long-term isolation.
"It feels good today to lock them up, and for that given moment, you feel safer," Morrow says. "But if that's where you stop the conversation, then you are doing your state a serious injustice. Because you need to change the inmate. You need to provide the inmate the opportunity to change. And if you don't, if you just feel good about locking somebody up, it's a failed model."
Oregon no longer releases inmates directly from segregation to the streets. Now they send them first to classes, and then to prison jobs in the general population, so they can get used to being around people again.
That's not the case in other states. Last year in Texas, prison officials took 1,458 inmates out of their segregation cells, walked them to the prison gates and took the handcuffs off. There's almost no research about the effects of isolation on how well inmates cope on the outside.
That troubles Walter Dickey. Dickey used to run Wisconsin's prisons. Now he's been appointed by a court there to oversee the conditions at the state's Supermax facility. Dickey says many officials in his state don't see a downside to having a Supermax. He says the state built it because legislators thought they needed it, and most prison officials went along.
It's the numbers that bother Dickey. When he ran the state's prisons, he says there were, at most, a dozen inmates so dangerous that he took them out of general population. Today, the 500 beds at Wisconsin's Supermax are full -- and most inmates have been there since it opened seven years ago. (editor's note: there are about 350 beds filled as of 11 06)
Keeping Inmates Out of Long-Term Segregation
At a small California prison on the Nevada border called High Desert, a group of prison officials gather around a metal desk each week. These weekly meetings are part of a new program meant to keep inmates out of long-term segregation. High Desert Warden Tom Felker started the program six months ago. He said he was tired of sending hundreds of inmates to years of isolation."I, like a lot of people, looked at it as, 'There's probably a better way,'" Felker says.
Felker took his 40 worst inmates and housed them together. He's taken all their possessions: radios, books, televisions. He banned them from the yard. He told them that if they want these privileges back, they would have to earn them by following a specific, itemized list: attend therapy, school and weekly anger-management classes with a local college professor. The staff keeps detailed notes about their progress.
A Model for a Balanced Approach?
"Just straight rehabilitation in its own right -- that's not realistic. But just warehousing inmates? That's not going to work, either," Felker says. "You have to have a balanced approach."
In the past six months, the results so far have stunned even Felker. Almost every inmate has graduated from the program, and they've stayed out of trouble back in general population. Recently, Felker has been visited by staff from several other prisons in California asking how they can start a program like his.
Before Don Cabana retired from Mississippi's Parchman prison, he tried to reform much about the segregation unit. He wanted to send most of the inmates back to general population. But there are still 1,000 inmates in the unit today.
"Prisons have always had prisons within prisons," Cabana says. "I mean, every prison has its jailhouse for the guys you have to lock up. But the numbers of people we're incarcerating under Supermax conditions in this country -- it's just run away from us. That's not how it's supposed to be."
Like prison officials in Oregon, Wisconsin and California, Cabana says he found that building an isolation unit is a lot easier than taking one apart.

William Author Ward says:" It is wiser to lead than to push, to request rather than demand, to suggest rather than insist, to inspire rather than compel, to motivate rather than to manipulate. "
from Jerry Price #171022; Alger Max Prison; PO Box 600; Munising, Michigan 49862

Page 3
My Life in Prison
by Shawn Alexander; WSPF; Po Box 9900; Boscobel, wi 53805
Shawn is now 21 and was 17 when he went to jail for burning down an abandoned barn. No one was hurt. His sentence was 71/2 years in, 13 out and a restitution of $123,000.

On 5-23 -2, an unfortunate decision was made on my behalf, that landed me in The Wisconsin Prison System, but first I was in the county jail. The food was meager, and quite nasty, staff were corrupt, living conditions were atrocious, and I was fighting all the time. Visits were only 15 minutes long on an early Sunday morning. Our constitutional rights were being violated daily. So as I sat my time in this foreign world, fighting my case, I realized early on that survival in prison would depend on myself, family and friends. On Valentines day of 2003 I was sentenced to 20 years; 7 in prison and 13 out on probation, a stiff sentence if you ask me. Only days later I started my prison term at Dodge Correctional Institution, where the degrading and sadistic ways started.
So as this "prison life started, tests, (mental, physical, education) etc were being conducted. Meeting people from all walks of life, I was thinking to myself, "ok, this should go smoothly" but I couldn't have been more wrong. I was so used to the life of freedom, and now a life of no freedom. I was sent to RYOCI on or about May 27th, 003. When I first arrived my thoughts were "clean, new" etc. But as my time went on I realized I was around a bunch of young ignorant people who didn't want to do good with their lives. Only 11 days after arriving, I was in segregation for something that usually would be recognized as a first amendment right. So the persecution began. I was placed in "main seg" which was filled with ignorance, loudness, and stupidity. No sleep, because you have 20 people banging on doors all times of the day.. This was for my first major ticket, and I received a 4 and 360 day segregation in Supermax-meaning One year in seg. But I thought it would be alot smoother upon arriving at Wisconsin secure program Facility. On 8-29-03 I arrived to "Hell in America."
During my approximately 9 months journey at WSPF, I realized that this place is not filled with people who belong here, this place has NO rehabilitational process. This place is designed to breed criminals and make them worse off. They love saying "Oh, we got programs" etc. So what? That does not mean they're properly designed programs. During this journey, I've seen bad treatment and a form of psychological warfare.
So as my prison journey continued at WSPF, I met someone who's still to this day is a good friend. he got me interested in law and most importantly my religion of Asartru. At this I've come to realize there ain't many solid, decent people in Wisconsin and I've come to know how to do prison time :
#1 only associate with a select few who are doing something with their lives.
#2 Choose to stand up against the wrong, unlawful treatment against us. My time had come to leave WSPF May 7,2004.
I didn't know where I was going, so I was therefore caught up in my thoughts of where I would land. When we arrived after a 4 hour bus drive, I asked where we were. And they told me "green Bay". Oh, I've heard a lot about G.B.C.I.- "Gladiator school" etc. and as I went through the start process, and ended up in the cell hall, I was shocked. It looked like the movies- 4 tiers tall, open faced gates, loud noise, and the air was filled with a weird unidentifiable smell .As time went on, I settled in my single person cell, hung out with a couple people, went to religious services, and just tried to get used to this new environment. One thing I have noticed throughout my time is the oppression of my religious ways. During this time at GBCI I became disliked by a couple ignorant people who think there're still in the hood, because I didn't let people walk over me.
I did 9 months without any trouble, and then I was set up by those individuals who didn't like me and they finally got me in seg. But as time went on in GBCI I was doing good, and the time came for me to defend myself on this ticket. But it is impossible, they rarely find people innocent. "Guilty" he said and "transfer back to WSPF" repeated for days in my head. I was wondering, Why was I going back to WSPF? They had no explanation. People have done more and worse. They were just itching to get me out.
On may 7th, 2003, I was transferred back to Hell In America. I had heard good has finally come out of this place- air conditioning, outside recreation, etc, but on arriving I see that the good was limited. Yes we had outside recreation- in a 12 X 12 cage. They say there's "air chillers " but I'm still trapped beneath my sweats as I lie down. It's become quite clear that WSPF has fetalized in a sense. On hot days we used to get ice, for summer we used to receive shorts to wear. But that is all gone. When wintertime rolls around and we go to outside recreation, we are basically forced to freeze. We get these shoes with no padding or insulation. It's like going outside while 10 degrees with a pair of socks on. I feel that they are trying to deter us from going outside. So as this new journey at WSPF started, I realized early on that if I would like to rehabilitate myself, I must do it on my own. Because it's quite obvious that WSPF does not want to rehabilitate people. For example: I caught a minute conduct report back in 2005 and received 180 days seg, 20 days loss of rec, 30 days cell confinement, 30 days loss of tv, 10 days extension of release. Clearly, all this place believes is in stiff punishments instead of help. Their disciplinary rules are designed to keep people in trouble.
Throughout the following months after 10-3-27-05, I never once received a conduct report until 9 months later, because myself and a friend were publishing articles exposing this place. Therefore, the gang coordinator and a sergeant conducted cell searches on the both of us, confiscating material that was being used for a lawsuit and wrote me a ticket. And a couple of weeks later I was moved to a secure,, restricted unit (alpha) with no privileges. I've yet to be found guilty of the conduct report as of date 8-12-06. I'm on administrative confinement -a non punitive status- and your not supposed to be on a punitive status unless found guilty. Therefore they're violating their own policy and due process rights. All because of choosing to expose this place.
Over here on alpha, I'm being deprived of all my rights- no books, only one ten minute phone call a month ( I had 3 fifteen minute calls a month) etc. Alpha unit has staff that purposely do little things to pick at people. - Not answering the intercom, handcuffs and shackles too tight, slamming the trap, talking rudely, flushing our toilets while we're sleeping etc. They drive unstable people into an even more unstable state. I've seen recently a man smear his feces all over his cell, and they pepper sprayed him and got him out of his cell. The janitor arrived to clean his cell, to which we were forced to lay in this bio-hazardous place and smell it for hours. People may argue that he did it for attention. I argue that these people have used psychological warfare on him and damaged his everyday life. People don't smear feces over their whole cell for attention.
Throughout my 51 month journey, I've come to learn that Wisconsin department of corrections does not wish to help us, rehabilitate us or wish us good.. Instead they know that if they did rehabilitate us, a lot of people would lose jobs because we'd all become productive members of society, the prisons would soon be extinct if they taught us to do good. But instead, they stick people in modern day "criminal breeding camps." Some of us may have come to prison as minor criminals, but will leave a knowleged criminal. People of today' society are probably thinking" Oh they can change regardless". Very true, but when you have an alcoholic and stick him in a room of alcoholics, he'll drink. Now if you take an individual who's a so called criminal and stick him in an environment where criminality is being taught instead of rehabilitation, temptation will most likely win.
A lot of people have no social skills. It's fortunate that I'm a sociable person because to be dropped back off in society, one must possess social skills as a key component to survival in society. I'm not trying to make things sound like prison needs to be a first class hotel. But what I am saying is that we need rehabilitative tools to help us re-enter society. This will only come with your help, by contacting the DOC in Madison. But I also suggest to all prisoners that wish to do good in society, to help yourself while behind that glistening razor wire. Take this time and use it wisely. Although I'm at this "supermax", I've got nothing but time. So as I lock this up, I hope it has opened up the eyes if many people. If you have any questions, comments, you can be reached at :
Shawn Alexander #439226;WSPF ( Wisconsin Secure Program Facility);Po Box 9900; Boscobel, Wi 53805

Judge rips Supermax as a 'gulag'
Court: Prison's treatment, punishment were cruel
By David Callender Nov 15, 2006
A federal appeals court has likened conditions in Wisconsin's Supermax prison to the most punitive "gulags" of the former Soviet Union. In a stinging 14-page decision, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the treatment of inmates at the Boscobel prison violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Terence Evans described that treatment in the starkest terms."Stripped naked in a small prison cell with nothing except a toilet; forced to sleep on a concrete floor or slab; denied any human contact; fed nothing but 'nutri-loaf;' and given just a modicum of toilet papers - four squares - only a few times. Although this might sound like a stay at a Soviet gulag in the 1930s, it is, according to the claims in this case, Wisconsin in 2002," Evans wrote in the opening paragraph of his decision.
The court did not rule on the facts of the case, sending that portion back to be decided by a federal district court in Green Bay. But the judges said that if those facts are true, then the prison violated inmate Nathan Gillis' rights. At issue in the case is the prison's Behavioral Modification Program, which is aimed at getting problem inmates to obey prison rules The court did not rule on the facts of the case, sending that portion back to be decided by a federal district court in Green Bay. But the judges said that if those facts are true, then the prison violated inmate Nathan Gillis' rights.
In Gillis' case, prison officials said he did not sleep with his head where guards could see him, which they said was necessary to make sure he was safe. For violating that rule, Gillis was stripped of his clothes, bedding, and all personal property and fed "nutri-loaf," prison food ground up and formed into a loaf. Under the rules, Gillis could gradually earn back his clothes and other belongings if he obeyed the rules; if he did not obey the rules, he would remain indefinitely in his cell, naked, alone, and on a cold cement bed.
The court ruled that the conditions "had an adverse effect on Gillis' mental stability. "He heard voices telling him that 'these people were trying to kill him.' He suffered panic attacks, with palpitations, shortness of breath, and a feeling that he was going to die. He became suicidal. He inflicted wounds on his body and wrote the words 'help me' in blood on the walls of his cell," Evans wrote.
After guards saw Gillis' wounds, he was transferred to a mental health unit at the prison where he was placed on clinical observation "but the conditions of his confinement did not change," Evans wrote. Evans wrote that unlike other punishments, Gillis was stuck in the Behavioral Modification Program until he completed it - not just until he obeyed the rules.
The program "is different" from other punishments. "It is not simply a natural consequence 'automatically' growing out of a rule infraction. It is much more elaborate," Evans wrote. "An inmate who refuses to put on his trousers can correct the situation immediately by putting them on. In contrast, (prison officials) did not simply take Gillis' blanket away until he conformed with the rule. Once he received notice that he was to be put in the BMP, he had to complete the whole program. He couldn't make it stop."
Many of the conditions of severe deprivation and isolation described in Gillis' case are similar to those recounted in a 2001 class-action lawsuit filed by severely mentally ill inmates at Supermax. Under a settlement, the state agreed to remove all mentally ill inmates from the prison, but said the use of isolation and deprivation would continue for other inmates. Inmates are sent to Boscobel, now known under the settlement as the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, from other prisons if they are violent, disruptive or do not obey prison rules. Evans noted that it was unclear whether the BMP was still being used.
Gillis, he wrote, contends that the program is still in effect, while prison officials "with notable ambiguity, say that 'although the policy may still be in effect, the BMP program is no longer used'" at the prison. Gillis' lawyers Pam McGillivray and Ed Garvey argued that if the federal district court sides with their client, the appeals court decision could have national implications on states with similar Supermax programs.In a statement released today, Department of Corrections spokesman John Dipko said the department's attorneys are still reviewing the decision. He added, "It is important to note that the issue before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was whether there are material disputes of fact between the parties. The 7th Circuit found that material facts are in dispute, and remanded the case to the district court for a trial. We take issue with certain points made by the plaintiffs in the case and will be prepared to state our position in court."

On to Post two, Pages 5 thru 7


Bridge Of Voices # 13 Pages 5 thru 7

post two Bridge of Voices Newsletter #13


1) Action Alert: abuse and overuse of solitary
2) "What is "On the Ground Racism?" by Ed Steichen
3) Prison-based gerrymandering in the news: NY times

ACTION ALERT : Overuse and abuse of solitary
We have become heart-sick and angry at a phenomenon I believe we can start to change now. The overuse and abuse of solitary confinement is more of a societal problem than a DOC problem. One large group often in solitary is the mentally ill- because we do not treat the mentally: Victim-Eyez by Christopgher Goodvine ill , we simply incarcerate them . The DOC must find a way to "contain" them and often they end up for years in solitary confinement. There is growing evidence and discussion in the country and around the world that the conditions in solitary cells do amount to torture and is similar to techniques use by the CIA. There are profound negative effects of long term solitary confinement on the healthy mind as well as on the already mentally ill. I have a hunch that part of the reasoning for making parole so difficult these days is that the DOC is aware of the monsters they are making. This is a problem for all of us. The DOC is giving us what we are asking for- an out of sight, out of mind prison solution. I believe with tiny steps we can begin to form a movement and join with similar movements around the country and DEMAND rehabilitation .
What we can begin to change now is the punitive structure of that solitary confinement in Wisconsin- with letter writing.
I am not familiar with the rule structure of every Wisconsin prison but I have written and tried to help enough segregation prisoners to know that most prisons give the most needy the least. Imagine my frustration when an inmate, in a solitary cell, asks me to help him learn cursive writing.or asks for history books. In many levels of segregation, books from outside are not allowed and those on the lowest levels, often diagnosed mentally ill, must rely on 2 books a week from the library and perhaps someone's poor xerox attempts. Parents also tell me of their sons not being able to make calls if in the lower rungs of the seg ladder .One parent complained that she wanted to buy her son a correspondence course and was not allowed because of her son's status. Some seg prisoners are not allowed to take GED programs or any education programs. The prison will call this a program by which the inmate learns to obey the rules and gradually gets more and more privileges as he obeys.
It does not work. This kind of punishment breeds anger, not compliance. Even when you train a dog, you train it by showing it alternative, more constructive alternatives- depriving or physically abusing it only makes the dog hate you. Basic needs MUST be met for any kind of positive change to come about.
The methods also do not take into account the racist nature of the system . When I really try to find out what the inmate needs to graduate out of seg- it is often vague-" he needs to be more interactive, he needs to act more respectful." Many people never get out of seg because they view the demands as a slave on a plantation views the demands for obeisances from his master. The prison staff does not allow talk as peers. It is not respect that is asked for and the staff does not understand it. Of course the problem is more complex and bigger than this paragraph or the medium will allow.
The draconian rules for segregation prisoners build up such an anger in the prisoner that he becomes a powder keg ready to explode upon being released to the public. In this newsletter will be articles on segregation, including offerings of the American Friends Service Committee, a taste of a series done by Wisconsin Public Radio, and others. . In the non inmate edition will be articles by prisoners who have spent years in solitary. A sample letter will also follows. Please write.

Matthew Frank, Secretary of Corrections; Po Box 7925; Madison, Wi 53707
Governor Jim Doyle; 115 East, State Capitol; Madison, Wi 53702

Dear Sir,
I am deeply concerned about the overuse of solitary in Wisconsin prisons. Recently it has been reported that Wisconsin leads the nation in prison suicides, and most of those suicides occur while prisoners are in solitary. We also lead the nation in having the highest per capita ratio of Black prisoners. I realize that the balancing of our present punitive system with treatment and rehabilitation is a long term project and will take the participation of the larger society but there are a few important things that can be done right now to help prisoners survive solitary confinement. The almost total deprivation inflicted in segregation cells does not cause the inmate to become more compliant, Instead he gets angry and sick. Many people spend their entire sentence in solitary and then are released to society with absolutely no social or job skills. Many are so angry they have no prospects of making a successful transition and wreak havoc on society before being returned to their cage.
I propose that certain uniform rules be imposed on all segregation units. These are a small steps toward allowing the families and friends to get involved. I propose that:
1) that all prisoners in segregation be allowed books sent in from the outside, that
2) all prisoners be allowed access to GED and other educational programs and that family and friends be allowed to buy correspondence courses.
3) all prisoners, no matter what status they are or if they have a huge legal loan , be allowed embossed envelopes sent from the outside.( as it is now in some prisons, if an inmate has a lawsuit and is indigent, he pays for law copies and postage with a "legal loan" and if that loan gets big enough, he cannot receive money
from the outside and gets only one stamp a week for the institution, has no canteen etc. )
4) All prisoners, no matter what status, be allowed to receive at least one call a week from the outside.
5) we ask that this be part of a general turn about in policy to a rehabilitative system .

essay by Ed Steichen, Waunakee resident, life time activist and member of MUM and MEP

How many frogs did you see on the road or the sidewalk as you came to this meeting? Do you ever make it a point to count frogs when you travel from place to place? You don't?? Why Not? Because it isn't necessary, not even useful, for your survival to count frogs that cross your path.
How many times today were you conscious of the color of your skin? If you're white, it is about as important for your survival as it is to count frogs. If you're not white, it is as useful as it is to watch for cars when you cross the street.
Those of us who are white live in a white world. Those who are not white, live in a different world. In the following I speak of the black world because roots of the prison system are traceable to black slavery and because I am more familiar with it. Many of the observations apply in good measure to other racial and minority groups.
My point is this. The white world has built institutions, even terrorist institutions, that create chronic anger, fear and failure in non-white populations - based on the color of their skin. Life lived in an environment of constant hostility and harassment is destructive. At the same time, life lived in an environment of power over others is also destructive.
The World of White Entitlement
The White world is the presence of history. History is not just the past. It is also the present. Our Constitution was written by white Anglo Saxon property owning males. (I have read that they represented about 4% of the population.) The Constitution took great care to protect the property of those white Anglo-Saxon males. That property included black slaves. Black slaves were a major asset in the American economy – like computers are today. To this day the courts prefer property over people, white over black, rich over poor.
Cheap government land was distributed to whites. Blacks were excluded. Today “rural America" is white. White rural legislators have herded black prisoners into white rural areas to benefit the white economy. Many of the expenses of this rural prison system are put on the backs of the families of black prisoners.
Social security and workman's comp were passed for white people. Southern legislators ensured that blacks were excluded. Aid to widowed mothers was initially passed for white widows. General welfare - which carried a heavy load of shame - was for blacks. Low cost housing loans and the G.I. bill covering costs of college were provided for whites. Blacks were excluded. These laws built the white suburbs with access to the better schools and jobs. These entitlement programs for whites represent tens of trillions of dollars.
Several generations of these government entitlements built white family wealth and white community wealth, produced an educated white population, and white business, social and cultural institutions, systems that served whites, ­not blacks - health care systems, legal assistance, and political representation. Blacks were excluded.
Segregation was almost as effective as slavery for exploiting the wealth produced by black communities. Segregation created a terrorist society that very efficiently prevented education and political empowerment of blacks.
The thirteenth amendment was passed to abolish slavery, except as a punishment for crime. It abolished slavery in the private sector, but established it in the public sector. It became the tool for re-establishing slavery in the south. Emancipated black men were herded into plantation prisons. A lot of “prison culture” in this country came right out of those slave prisons.
In spite of vociferous white denial, the white world was built by white men for white men by extremely effective government programs. Government programs work - for the purposes of those who have the power to impose them.
The black world of Wisconsin.
Roughly 10% of the American population is black. Fifty percent of the prison population is black.Five percent of the Wisconsin population is black. 50% of the prison population is black. 65% of the supermax prison population has been black. Drug use is slightly higher among the white population. So is drug dealing.
In 1985 Wisconsin had less than 6000 prisoners. Today Wisconsin has nearly 22,000 prisoners. The crime rate has changed very little. This growth rate has been one of the highest in the nation. The rate of incarcerating blacks has been the highest in the nation. The rate for imprisoning whites has been below the national average. The rate of incarcerating blacks in this country is much higher than the rate of total incarcerations in all other countries. This country has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners.
Wisconsin's supermax prison has been called one of the worst in the nation for psychological torture. Two of the past four Secretaries of the DOC have condemned the supermax for incarcerating far too many prisoners in these extreme conditions. The court appointed monitor of the supermax has reported that the DOC has no research to support its programs, no established guidelines, no clear expected outcomes and no means of evaluating its activities regarding supermax prisoners. It is basically a center of extreme mental torture applied by arbitrary decisions by staff with little competence for no institutionally agreed on purpose. This is the essence of terrorism. Terrorism is the worst type of psychological torture. It is irrational, arbitrarily applied pain approved by authority. The supermax inmate population has been 65% black.
Re-entry of inmates into the civilian population is extremely difficult. Consider this: a white male felon has a greater chance of getting a job than an equally qualified black male non-felon. Roughly one third of young black men are under the supervision of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Wisconsin is not one of the high crime states in the nation. There is no relationship between the rate of incarceration and the crime rate. The causes are political. That is the meaning of Jim Crow.
Wisconsin has had the second highest rate of black child poverty in the nation. Wisconsin has the worst record in the nation for graduating black youth from high school. Don't blame it all on poverty. Young blacks from middle class black families, from well educated black families, from adoptive families with well educated white parents have many similar race related problems in school.
There is a serious gap in achievement between white and black children who remain in school until graduation. There is a serious gap in access to valuable extra curricular courses - band, debate, plays, etc. (Football and basketball are, of course, exceptions.) White middle class PTA's are resistant to significant participation by black parents. Schools are internally segregated. Zero tolerance policies are applied more heavily to black children than to white children. We adults don't like to be forced into strange and hostile situations. Yet we expect it of small black children.
A black woman teen counselor told me that she always begins by legitimizing the suppressed anger of young black boys. Randall Robinson, one of the great blacks in the civil rights struggle, recently wrote a book named "Quit America". He has moved to the small black country of his wife where he is just another normal citizen. Imagine the impact on his life.
One last thought. There are prisons - hardly any in this country - where prisoners and staff are treated with respect, treated as human beings. The differences in inmate behavior and outcome are impressive, even for those pariahs - the sexual predators. The way America treats prisoners is cultural, not rational, not healthy, not necessary. It does not protect public safety. It reflects the values of this society. And it comes out of slavery.

Prison-Based Gerrymandering in the News

note:There have been a number of article lately about the following phenomenon- who gets to count the prisoners- the place where their homes is, or the prison town? It makes a big difference in tax money but especially in government representatives and the present practice disenfranchises millions.
Copyright 2006; The New York Times Company
Prison inmates are barred from voting in 48 states. Even so, state legislatures typically count the inmates as "residents" to pad state legislative districts that sometimes contain too few residents to be legal under federal voting rights law. This unsavory practice exaggerates the political power of the largely rural districts where prisons are built and diminishes the power of the mainly urban districts where inmates come from and where they inevitably return.
Prison-based gerrymandering has helped Republicans in the northern part of New York maintain a perennial majority in the State Senate and exercise an outsized influence in state affairs. A recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has pushed this little-known problem into the public eye and could one day be remembered as the beginning of the end of the practice.
The court held that prison inmates did not have the right to vote, as the plaintiffs were contending. But the court expressed interest in the question of whether counting minority inmates in prison as residents there, instead of in their home districts, unfairly diluted the voting power of minority voters in urban districts. The issue was referred to the lower court for consideration, and this in turn has already led to a broader public discussion of the role that inmates play in the political process.
New York State's Republican leadership dismissed the court's ruling out of hand and tried to argue that counting inmates as residents of a prison's district was legal and no different than counting college students at their dormitories. That's absurd. Students live in dormitories voluntarily — and can actually vote. Inmates cannot vote, and their home districts lose representation when they are counted elsewhere.
Voters who come to understand how this system cheats them are unlikely to keep rewarding the politicians who support it.

by Christopher Goodvine , #310458;WCI;PO Box 351,Waupun, WI 53963
It pains me to see my folks
profiled by police
and sellout leader so evil
they throw smiles on our streets
to get elected…then neglect us
look down on our streets
That every corner has a booty bar
or Catholic Church
and liquor store- to inebriate
my path at birth. Reality hurts.
As if I’m seeing through the eyez
of Ms. Alice Walker.. reality stalks us.
Cuz while the victim I conceive
is the "color of purple"so forlorn are the things
that constantly lurks us
There’s gotta be purpose-
Why our past was erased, ancestors raped
Forefathers abused
Suspended from some branch with their necks in noose.

"On to Post 3, pages 8 thru 10


Bridge of Voices #13 Pages 8 thru 10

Bridge of Voices #13 post 3
1) the Life of a Sex Offefender
2)Why Finland Is Soft on Crime

The Life of a Sex Offender in Wisconsin
Charles Anderson
Life can be tenuous for a sex-offender in Wisconsin, whether they have been sent to prison or not. The onus of a criminal conviction can carry lifetime consequences in terms of ability to gain meaningful employment, access to a political forum, and ineligibility to vote or obtain government benefits.
But, the prospects for a “registered” sex offender can be even more dismal. In addition to the problems noted above, such men and women can face being ostracized by both community and some family members. Many churches shy away from involvement in the lives of these modern-day lepers.
The lepers had done nothing to merit their status, you say, while sex offenders have violated some of society’s most sacred norms involving women and children. Have they? What is the difference between rape, date rape, and consensual sex? Ask Koby Bryant. It may well be blurred in this modern society, which sells sex to young consumers with overwhelming tenacity. What about precocious sexual activity that we see described as taking place in most junior highs as the pre and post adolescents seek to make sense of their newly emerging feelings and capacities.
Thus, these sometimes innocent children and rambunctious teens have been forced into what society condemns as illegal activity. God help them if such behavior comes to the attention of the “authorities”. (see in re Steven T 647 NW. 2nd 151 in which a ten year old was ordered to register as a sex offender. )
Juvenile facilities are now filled with young (sex) offenders whose actions would have gone unpunished twenty years ago. And remember: Milwaukee Mayor Norquist and US President Clinton were both sex offenders, though not convicted of criminal activities. How many of the fine citizens of Wisconsin can claim innocence in such matters?
As the myth goes, the problem with convicted sex offenders is that in addition to being dangerous to women and children, their propensity to reoffend is unrestrained. The second myth is that such danger comes from strangers lurking near parks or schools. Neither is true.
In the first regard, the recidivism rate for sex offenders is far lower than for drug and other offenders. Drug offenders comprise a revolving wheel between court (probation), administrative law judge (revocation), treatment (A.O.D.A) in prison, lowered custody (minimum security: offering jobs and relative freedom) and (early) parole. The result is almost overwhelming reinvolvement in drug activity as consumer or peddler. This is non-violent, harmless activity? Listen to the assessment of the circuit court in State vs Fischer 702 N.W. 2d at 59 of the defendant convicted of cocaine sale:
“ Mr Fischer, you are quickly becoming an institutionalized man.( He had been to prison before.) When those drugs got distributed, it costs a lot of money to take care of the people because they commit crimes in order to get more money to buy drugs, so it is not as simple as it may look." This is a succinct explanation for one report that the drug trade is responsible for 85% of urban crime. The rural problem of meth labs may be even worse.
But, we have overlooked the enormous harm that sex offenders cause to their many victims as a result of their manipulative, coercive, often violent activities. Such victims report that they have lost trust, feel violated, and cannot function at the same level as before the incident. This holds true whether it is a father violating his step- daughter, a husband forcing his wife to engage in sexual depravity, or a 16 year old boy who coerces a 13 year old girl to “go all the way.’ The rare example of the stranger abduction- murder of young girls dominates the headlines and fuels the media and politicians into draconian retribution.
The penalties of first degree sexual assault have doubled from 20 to 40 years in the 1990’s to 60 years under Truth in Sentencing. Terms in excess of 100 years have been meted out to perpetrators in intergenerational sex rings in which the youngsters were cajoled by drugs, video games and alcohol. The real allure for them was the thrill of participating in (illegal) underground activity. Many will not be denied (this early introduction to sex) and will go on to a lifetime of crime. Stop it now: before another generation is lost to the gallows of the prison system. The Wisconsin prison population has tripled (to 22,500) in the last 20 years. It’s budget now approaches a one billion bite out of the state coffers each year. Instead, much of this money should be put into prevention- youth and family programs.
As drug offenders are released and seemingly forgiven (fueling the escalating murder rate in Wisconsin as they attempt to reassert their “turf”) sex offenders are kept in bondage through uncommon oversight, endless therapy, and the stigmatization of public registry despite the fact that recidivism ( reconviction for another sex offense) is as low as 5% after three years. (Bureau of justice Statistics, Wash., DC, 2003- charting 9700 sex offenders released in 1994) It eventually tops off to 20 to30% after 10, 15 years. Walk a mile in their shoes.
Recently a Milwaukee Pastor, Rev. Debra Trakel of St James Episcopal, offered the state a solution to their pressing constitutional issue of 980 releases, as she made one of their church buildings available to house a group of men, otherwise shunned by the community. The response by the state: negative. There is no path of redemption possible for sex offenders in Wisconsin. The alternative: keep them locked up after their sentences expire under civil commitment in Mauston at a cost of $116,000 per 300 men- amounting to a $34 M drain on the Department of Health and Human Services Budget: money that is diverted from programs assisting families and children. This is bad fiscal and moral policy by a state long noted for its progressive tradition of compassion toward all of its citizens.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, each year there are 60,000 to 70,000 arrests on charges of child sexual assault in the United States. Of these, only about 115 are abductions by strangers. Approximately 90 percent of all child victims of sexual offending know the perpetrator. The perpetrator is not a stranger to the child.


Author: Dan Gardner
In a classroom thick with wigs, sinks and barber chairs, a man sprays water through a woman's sudsy hair and works his fingers carefully to rinse the shampoo. Standing in front of a large mirror, another man brushes and sprays a woman's hair. Two others discuss styling techniques. It could be a scene from any community college, but for the bars on the windows. This is Hameenlinna Central Prison, near Helsinki. The stylist working at the mirror is a convicted murderer. The man washing hair is a drug trafficker. Two of the three women are also prisoners; the other is a professional hairstylist hired to teach the class. There are no guards.This is Finland's criminal justice system at work. Here, offenders either serve remarkably short prison sentences or, far more commonly, no prison time at all. Finland's incarceration rate is just 52 per 100,000 people, less than half Canada's rate of 119 per 100,000 people and a tiny fraction of the American rate of 702. In Finland, prisoners can work or study at any education level. Outside relationships are fostered with frequent visits and "home leaves."Living conditions are generous by anyone's standard. At Hameenlinna, male and female prisoners live together; occasionally they fall in love and get married in the little auditorium that serves as the prison chapel. Finland's criminal justice system is, in short, a liberal's dream and a conservative's nightmare. In that, Finland is far from unique. Most Western European nations consider large prison populations shameful and use incarceration only as a last resort. What sets Finland apart is how it came to be this way: More than 30 years ago, Finland made an explicit decision to abandon the country's long tradition of very tough criminal justice in favour of the Western European approach. Never before or since has a country so consciously and completely shifted from one philosophy of justice to its opposite. It was a grand experiment in criminal justice, and the results are in. Mr. Salminen says one reason for the consensus is geography. "In Finland, Russia is very close. We follow it very keenly" Russian criminal justice is the negative image of Finland's. The St. Petersburg region, with 5.9 million people, has 72,000 police officers -the five million people of Finland employ 8,500. Russian criminals are far more likely to be punished with prison time, and the sentences they receive are far longer. And, in most cases, Russian convicts serve time in prison conditions that would be considered barbaric and illegal in Finland. The Finns also know that the two countries' crime rates are just as starkly different. In an international survey, 82 per cent of Finns said they felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark, the second highest national rating (after Sweden; both Canada and the United States scored just more than 70 per cent, placing them near the bottom of the 11 countries surveyed). Russia wasn't included in that survey, but fear of crime is widespread, and for good reason -- the murder rate in Russia is 10 times that in Finland. Long prison sentences in austere conditions used to be standard in Finland. In the 1950s, Finland's incarceration rate was 200 prisoners per 100,000 people -- a normal rate for East Bloc countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia where justice systems had been Sovietized, but four times the rate in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. In the 1960s, Finland began edging cautiously toward reform, using its Scandinavian neighbours as models. Nils Christie, a renowned Norwegian criminologist was the first to tell the Finns that their incarceration rate was totally unlike that of their Scandinavian neighbours and was "really in the Russian radition.Discussions and debates were widespread. Ultimately, says Tapio Lappi-Seppala, the director of the Finnish National Research Institute of Legal Policy, an agreement was reached that "our position was a kind of disgrace." During the next two decades, a long series of policy changes were implemented, all united by one goal: To reduce imprisonment, either by diverting offenders to other forms of punishment or by reducing the time served in prison. "It was a long-term and consistent policy," Mr. Lappi-Seppala emphasizes. "It was not just one or two law reforms. It was a coherent approach." The reforms began in earnest in the late 1960s and continued into the 1990s. In 1971, the laws allowing repeat criminals to be held indefinitely were changed to apply only to dangerous, violent offenders. The use ofconditional sentences (in which offenders avoid prison if they obey certain conditions) was greatly expanded. Community service was introduced. Prisoners may be considered for parole after serving just 14 days; even those who violate parole and are returned to prison are eligible for parole again after one month. And for those who aren't paroled, there is early release: All first-time offenders are let out after serving just half their sentences, while other prisoners serve two-thirds. Mediation was also implemented, allowing willing victims and offenders to discuss if the offender can somehow set things right. "It does not replace a prison sentence," says Mr. Lappi-Seppala, but "in minor crimes, you may escape prosecution or you may get a reduction in your sentence." There are now 5,000 cases of mediation per year, almost equal to the number of imprisonments. Juvenile justice was also liberalized. Criminals aged 15 to 21 can only be imprisoned for extraordinary reasons -- and even then, they are released after serving just one-third of their time. Children under the age of 15 cannot be charged with a crime. The most serious crimes can still be punished with life sentences but these are now routinely commuted, and the prisoner released, as early as 10 years into the sentence and no longer than 15 or 16 years. The Finns retain a power similar to Canada's "dangerous offender" law: Persons found to be repeat, serious, violent offenders with a high likelihood of committing new violent crimes can be held until they are determined to no longer be a threat to the public. There are now 80 such offenders in prison and they, like Canada's dangerous offenders, are unlikely to ever be released. One especially critical change was the creation of sentencing guidelines that set shorter norms. Similar guidelines are used in the United States, but many of those restrict judges' discretion -- Finnish judges remain free to sentence outside the norm if they feel that is appropriate. Violence is rare in Finnish prisons. Officials credit this calm in part to their policy of giving prisoners as much contact with other people, both inside and outside prisons, as possible. Frequent visits from family andfriends are encouraged, including conjugal visits. There are also "home leaves." After serving six months, all prisoners can apply for leave to return to their home towns for periods of up to six days every four months. Only if a prisoner is considered likely to re-offend, or is misbehaving, is he likely to be turned down. Home leaves have been controversial in Finland, particularly when violent offenders are allowed out, but the authorities insist the program is both successful and necessary. Ninety per cent of home leaves occur without even minor difficulties. And by allowing prisoners the chance to live briefly in the real world, home leaves strengthen relationships and help prevent the atrophy of basic social skills. "Prisoners must have contact with the civil world," insists Ms. Toivonen. Officials also try to build new relationships between prisoners and people on the outside by bringing in volunteers, who may join group discussions or even visit prisoners in their cells. The goal, says Mr. Aaltonen, is that "everybody has some close connection with somebody -- some person outside, whether it is a wife or husband, social worker, friend, voluntary worker from the church or Red Cross. It is very important that everybody should have somebody waiting for him." If prisons don't encourage these relationships, says Mr. Aaltonen, released convicts will be met on the outside "by a gang or friends involved in crime." Finland's extensive use of parole and early release also creates transition periods in which released prisoners are supervised while they try to get established in legitimate society. Before and after release, the authorities help ex-cons get jobs and homes. Thanks to Hollywood, North Americans imagine prisoners are released with little more than a bus ticket and a shake of the warden's hand. In the United States, and to a lesser extent Canada, there's some truth in that. But in Finland, no prisoner is simply walked out the penitentiary gate.
That was the experiment. What about Crime Rates?. Mr. Lappi-Seppala compared Finland's crime rates going back many decades with Sweden and Norway and discovered "the trends are basically identical in each of the countries. So despite the fact that we had radically different prison policies, our crime trends went hand-in-hand with the other countries." When Finland took a hard-line approach, its crime trends were identical to those of its liberal neighbours. And when it switched to a liberal system its trends continued in line with its neighbours. Ultimately, Finland's choices about how to punish crime had little or no effect on the crime rate. Mr. Lappi-Seppala produces a chart that compares the number of robberies in Finland with the average sentence given for that crime. In the decade before 1965, judges cut the length of the average robbery sentence in half with no effect on the number of robberies. Then from 1965 to 1990, the sentences for robbery stayed about the same -- while robberies first grew by five times, then dropped by a quarter, then doubled, then dropped by almost half again. There is simply no correlation between the punishment inflicted and the number of robberies. Juvenile crime is another case in point. The astonishingly liberal approach Finland implemented for juvenile crime -- no one under 15 can be charged, and offenders between 15 and 21 are rarely incarcerated -- did not spark an increase in juvenile crime. Over the last 20 years, the proportion of crime for which young offenders are responsible has even declined. After more than 30 years, the Finnish experiment has produced clear conclusions: High incarceration rates and tough prison conditions do not control crime. They are unnecessary. If a nation wishes, it can send few offenders to prison, and make those prisons humane, without sacrificing the public's safety.
For those interested in building a less punitive society, the benefits of such an approach are obvious. But there are also more quantifiable returns.Mr. Lappi-Seppala notes that, by one estimate, Finland's smaller prison population has saved the country's taxpayers $200 million over the last 20 years. Then there is Finland's bounty of time. About 6,500 years of human life was saved from incarceration. Some 40,000 people avoided prison altogether. Finland's reforms meant that this time was instead spent with families andcommunities, a contribution whose value is surely great, if incalculable.Pubdate: Mon, 18 Mar 2002;Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)edited from 6 pages-
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