Madison, December 6, 2018: Protest Deaths at WI DOC

Protest Deaths at WI DOC

3099 E Washington Avenue, WI Department of Corrections, Madison, 10-11:30 A.M.

This Thursday a variety of anti-prison organizations invite you to join us in confronting the WI Department of Corrections (DOC) Central Office during the open section of the Committee on Inmate and Youth Deaths (COIYD).

We will demand information from COIYD on recommendations they’ve made to the DOC in recent years, and how the DOC has changed policies in response. The COIYD will likely refuse to release any such information (they have in the past).

Then we will then gather for a brief news conference in the lobby or outside the DOC where we will share what we do know about some recent incidents as well as trends of frequent and preventable deaths occurring inside DOC facilities.

Speakers and more details to be determined.

Dress for the weather. It will be cold with a chance of snow.


In April of 2001 the DOC created this committee to “provide the
Department of Corrections Secretary and the facilities with an objective review of inmate and youth deaths so as to help the facilities and the Department of Corrections continually improve
the quality of care.”

In recent years, organizers have attended COIYD meetings and found that the committee is mostly composed of DOC employees, doesn’t seem to do much oversight and refuses to share their recommendations or any DOC responses, accountability or policy changes with the public.

We’ve asked the committee questions and they claim all the information is restricted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other laws protecting the privacy of the dead. We told them we’re not interested in specific people’s private information, but in the COIYD’s recommendations and the DOC’s corresponding policy changes, which they ought to discuss at the public part of their meetings, under WI public meetings law.

They told us the only way we can get such information is to file public records requests. So we did, and only received inadequate and evasive responses. We’re filed more specific requests, citing records they referenced in the little information they did release. We’re awaiting their response to this request.

At the last COIYD meeting (September 2018) we specifically demanded that they share more information at their next meeting. This week, we are asking you to come with to the open session of this committee meeting and back our demand for transparency from the DOC about people who die while held in their facilities.


If the COIYD and the DOC continue to refuse transparency, we will report what we do know to the public. We are in touch with family members of two prisoners who recently died while under “observation” (suicide watch) at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI), as well as with prisoners who witnessed these deaths. If these family members cannot make it, we will share whatever information they wish to release.

We’ll also share prisoner witness stories about an incident in CCI at the end of October where CO Russel Goldsmith, CO Michael Thompson and others attacked a prisoner and then faked that prisoner’s suicide attempt to justify the assault.

The CLOSEmsdf campaign has tracked at least seventeen deaths over 17 years at Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. We suspect more occurred, but were hidden from public view.

Outside of these violent deaths, death by medical neglect and excessive incarceration are routine in the DOC. We will speak about reforms such as compassionate release, executive clemency, and overhauling the parole board that can reduce the frequency of such unnecessary and cruel deaths in the DOC facilities.

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