This blog is dedicated to securing safe the release of WI prisoners who are parole eligible, rehabilitated and ready to be good citizens. These are the "Old Law Prisoners". The existence of these 2800 plus prisoners and the waste of lives and taxpayers' money their continued incarceration causes is a closely held secret. We intend to help expose this debacle and help fix a broken parole system. Much here for good learning, Read on.
Summer Newsletter with latest on release of Old law Captives
The most compelling
reason for fixing our parole policies, however, are not financial
these old law prisoners get older, their continued status as prisoners becomes
and more absurd and tragic. Not only is
the taxpayer paying exorbitant bills to hold people that are no longer a risk to society but that money is not
buying good or humane treatment.
Prisons are not built to house elderly humanely without building expensive hospice units and building those for people who are no longer dangerous
and should be home is beyond understanding.
recommend the reading of one of the many excellent studies on this national
of the elderly. We can be out front in
showing a solution because we do not have to enact new statutes, instead we need to ensure that the ones we have are
implemented by putting in place PAC rules that ensure stricter
compliance with the intent of
sentencing judge and legislators.
2012 Human Rights Watch study "Old In Prison:
in prison can challenge anyone, but it can be particularly hard for those whose
minds and bodies are being whittled away by age.
Prisons in the United States contain an ever growing number of aging men and women who cannot
readily climb stairs, haul themselves to the top bunk, or walk long distances to meals or the canteen; whose old
bones suffer from thin mattresses and winter's cold; who need wheelchairs, walkers, canes, portable oxygen,
and hearing aids; who cannot get dressed, go to the bathroom, or bathe without help; and who are
incontinent, forgetful, suffering chronic illnesses, extremely ill, and dying.
is an excellent study of our looming crisis of the-elderly
in prison. Unlike other states- we have a clear
and easy fix- change the PAC rules to allow safe release of parole ready old
law prisoners, click for link to online study. https://ffupstuff.files.wordpress.comI2O
Impact on the young , minority and
impact of holding these Old Law prisoner extends throughout society in lack of
finding for all
programs like college. But our policy also devastates families and communities
and yes, increases crime. Wisconsin is way ahead in this one also-
infamously. A few years back Wisconsin was
as the state that incarcerates the most African American males. Significantly,
been also named as the city with the poorest math and reading scores. Last year
and Training Institute did a study on the impact of WI justice policies on the
Here is the heading of their study and its opening statement. View online at:
Wisconsin has highest black male
incarceration rate in U.S. Half of African American. men
in their 30s in Milwaukee County have been in state prison..
(from, study introduction) "The prison population in Wisconsin has more than
tripled since 1990, fueled by increased
government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison
rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth- -in-sentencing replacing
judicial discretion in setting
punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state
incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly
impacted were African American males.
26,222 African American men from Milwaukee County have been or are currently incarcerated in state correctional facilities (including a
third with only non-violent offenses), and another 27,874 men (non-offenders) have driver's license
violations (many for failure to pay fmes and civil forfeitures) preventing them from legally driving."
It is easy
to see the impact of our lock- em-up- and- throw- away -the -key policy through
the younger T-I-S prisoner. Many of our
old law prisoners have children who only know their father and mothers as prisoners and now many these now young adults are having
children. As most Milwaukeans know and this study shows, the absence of fathers is a major factor
in crime in Milwaukee - over- incarceration causes crime. And over and over again we hear from TIS
prisoners that they grew up without their fathers; that their only model was the drug dealer on the corner or
the words of a 17 waiting for his father who has served 17 years of a 50 year
sentence for the crime of robbery in which
no one was hurt. He has been eligible for parole for the last 4 years, has done all his programming and has been well behaved. Like
most of the other old law prisoners, the reason given for no parole is: "Not enough time served for
"Hello its me Robert!! Im a
senior at park high school. Im 17 and I don't have a good relationship with my
dad but I would love a relationship with
him. I would love to see him at my prom and graduation that's all I want
really. I haven't seen my dad in 2 years and I would love for him to come home.
I would like to have a father in my life now and I go to prom on May
17th and I graduate June 8. My relationship to my father is not what I want I
to see him and I want him to come
home. The reason why I want him to come home is because he hasn't been a father
in my life for 17 years and I want him here. I believe he should come home
because he been in therefor 17 years and its time for him to
get out of prison. I love my dad and I believe he deserve another chance at life
and you should put him on parole house arrest or something just
let my father come home where he belongs. We'll that's all I
have to say so i end this with a goodbye and I pray you over look his case and
send him, home. Goodbye
We can still make the shift to a wise policy. Punishment
is a viable part of incarceration, yes,
but we have taken it to an extreme. And prisons have become a jobs program in
this country and this is
wrong. In recent decades, our society has refused to accept responsibility for
its problems and has gone for easy solutions, giving quick sound bites in
answer to any resistance- and we have
literally dumped our alienated, poor and mentally ill into our prisons. In the 90's the legislature gave Departments of
Corrections plenty of money to build and warehouse but no resources to
rehabilitate. And the mental hospitals were closed, making our the prisons the defacto nation's mental health hospitals.
Now there's no federal
funding, the boom is gone and it is time to rethink policy. I ask you to help the DOC release this albatross around it's neck-
let the rehabilitated old law prisoner free
by adopting these new PAC rules. Most of these inmates have families, friends
or facilities to go to upon release and we
will ensure we help find adequate placement for those who need placement
help. Most of the elderly are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare and will be
better served by those institutions set up to
care for them. In turn, the money saved can be use to make the work in the
prison more fulfilling for staff as the Wisconsin prison system begins to use
its resources to fulfill its rehabilitation mission.
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
NEED FOR THE NEW PAC RULES
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
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
2005-1161 Old Law prisoners released
2006- 688 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)
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
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
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
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.
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
Following is a listing of some of the unwritten rules and
contradictory rules that keep the old law prisoners
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
2) "Has not
completed programming". The usual reason for not completing programming
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
c)PRC and PAC contradict each other in
The following are again nowhere in the statues but
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
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.
have reports of many inmate waiving parole hearings because they feel they are
a sham and heart break for them and their families.