Gretchen Schuldt

COVID-19 Cases Up 70% in State Prisons

907 positive cases, up from 373 on August 21, prisons in Dodge and Racine counties have worst outbreaks.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Sep 15th, 2020 03:44 pm

Waupun Correctoinal Institution. Photo from Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

The number of positive coronavirus cases continues to surge in Wisconsin state prisons and on Friday was up 70 percent since Aug. 21, when case numbers started their steep climb.

There were 907 positive coronavirus cases in the prison system as of Friday, Sept. 11, up 373 since Aug. 21, when there were 534 cases.

The number Friday was up 75, or 9 percent, from a week earlier, when there were 832 recorded cases, according to Department of Corrections figures. The biggest one-week increases were at Dodge Correctional Institution (up 39, to 119) and Racine Correctional Institution (up 25, to 109).

There also have been 244 positive coronavirus cases of DOC staff members.

David Liners, state director of WISDOM, a state social justice organization, urged members of the public Monday to contact their legislators about the crisis.

“Help us get the governor’s attention,” he said in an email.

WISDOM in July recommended that Gov. Tony Evers take several actions to reduce prison populations including:

  • Releasing people who present a low risk to society, and who have a high risk of suffering from complications of COVID-19 – the elderly, the chronically ill, and those with compromised immune systems;
  • Releasing people approved for work release, as they have already been determined to be of no danger to society;
  • Releasing people who have been in prison since before they turned 25, and have already served more than 15 years, and have no history of serious trouble in the prisons;
  • Releasing the 5,000 people currently in prison for “crimeless revocations”, i.e. for technical violations of the rules of supervision.

The governor promised to move quickly to establish a team to propose a process and procedure for recommendations to be given to him about potential commutations.

“As of Sept. 14, he has not done anything,” Liners wrote. “He has not even made a single public statement of his concern.”

Meanwhile, a  person incarcerated in a facility with an outbreak attributed it, at least in part, to a coronavirus-infected person who was transferred there.

“He was not tested prior to being moved here…” the inmate wrote. “He has been on this unit infecting people. This young man was asymptomatic. Last night they moved the young man back to…quarantine. However, the man the kid was in with was not placed on quarantine. He was left on the unit to possibly infect more people here….”

The inmate continued: “There is no further testing going to be done. The HSU (Health Services Unit) is doing temperature checks and asking if the person is experiencing symptoms. So if the inmate does not-self report because he doesn’t want to go to quarantine, there is no way for them to know in a timely manner and in the case of the young man, who was asymptomatic, the temperature checks would not have revealed anything. So the long and short of it is that there is no way they can stop the spread with the current level of ‘health’ care the prison is providing.”

(We are not naming the institution to protect the identity of the writer.)

COVID-19 cases in state prisons. Source Wisconsin Department of Corrections.

Institutions still reporting no cases are Copper Lake/Lincoln Hills School, Flambeau Correctional Center, Fox Lake Correctional Institution, Grow Academy, John C. Burke Correctional Center, Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, McNaughton Correctional Center, Oakhill Correctional Institution, Oshkosh Correctional Institution, Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution, Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center, Sanger B. Powers Correctional Center, Stanley Correctional Institution, Taycheedah Correctional Institution, Thompson Correctional Center, Winnebago Correctional Center, and Wisconsin Secure Program Facility.

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.”

Categories: Health

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