Friday, May 15, 2015

supporting documents-talking points for legislators and others( prt I) THE NEED FOR NEW PAROLE

Good to know/The broad picture
  1) why the way we do parole needs to change
   2) how it got so messed up
    3) costs of present system- to the taxpayer, to families, to our communities

We believe that the intent of statutes regarding parole has been circumvented and parole for Old Law prisoners has virtually stopped since Truth —in-Sentencing (TIS) was enacted. Most Old Law Prisoners are not released until their Mandatory Release (MR) dates and for "lifers," who have no MR date, this policy means they will die in prison. At the time of their sentencing, the prisoner was
eligible for release after serving 25% of his or her sentence; the average lifer was eligible for release consideration after 13 '/2 years (statute 304.6).For those convicted before 1981, parole eligibility for "lifers" started after the mandatory 11 yrs  3 months.
It is difficult to get exact data on old law prisoners as little is kept by the DOC. Here is some of what we know:
1)   There are approximately 2,800 Old law prisoners in the system today.
2)   IN 1993, before present changes were put into place, Wisconsin paroled 3,624 prisoners while 607 waited for MR
3)   By the time Lenard Wells was chairman, the numbers of releases had dramatically lessened. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, under Lenard Wells in 2005, there were 6294 reviews and 1161 grants. In 2006, under Alfonso Graham ,there was another drop: 4705 reviews, and 688 grants. Each time the pool of old law prisoners lessons in relation to the growing number of TIS prisoners, yes, but also each time these old law prisoners go to parole they are older and more mature and most are more deserving of release.
4)   Only 154 old law prisoners were released in 2012, most because they had reached their mandatory release dates (MR) and the prison is forced by statute to release them if they cannot be proven dangerous. This near stoppage of parole was done without substantive legislative action.
5)   In this same time period the DOC population went from 7000 to 22,000.
1993- 3624 old law prisoners released
2005-1161 Old Law prisoners released 
2006- 688 released
20012-154 released
The changes began in 1994, with the passage of the VOI/TIS bill in the US congress which brought billions of dollars in federal grants to build new prisons, increase penalties and which mandated receiving states keep "violent offenders" in prison longer. This catalog of events is important here only because it helps to prove the point that laws need not be changed to correct the situation as laws were not changed to create the situation. Rule changes will serve to right the system.
There were two federal bills that funded the prison boom and caused the collapse of parole in WI:
1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act! $9.7 billion in funding for Corrections
1996 Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing (VOI/TIS) Incentive Program

Below is the then Governor Tommy Thompson's memo to the secretary of Corrections Michael Sullivan. Here he is laying out the proposal to block the mandatory release of violent offenders and because legal counsel told him "any retroactive change in the law would be unconstitutional." His solution was:

"In order to implement this policy as fully as possible, I hereby direct the Department of Corrections to pursue any and all available legal avenues to block the release of violent offenders who have reached their mandatory release date."
                  Read Governor Tommy Thompson's 1994 memo effectively halting parole.

Truth in sentencing was enacted and ALL old law prisoners- violent offenders, non- violent offenders and party to a crime offenders alike were treated them same- as if they had been sentenced under "Truth in sentencing". Parole became rarer and rarer. Our prison population rose from 7 thousand (approx) to 22 thousand. Below we include besides Governor Thompson's memo to Sullivan, 3 letters from the US Assistant attorney General to WI DOC Secretary Jon Litscher and letter form then representative Grigsby to Parole Chairman asking for fairer parole hearings where families and friends could attend and not only victims and their advocates
 1997 letter US AG to WI DOC confirming receipt of VOI/TIS money  and requirements met to seal the deal
1998 letter US AG to WI DOC 
1999 letter
 2007 Letter  from Tamara Grigsby, WI Representaive , to DOC chairman

Again, we include this material in order to make our point that PAC rule changes that give specific criteria for release, can, if implemented in good faith, make the Wisconsin parole system work as statutes and judges intended and the public expects: Those who are ready to be released, will get a true second chance.

Until 1994 the existing Statutes were enough to effect the regular release of old law prisoners. After 1994 the statute's broad and vague language and the non specific nature of the PAC rules has been used to craft guidelines with much subjective criteria and with requirements that are completely open ended. The result is that the finish line is forever moved ahead for the parole eligible inmate. Many inmates have begun to waive their right to a hearing because they feel it is a complete sham.

Each Old Law Prisoners is given a "Notice of Parole Commission consideration as he /she prepared for the hearing. In it is a list of criteria for parole consideration. Next to most of the listing are the words: "may include but not limited to" and the subjective nature of the listing gives the inmates nothing to aim for.

From the subjective and vague PAC rules have evolved a two page list of criteria even more subjective and unreachable by the prisoner.

Here are two example:
Sufficient Time for Punishment, (may include but not limited to)
Length of sentence or sentences /Mitigating (makes crime less serious) and aggravating (makes the crime more serious) factors/Reason for committing the crime/Your part in the crime
Type of crime (person or property)/Your feelings about the crime and the victim(s)/Attitude of judge and district attorney;
Another, " Risk to the Public (may include but not limited to)" includes:"Is parole/ES violation likely by breaking parole/ES rules, or for new offense" and "Do you demonstrate good judgment and control?"

We have reports of many inmates waiving their parole hearings because they feel they are a sham and heartbreak for them and their families.

This subjective criteria has resulted in a myriad of what prisoners and their families call "excuses" given to parole ready individuals as to why their release will be deferred yet another time. We give a listing of some of the most prevalent "excuses" that have been endured by prisoners and their families year after year.
Following is a listing of some of the unwritten rules and contradictory rules that keep the old law prisoners in:
Most used:
1) "Has not served enough time for punishment" or "release would pose an unreasonable risk to the public"
Many times no evidence of risk other than original crime is given , no criteria give for what is sufficient time. Our rules will give specifics while allowing more public input to give rounded view of risk imposed by release.
2) "Has not completed programming". The usual reason for not completing programming are:
a)    the needed programming is not offered in the prison he is in and he /she is on perpetual waiting list to be transferred to appropriate institution.
b)    he/she is told he cannot complete till almost at MR date.
c)     PRC and PAC contradict each other in recommendations.
The following are again nowhere in the statues but inmates are
repeatedly given these reason for continuance of incarceration:
3) "Needs to transition to minimum security institution": Nowhere in the statutes is this mandated yet is one of the main sticking points to parole. Transition through the security system is often blocked by overcrowding and also when:
a)  PRC recommends programming a lower security institution and BOCM blocks it.
b)  PAC and PRC contradict each other
4) There are no rules prohibiting parole release from medium security or a higher security level but inmates are repeatedly told they have to be at a minimum security prison to be released. Once arriving at the minimum, the situation is worse: As Gina Barton has noted in her recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there are over 400 parole eligible individuals in minimum security now, some who have been there a decade or more and they are not being released. Many of the inmates are told they need to be on work release. There are a dozen jobs and hundreds of applicants. These minimum facilities are called "pretend minimums" by many inmates.
5) Must have 11 month defer before release. Defers are given arbitrarily and give the inmate no real hope.
less known examples of unwritten rules that confuse and befuddle/and statutes misapplied 1)We have many reports of programs assigned retroactively using the Compass Test and there is much mistrust in this method. The test is given verbally, the inmates are not allowed to see the test questions, their answers or the results. We know of inmates given new program requirements through compass testing who have had multiple degrees gained when there were Pell grants available, are in their 60's have been ready for release for decades.
2)Catch 22 of administrative confinement: this is supposedly a non punitive status yet many segregation rules do not allow programming and the inmates are given extra time for not doing programming.

We have reports of many inmate waiving parole hearings because they feel they are a sham and heart break for them and their families.


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