Op Ed

We Urge Release of Aged, Infirm Inmates

Advocacy groups urge Evers, DOC to expand compassionate release during outbreak.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Mar 22nd, 2020 12:58 pm
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Waupun Correctional Institution. Photo by Lauren Fuhrmann of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Waupun Correctional Institution. Photo by Lauren Fuhrmann of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Advocacy groups on Tuesday called on Gov. Tony Evers to expand the compassionate release program to allow the release of more aged and infirm incarcerated people from state prisons.

“The prison health system cannot handle a massive outbreak of COVID-19. State officials must work to keep our communities safe without putting those serving prison sentences at unnecessary risk,” the groups said in a letter to Evers. “You and the DOC (Department of Correctionsmust act now to release some of those imprisoned. Lives really are at stake.

The letter was signed by the Wisconsin Justice Initiative; the ACLU of Wisconsin; the Milwaukee Turners Confronting Mass Incarceration Committee; the National Lawyers Guild, Milwaukee Chapter; and WISDOM.

The groups requested Evers to direct DOC to “aggressively” use the program to release qualified, low risk-people from “our overcrowded, understaffed prisons.”

“Wider use of compassionate release will reduce prison crowding and help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” the groups wrote. “It will reduce stress on prison medical staff and take a long overdue step toward making the compassionate release program an effective and useful tool. The risks posed by coronavirus to too many incarcerated people are greater than the risks these people pose to the public. ”

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.” The group filed filed a complaint against Officer Froilan Santiago with the Fire and Police Commission (FPC), contending he made “irresponsible, unprofessional” comments in a disposition regarding the arrest of Jimmy Harris  that were “an insult to the residents of Milwaukee.” The FPC rejected the complaint.

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