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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Conditions of Confinement’ legislative package targets Wisconsin prison reform

Seventeen bills address hygiene, visitation, recreational time in Wisconsin prison system
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Democrats introduced the Conditions of Confinement legislative package, consisting of 17 bills, aims improve and address the conditions of confinement in Wisconsin, according to WisPolitics.

The bills include overarching changes such as a constitutional amendment to ban slavery as punishment for a crime, raising the minimum wage for those currently incarcerated and handling other issues. Most of the bills are related to hygiene, such as a $25 monthly stipend for hygiene products, free feminine hygiene products and a mandated four showers a week with hot water.

The bills also stipulated two visitations a week with art supplies to create artwork during the visits, structured programming and recreational activities every week, electronic credit for emails, video calls and media, the ability to see outside at least three hours a day, access to the outside at least three hours a day and then some administrative stipulations regarding visitation for officials and transparency.


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Rep. Darrin Madison (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Ryan Clancy (D-Milwaukee) authored a large portion of the bills proposed, according to the content of the bills.

The package was created in collaboration with a number of organizations to try and get a compressive overview of what is actually needed, according to Madison. These organizations include WISDOM, Ex-incarcerated People Organizing of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union.

“I think the biggest challenge in the drafting process was trying to come to a better understanding of the administrative rules, that are created by the secretary in relationship to what the folks who are in our care and their families want,” Rep. Madison said. “And we took a lot of time to have deeper conversations with the Department of Corrections and other stakeholders to begin to shape a package that was reflective of that happy medium.”

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At the end of October, class action lawsuit was filed against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and Waupun Correctional Institution alleging “grossly inadequate” conditions the inmates are currently living in, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

The Waupun Correctional Institution has been under lockdown for the past seven months, which has caused delays in medical treatment, violations of dietary restrictions and unsanitary conditions, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Inmates at the Waupun Correctional Institution are in need of better health services as soon as possible, according to the attorney representing the prisoners in the lawsuit, Lonnie Story.

Waupun as a prison does not have good sightlines, which means capacity of prison staff to see each square foot of general space is lower than prisons built in the past 50 years, according to University of Wisconsin Law School clinical professor emeritus Kenneth Streit.

Because of all of the corners and hallways, there is a higher amount of staff needed to ensure safe movement within the prison as prisoners move from living units to recreational and dining areas, Streit said.

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This bill package is especially important because of current conditions on the state and county levels right now, Clancy said.

“So this is a way to relieve some of that strain,” Rep. Clancy said. “But also, we want to be clear that this is not an end all solution, that this is just harm reduction. And ultimately, we have to incarcerate fewer people, but for the folks who are currently incarcerated, this is what we’re hearing from them and from other stakeholders that will do some good.”

Though these bills will aim to improve the conditions of those already incarcerated, the hope is to reduce the number of those incarcerated and lessen criminal penalties, according to Madison and Clancy.

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Funding for this package is included in the proposals, so that the responsibility does not fall on the state or local government to pay for the new initiatives, Clancy said.

The authors of the Conditions of Confinement package held a press event to announce the legislation Nov. 2, where they released a statement about the process behind developing the bills.

“We are grateful to every person who shared their lived experience helping us to create this package, from folks who were formerly incarcerated to correctional officers and DOC leadership,” the authors of the Conditions of Confinement package said in the statement. “We are hopeful that this legislation will move forward with bipartisan support in the coming weeks.”

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