Group demands Evers 'take action' amid prison COVID-19 outbreaks

A group is demanding Governor Tony Evers use his power to release certain inmates inside the Wisconsin prison system due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
People from across the state are planning to join the group outside the governor's mansion in Madison.

"We are asking the governor to take action," said a demonstrator.

Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO)

 
After months of trying to reach Governor Evers, the group Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO) took their message to his home.

"It's just chronic stress for the loved ones and concerned citizens on what's going on in our state prisons," said Jerome Dillard, statewide director for EXPO.

The group argues Evers has the power to release inmates that meet certain criteria. They say social distancing is difficult inside some correctional facilities.
 
"Does the governor have any plan to move people who are really high risk due to COVID-19, and who are at really low risk of doing any damage back out in society?" said a demonstrator. 

Governor's mansion

 
The latest numbers show positive cases are down inside Kettle Moraine and Oshkosh prisons, two of three prisons dealing with outbreaks. 
 
"I am the mother of an incarcerated son," said the mother of an inmate.
 
The group says their concerns were raised following reports of two inmates passing away after contracting COVID-19 at Dodge Correctional Institution
 
"It's scary," said the mother of the inmate. "You're living with it every day."
 
During a briefing last week, FOX6 News asked the governor his thoughts on the prison outbreaks. He called the numbers "troubling" and "concerning," and added that inmates needed to be "taken care of," but he did not elaborate further.

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

EXPO demands he do more for those behind bars. 
 
"They're more than that," said the mother of an inmate. "They are so much more than their worst bad day."
 
EXPO also has an office in Milwaukee. The group said Monday hey plan to be at the governor's mansion every day this week until the governor speaks to them.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections issued this statement to FOX6 News:

"The Wisconsin DOC has limited powers to release people from a sentence. Below are a couple we can use.

"Certain Earned Release – Those eligible have to be convicted of a non-violent crime and be within 12 months of release from the confinement portion of a bifurcated sentence imposed between 2009 and 2011.

"Extraordinary Health/Geriatric Release – Those eligible have to be serving a bifurcated sentence for a crime other than a Class B felony. They may seek a modification of the bifurcated sentence if he or she meets one of the following criteria:

1. The individual is 65 years of age or older and has served at least 5 years of the term of confinement in prison portion of the bifurcated sentence.

2. The individual is 60 years of age or older and has served at least 10 years of the term of confinement in prison portion of the bifurcated sentence.

3. The inmate has an extraordinary health condition.

"There is more information about these in statute.

"We have used both of these options this year. However, I think it is important to note the individuals who were released by these means were released because they met the criteria and were determined to be good candidates for release, not because there is a pandemic. They would have met the criteria for release whether there was a pandemic or not.

"Early in our COVID-19 response, the DOC significantly reduced the number of people on holds or serving short-term sanctions in county jails due to violation of their terms of supervision, lowering numbers in county jails.

"That reduction is reflected on the Trends page of our Holds and Short-Term Sanctions Dashboard. 

"The DOC also released more than 170 individuals in the Alternative to Revocation Program at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, allowing them to continue that programming in the community."

FOX6 News reached out to the governor's office regarding EXPO's demands. We have not heard back.

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