Monday, December 04, 2006

Spiritual Ruminations for the Commission

25 December 2005

I've been thinking a great deal about the faith I have in life, and precisely where it is applicable. It's a faith which transcends the physical, compressed world. I've noticed that the more my life seems to be unfair and less pleasant, the more focus I have on matters of spirit. And it has been this way decade after decade after decade in this proverbial closet; that every instance of sorrow and grief has brought me a clearer understanding of God's lighted realm, or the Kingdom of Heaven. I have subsequently come to believe that it is the true point of my life — the only real, lasting and passionate objective. This Divine reality is something I see, something I can feel and touch and know intimately.

Faith is my only true success in life. Everything else is vulnerable to physical interference, to natural catastrophe, to politics, betrayal, greed, jealousy, decay, corruption and loss. And all this — everything — is nothing in the end. The transcendent reality most call God is the only thing completely fulfilling and lasting; everything else is impermanent.

I have talked with many people in prison who consistently report that life is unfair. Admittedly, it is also my experience in this physical reality — especially where the systems of man are concerned — that life is, indeed, unfair. The best I could offer them was to learn from those who have learned to suffer gracefully through the unfairness. Jesus did, and did so in ways that people are still learning from. He demonstrated the impermanence of physical life and the fact that nothing lasts except God and God's Christ — the lighted reality about and in us. Jesus showed people the difference between being in this world and being of it. He demonstrated the failure of the people when crucifying him; by coming back three days later and calmly saying, "Even death is not final in my Father's Kingdom." In God's lighted Kingdom not even death is permanent. Moreover, everything in God's lighted realm is so good, so wonderful and impossibly joyful and free that, by comparison, even the worst and most horrible suffering is small and even trivial.

The book The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis, illustrates the imagery of size. Standing in the area of Heaven he teaches a new soul that all of the physicalness of Earth — all of time and humanity — exists in a tiny crack beneath their feet. Life in this tiny crack is compressed and stifling, whereas the area of Heaven is unbounded and vast. The greatest joy or worst sorrow in worldly life only exists in that little crack of Heaven. Even the death of a newborn baby, the execution of an innocent man, the death of a drug dealer, the starving of millions of people, or the intentional slaughter of millions inert-, or the calamities of earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and pandemics which claim even acre millions of lives, all are profoundly negative in the little crack, but that doesn't make them any bigger. It is all part of the little compressed world we inhabit. And most cannot even conceive of the vastneas of the Heavenly realm, nor the Divine freedom of inhabiting that realm. A physical coiiiparieon might be as we gaze through the Hubble telescope and see deeper and deeper into the vastness, and realising what an insignificant pebble this entire planet is. Same thing differentiating Heaven from Earth. Even a quick glimpse of the vastness of Heaven is billions of times more positive than all the negativity on Earth. It's not even close to being balanced because what is positive in the light is infinite and unceasing, whereas the negative is compressed and constantly changing. All of the evils of physical life are but an annoyance with a lifespan of a few seconds — or the twinkling of an eye — in the realm of Heaven.

Heaven is so vast, complete and free, that when some of us experience it there is nothing in the physical compressed world that ever holds much fear for us again. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called it the "Promised Land." Even when he knew he was going to be assassinated it didn't change his mission because he realized his assassination was trivial after seeing what he saw. Jesus went the same route after realizing his plight. Likewise, once I saw the larger spiritual reality I discovered it is so much larger than the compressed world, of all my hopes and fears it holds no power over me after that point. Jesus illustrated that point when Pontius Pilate screamed at Him, "Don't you know I can crucify you or set you free??," and Jesus replied calmly, "You have no power over me at all." The instruction is not to focus time and energy on the world that does not last. It is not our's.

Same, too, is the situation I have found ciyself in annually with the parole commission. The analogy is profoundly similar where the commission has me looking for the keys to freedom under the bright streetlight instead of in the dark alley where they were actually lost 30+ years hence. Dark or not, even if it takes all night, the alley is the only place where the keys will be found. My keys, my joy, my peace cannot be found in the- mundane world even if I become the wealthiest or most powerful person in the world, or head of the world's largest charity, or the new Gandhi who brings peace to the Middle East. The eternal cannot be found in the mundane. The absolute cannot be found in the relative. It is not mine.

The lighted treasure of Heaven is awaiting each and every one of us, and it is closer than our own breath. It is vital to maintain faith in what is worthy and lasting. I am blessed with the opportunity to know the difference between living in this world but not of it, as Jesus taught. This blessing also incorporates an opportunity to respect and deal responsibly with the problems and limitations of this worldly life without being overwhelmed by them.
And herein lies the only value in separating the worldly arid Divine or, as Jesus put it, "Mammon" and "God." There came a point when I ceased to see or respond to two worlds at all. Jesus said, "When thine eye be single, thy body will be full of light." I awakened to the reality that it is all about Spirit alone; there is no second thing. I discovered the mundane arid compressed world is but a shifting embodiment of the lighted realm. Lewis points out in The- Great Divorce- that once we reach Heaven and look back, we see our lives were never anywhere but in Heaven. Tne whole thing, my life, my tragedies, betrayals, depression and suffering is all like a compressed arid brief moment of annoyance in the realm or God. Likewise, ail of the good times, composing music, creating and writing songs, authoring various writings, inventing numerous gizmos and gadgots, fathering children, knowing love, saving lives, it is all but a product of the minute compressed world. Good or bad, it all amounts to little or nothing in the little crack in the vastness of Heaven.

Interesting, too, that in light of this not only does my future change, but my history changes as well when ray vision clears and I see life for what it really is, as well as for what it is not. I experience this in little ways all the tine. All the senseless ancl unfounded parole deferments since 1987, rendered without consideration of the merits or substance of what I am about today, nor concerned with fairness,or justice; it is all nothing when viewed from such a positive and enlightened state. The past 30+ years of torment is nothing in comparison to the enlightened end of it and, in fact, if the truth were known it probably resulted in my becoming so enlightened. Being betrayed by a so-called Christian woman is nothing in light of the bounty of Heaven. The world falling apart at the seams and about to destroy itself is nothing either.

It is far too easy in this day and age to let the distractions in life take our eye from God. I have made it a high enough priority to where I have the opportunity to walk through this valley of the shadow ol death with a rod and staff that profoundly comfort and empower me. I can be in the world of bad news and decay, but not be of it. I must function in this world, it is my sacred duty to help and comfort and solve problems and make peace and feed as many people as possible on the lighted spiritual realities I have discovered in life. But, still, I do not belong to any of that; it is rnot mine. I belong solely to God. None of that can harm who I really am; it can only affect the material world; it can only effect the part of me that is physical and temporary. That's why Jesus said that what is born of flesh must die of flesh, and we need to be born again in Spirit to find our eternal nature. That is mine. I have found it was right here in front of me all along, always waiting for me to awaken to it.

As this reflects on the faith I find in life, it is not only the most important thing, but the only thing that really matters. It has afforded me strength to stand against the evil and courageously do the right thing. It has strengthened me enough to rise up to the enormous injustice; and corruption in the system; to expose how it can be s0 easily corrupted by the whims of alternate parole commission members who are related tc the victim's families, who don't even have a clue about who I am today, or what transpired the day their relative died; to expose how unfair it is to even allow them to sit in positions of power on the commission and unjustly influence the decision with their vote.

Having said it before, I strive more than most to have the system function fairly and with some semblance of justice, fair-play, compassion and consideration of merit. There appears no consideration to the many people who could benefit in large ways by having me on the streets, working, paying taxes, spreading the message of God's lighted reality through song, and publishing books on the matter, or how the many inventions I could build prototypes for and market would make the lives of many people quite a lot easier. There is no consideration of the many positives this situation presents, because the parole apparatus is inherently entrenched and stuck in the compressed and faithless world; where there is more consideration given to a minor conduct report for not chewing food fast enough with the few teeth I have left.

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OCT 06 To Parole Agent Jeff Moylan on denial of parole placement request

27 October 2006

Agent Jeff Moylan
Probation and Parole Office
Box 517
Beaver Dan., WI 53916-0517

Re: PPI revaluation

Dear Mr. Moylan:

I am in receipt of the DOC-7E form denying my pre-parole investigation, and have forwarded copies of same to my prison reform activist friends who have been tracking my progress through the system. I am writing to address concerns over the so-called facts relied upon when rendering the decision to deny said PPI. I believe the matter simply needs to be revisited in light of the true facts. I also have a few comments to make about the rest of the PPI

It is posited that Mr. Jensen and I only know one another "from being cell mates while in the institution," but this is factually not the case. Not only have we been conmunicating vast amounts of information over the years, but Mr. Jensen also knows my family, went to the last family reunion at my Sister's place in Madison with his late Wife, Debra, and my Son, Ronald, Jr. Moreover, my Son lived with Dave and Deb for nearly a decade. There is a history between Mr Jenson and I that goes well beyond prison. And since this was an obvious concern for the agent — and, indeed, the PPI "was denied due to" this alleged fact — I feel the PPI needs to be reassessed in light of these additional facts.

Much is made of the fact that Mr. Jensen has not yet visited me at the institution. What is that, really? That says absolutely nothing relative to my successful reintegration to the community, and is certainly not a sufficient basis for denying a placement in Oshkosh. What is more, we have actually been trying to have him put on my approved visiting list for some time. He was denied the first time because there was incomplete information on the visitor questionaire. Pointedly, where it asked if he had any prior felony convictions he merely wrote something like "yes, robbery 1977," and that he had been off of parole supervision for some time, etc. The social worker at Jackson denied the visiting form, saying he did not list all past offences. I pointed out on appeal that the form (at that time) did not ask for it like that. But the visiting request was denied nonetheless. Not long ago I sent Mr. Jensen yet another visiting form to fill out but I have no idea what the current status of that is. I have not received notice either way. Therefore, since "this was the agent's only concern with the proposed residence and employment I feel the matter should be reassessed in light of these facts, as well.

With regard to the- "conditions" mentioned in the PPI, firstly, it should be known that I have no desire to ever see or contact either of my co-defendants. We have absolutely nothing in common.

Secondly, I can fathom no valid reason why there would be any sort of restriction for traveling to the Sun Prairie and/or Madison area. Granted, my offence was in Dane County, but I attended UW-Madison and have family in Madison who are storing numerous boxes of my property and legal files. Please help me understand your rationale or concerns about my possibly travelling to these areas.

Thirdly, and finally, as regards sobriety, since 12 April 1965 I have maintained absolute sobriety, sans prescribed medications. I am totally and unequivocally anti-alcohol and anti-illicit drugs. I currently take prescription ibuprofen for joint pain, and Hydrochlcrothiazide for blood pressure, and don't even feel good about putting those foreign substances into my body. And I am personally repulsed by even the thought of going into a bar or tavern mainly because by and large they are filled with people lacking many of the commonest sensibilities. Bars and taverns hold no interest for me whatsoever. I appreciate my clarity of mind and am circumspect enough to know that being inebriate cannot be part of my future with all that I have to accomplish. It's as simple as that.

My prison reform activist friends are highly concerned — as am I — that despite offering more than adequate clean, sober and crime-free housing,employment, transportation, food, clothing, and all other necessities in Oshkosh, you would instead attenpt to have me reside in Beaver Dam. As I explained in our 06 July 2006 phone conversation, and as I feel compelled to again document herein, I do not know anyone in Beaver Dam, do not want to know anyone in Beaver Dam, and the only people who know me in Beaver Dam are the victim's relatives.

Everyone feels — as do I — that Beaver Dam is a totally inappropriate placement, not to mention the seriousness of the potentially dangerous ramifications which could possibly manifest. Since you have been made aware of it, you should be apprised of your own personal liability should something occur, like the victim's relatives coming at me with aggression in their hearts. Why would you want to force me into a situation like that? You sounded like a refreshingly decent Parole Agent when I spoke with you on the phone, and I thought you understood the potential seriousness of forcing me to move into that area. Friends have informed me that a search of the family tree geneology revealed the victim's relatives are scattered all over that area. And, so, I again suggest that Oshkosh would be a much more appropriate placement.

One last point here before closing. While I understand the need for some prisoners to require State-sponsored or DOC-contracted rooms at some motel, and food stanps, and such, I find it distasteful and an enormous waste for someone on my situation because I have no need for it. And I seriously hope it is not your intent to force me into such a detestable situation. Those resources would better be utilized for prisoners who genuinely need them. I have perfectly ample support for everything in Oshkosh.

In closing, I pray you will contact the agent in Oshkosh and reevaluate the matter with all due scrutiny through a more compassionate lens. I would appreciate having an approved PPI for my next parole review in December.

I thank you kindly for your continued attention and assistance with the above important matters.

Ron Schilling #332219
Oakhill Corr. Inst.
Box 938
Oregon, Wi 53575

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Ron's Parole Placement Request Denied

Ron Schilling has a detailed parole plan which includes living with a long time friend, David Jensen, in Oshkosh. Below is the letter from Mr Jensen and the Parole investigation report denying the request.

27 Lake Street, Oshkosh, WI. 54901
July 13,2006

Dear Wisconsin Parole Commission,

This letter is in regard to Mr. Ronald Schilling and his forth coming Parole Hearing.
I am writing to inform you and verify that Mr. Schilling has a place of residence with me at the address listed above.
It is equally important that the Commission be aware I will also help Mr. Schilling with food, clothing, and transportation to help him make his scheduled Parole Officer Meetings, as well as help him get to various local businesses to apply for work

I have been in business since 1992 and I intend to put Mr. Schilling to work for my business at least on a part time basis until he can find suitable work at a wage that can sustain him.

I have known Mr. Schilling since 1977 and am fully aware of his situation. I will do everything I possibly can to help him become a productive member of society and give him the support most men need when moving from an institutional setting to living in a free society. Over the years I have seen Ron go through and make many positive changes and hope that you will seriously consider him for release.

Thank you for your time and concern in this matter.
David Jensen

2) scanned from Document called "Pre Parole Investigation"
see item under " comments" for reason for denial of request.

DCC Beaver Dam
Division of Community Corrections DOC-7E (Rev. 11/97)

OFFENDER NAME Ronald S Schilling.
PROPOSED RESIDENCE 27 Lake Street; Oshkosh, WI54901 ; alternative plan: Grand View Motel If needed: 1808 N. Center St. (DOC contracted rooms)

PROPOSED JOB: A-l Mobile Transport
If unable to obtain immediate employment with A-l Mobile Transportation, he will be required to complete a Job Search log each week. This includes contacting a minimum of 9 potential employers and completing needed paperwork. Will fill out application at Personal Resources and Qualitemps in Beaver Dam for potential full-time employment.

If Mr. Schilling is in need of support with AOD issues or with mental health issues, he will be referred to Dodge County Human Services.

Should report to the Human Services Department located at 143 E. Center St. in Juneau where he can apply for food stamps and help with transportation.
No known issues. No known warrants pending.

1.) no contact with Thomas Stanton or Robert Zelenka.
2)Not be in or around the Sun Prairie/Madison area without Agent approval.
3)) Absolute sobriety. No bars, taverns, or liquor stores.

Mr. Shilling proposed to live with David P. Jensen, the owner of A-l Mobile Transport, who lives in Oshkosh. A residence check was completed by an agent from that region and was denied due to Mr. Shilling and Mr. Jensen only knowing each other from being cell mates while in the institution. The agent had concerns with the fact that Mr. Jensen had not gone to the institution to visit with Mr. Shilling, and that they only had contact through writing letters to each other. This was the agent's only concern with the proposed residence and employment.

As far as this agent is aware .Mr. Schilling does not have any other support, as far as family or friends, in this area that may be utilized for help with a residence or employment.

If needed, obtain WI ID and Social Security Card.
date submitted 10-16-06

Back to Free Ron Schilling main page and Click on next post (Oct 06 to Parole Agent Moylan) at side bar for Ron's reply

2006 -Parole Granted and Wisked Away

2006 started out badly for Ron. A group of activists met with the then parole chairman Lenard Wells and , among other things, Mr Wells promised that Ron Schilling would be free within the month. Soon , however, the decision was reversed and the grant of parole was rescinded. The following letters bring out the stated reasons for the change, the heartsick reactions, and the legal reasons why the grant should not have been denied.

1)Letter from Frank Van den Bosch, one of the attendees at the meeting with lenard Wells.
March 14, 2006
Mr. Lenard Wells, Chairperson
Wisconsin Parole Commission
3099 E. Washington Ave.
P.O. Box 7960
Madison, W! 53707
01 May 2006

Dear Mr. Wells,
On January 10th, 2006 you were kind enough to meet with a few Incarceration Coalition folks, myself included. The meeting was informational in nature, but we did ask that you review a few files.

Ron Schilling's file was one that we asked you to review, and at the meeting you said that he would be granted parole. I asked you at that time, what that meant, and you said he would be released within 30 days. The other two grants that you gave in that meeting, Andre Pirtle and Terrence Bridges, did in fact leave prison within that time frame. Thank you for that, they are both working and happy to be in society.

I have received a letter from Ron Schilling that states that you have now changed your mind, and he was given yet another defer. After serving over 30 years in prison, and with no new incident occurring between January 10th and today, I cannot imagine what would cause you to reverse your reviewed decision. If he was deemed parolable on January 10, 2006, what new factor has entered this equation?

This is the second time in the last year, that advocates for Mr. Schilling were told he would soon be released, and the second time that you have reversed your decision. I cannot imagine the anguish this has caused Mr. Schilling. His co-defendants were released long ago, and yet he sits, for no definable reason, or is there one? Please let me know?

Frank Van den Bosch P.O. Box 151 Fennimore, Wl 53809

2)Answer from the parole Chairman
Lenard wells
Parole Commission
3099 E. Washington Avenue
Post Office Box 7960
Madison, WI 53707-7960
April 3, 2006

RE: Inmate Schilling, Ronald DOC #032219

Dear Mr. Van den Bosch:
State Statute 304.06 prevented me from giving an Office Grant in Inmate Schilling's case. I have explained this to several members in your group and they have accepted that I can not violate state law.

I hope my eagerness to abide by the state law has not cause any ill will or harm to our relationship. I regret if the change of my decision caused Inmate Schilling emotional discomfort, but you can imagine what would have occurred based on the above State Statute and the emotional harm that could have occurred.
Lenard Wells, parole chairman

3) Ron Schilling to lenard Wells
01 May 2006
Lenard Wells, Chairperson
Wisconsin Parole Commission
2701 International Lane Box 7960
Madison, WI 53707-7960

Re: Parole application, file 132219

Dear Mr. Wells:

It is with astonishment, disappointment and ultimate disgust that I find myself writing to you again. I had hoped my initial letter to you would have given you the heads-up on some of the problems in your office which your predecessors would not likely reveal to you. But it appears you are also electing to duck your head in the proverbial sand and continue treating the problems as if they do not exist, glossing over the issues by releasing an old-law lifer here and there for statistical manipulation. Paroling apparently has little or nothing to do with merit. Bear with me here because you've got to expect that I have a lot to say about your recent actions, and/or the lack thereof in rescinding my parole grant for no valid reason.

I am in receipt of your return correspondence to Frank Van den Bosch, of the Prisoner's Action Coalition, dated 03 April 2006. Upon verifying its authenticity, I feel more than obligated to respond. Being fairly well-versed in the laws, statutes, and rules governing and limiting your discretion and paroling authority, you might imagine my astonishment when pulling out the State Statutes to explore §304.06. in an attempt to verify your assertion that it somehow prevented you from keeping your word regarding my parole grant. Amazingly, that statutory provision contains absolutely nothing in the way of rationale to rescind my parole grant. In fact, as I'm sure you know, that provision provides you with carte blanche authority to grant a parole to anyone, anywhere, at any time and for any reason. No matter how it is parsed, that statute cannot be read in such a neglectful manner as to suggest it prevents you from keeping your word regarding my parole grant.

Copies of §304.06, Wis.Stats., have been sent to Mr. Van den Bosch and others of the Incarceration Coalition, so they can read first-hand what you are attempting to cite as a basis for your action and/or inaction. It is disappointing to see you disrespect and insult their intelligence in such fashion. They can read. And you had to know the charade would be discovered in short order for the deception it is.

The only portions of that statute that can be deemed even remotely relevant are as follows:
•Section 304.06(1)(b), provides that I can be paroled after serving 20 years. I start my 32nd year next month. So this cannot be what you are referring to.

•Section 304.06(1)(c)/ states that your office shall make a reasonable attempt to notify those people of concern like the victim's family upon initial consideration of parole or the effective date of the statute. Your office has done that each year as far as I know because they've been writing to your office and doing face-to-face meetings, and such, from the onset. So this cannot be what you were referring to.

•Section 304.06(1)(eg), provides that your office shall permit victims to attend the interview but, really, they've not wanted to attend all the past twenty or so hearings. So this cannot be what you were referring to, either. Unless someone from your office instructed them to attend the hearing so you could then use that as a basis for denying parole. As disgusting and illegal as that is, that actually has a feel of truth to it at this point. I will return to this point momentarily.

•Section 304.06(2), pertains to my having suitable employment or a means to legitimately sustain myself on the streets. Having secured employment, housing, financial support, transportation, food, clothing and everything else I could possibly need in Oshkosh, that statute should be more than satisfied.

•Same thing with §304.06(2)(d), about the residence determination. That is satisfied with the letter of support and my parole plan. Moreover, §304.06(2)(d)(1), has what is called a "voluntary concurrence of physical presence" for making that determination. Mainly that I agree that is where I will be residing. All this is satisfied as well. Ergo, there is nothing in §304.06, Wis.Stats., which prevents you from keeping your word regarding my parole grant.
Section 304.06, Wis.Stats., does nothing to support your claim that it somehow prevents you from keeping your word. I have met every substantive criteria and, in essence, you provided no rational basis whatsoever for rescinding my parole grant. You have provided no valid reasons or facts supporting those reasons, as are required to attend such a recission during a hearing
pursuant to §PAC 1.07(5)(c). I mean, that is basic due process. And, moreover, it is what the lav demands in Wisconsin.

And as you might also suspect, I have a few things to say about the banning of Ms. Peggy Swan, of the Forum For Understanding Prisons, from speaking on my behal£. It is my understanding that Ms. Swan was merely attempting to expose some of the facts to you regarding the particulars of my situation, and your response was to ban her. That is so fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Ms. Swan has faith in the ultimate goodness, albeit it is difficult sometimes. And she might be difficult to speak with at times because she is so passionate about her work, but she experiences it and, indeed, has expressed to me her belief in your goodness and desire to do the right thing. She can sense you are not heartless and that you are a caring person deep inside. And I have seen you grant paroles in instances where even I would be skeptical.

Moreover, being a strong advocate of scientific theory, I only deal in facts — as should you. Please understand that when Ms. Swan speaks of theoretical conspiracy it is only because that is precisely where all the facts fall. She did not manipulate or create the facts, and I certainly did not. But conspiracies can be proven with facts and evidence. Use your detective skills — peruse my 7-page letter to you dated 07 April 2003, the 13-page letter to Assistant District Attorney John Burr, dated 17 April 2002 and the 4-page letter to commissioner Hackbarth, dated 08 November 2004, with three pages of transcript quotes, all of which contain a plethora of highly detailed facts of the offense, my part in it, my sentiments, remorse, advancements and accomplishments over the decades, as well as the pointed circumstances surrounding my five returns from minimum security solely because of nefarious actions from your office. (note: all three letters mentioned are posted in this blog)Placed end to end it can plainly be seen that a conspiracy abounds, and nary a "theory" is to be found.
What sort of mean-spirited and menacing figure would continue to generate such negativity and opposition to my release? I do not believe that even the ADA is opposing parole any more since I wrote the 13-page letter to him a few years back. Gerald Beeringa (the old Waupun Security Director — who I successfully sued in the past/ and then who turned out to be the Uncle of the victim/ and then also turned out to be an alternate Parole Commissioner after he retired) or one of his buddies seems like a potential culprit encouraging the continued vengeance. It really does not make any sense that the victim's family would all of a sudden want to attend the hearing in November/ after nearly 32 years has passed.

And what is more, the situation begs the question, where else but your office would the motivation come from for the victim's family to all of a sudden desire to attend a parole hearing after so long? Please understand that I do sympathize and empathize with victims across the board, and laud every effort to alleviate their pain, and I can easily relate to the necessity of closure, if that is what this is about. But I have also witnessed a gradual shifting of the "parole" commission into a "victim" commission, which only seeks to view the victim as the sole entity harmed in the offense. I mean, it is a shallow view to see each offense as having only one victim because it completely ignores the trauma of the disgust and shame the offender experiences — and all of the hardships on his own family, for instance. It is as if I lost nothing or have sacrificed nothing over the decades. And if this victim-concern is being generated from your office it just seems so insensitive and wrong to re-victimize the family all over again. I almost understand the OOC agenda desiring to bash a prisoner one more time after the rehabilitative course has run and he as successfully dealt with the shame and disgust of the offense over 32 years; that retributive sort of vengeance seems to underlie most OOC policy these days. But to manipulate the victim's family to attend the parole hearing in November is so very, very heartless and wrong if it is not genuine to the issue of closure.

A fair reading of the Burr and Hackbarth letters references my attempts to initiate a Restorative Justice conference with the victim's family. Unfortunately, I was met with negativity and dissuasion from DOC at every attempt and, despite praying my lips off about the situation, nothing ever came of it. Upon reading the guidelines concerning victim-attendance at parole hearings, it is apparent that this is not the sort of situation the parole commission has in mind for the interview since the victim is allowed to speak for five minutes and I am not even allowed to speak or respond. Hardly a restorative communique.

In closing, I would appreciate your prompt reconsideration and/or response to the above. At the very least I should be provided with a recession hearing as mandated by law as soon as feasibly possible.
Thank you kindly for your time and additional attention to this important matter.
Ronald Schilling

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Scanned Copy of Governor Tommy Thompson's 1994 memo denying parole

State of Wisconsin
April 28, 1994
' '
Sec. Michael J. Sullivan
Department of Corrections
149 east Wilson Street
Madison, Wi 53707-7925

Dear Secretary Sullivan, '
I write to you today regarding the administration of Wisconsin's mandatory release law.

I recently proposed and subsequently signed into law a bill to end mandatory parole for violent offenders. In enacting this important change, legal council advised that any retroactive change in the law would be unconstitutional.

Therefore, although I have ended mandatory release for violent offenders, there are some inmates in prison who are still governed by the old release law.

I believe that mandatory release of violent criminals is wrong. That is why I called a special legislative session of the legislature in 1987 to pass the "life means life" sentencing bill, and that is why I moved to end the mandatory parole for violent offenders this year.

In order to implement this policy as fully as possible, I hereby direct the Department of Corrections to pursue any and all available legal avenues to block the release of violent offenders who have reached their mandatory release date.

The policy of this Administration is to keep violent offenders in prison as long possible under the law.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important issue.

Tommy G Thompson

What Concerned People Can Do


After reading the blog materials you should be nearly as disgusted as I am about the system malfunctioning in such horrendous fashion. Taxpayers deserve better for the millions of dollars in tax fisc being increasingly funneled into and wasted in the system. Especially when it could be used for something constructive like education, healthcare and other social programs that are so desperately needed.

The people perpetrating this expanding insanity year after year and decade after decade know they can fold up the gameboard in the evening and go home, only to return the next day to commit the same nonsense all over again. They get paid handsomely with your tax dollar either way and so they care less whether the system functions as it should; as it was originally intended to foster true rehabilitation. In fact, they have discovered it is more lucrative to operate the system sideways, keeping more prisoners incarcerated for longer periods of time, and thus further conditioning them to return to prison. If the system is studied in depth, it becomes apparent it is all by design. It is all designed to obtain the federal tax fix in the form of grant appropriations under the guise of fighting crime when, in fact, it does absolutely nothing positive to thwart crime. It doesn't even deal with the symptoms of crime very well. The system itself screams for reform.

If you are appalled at the virtual wasting of so many millions of your tax dollars there are a number of things you can do to express your displeasure by exposing the nefarious action and attempting to correct the madness. To be sure, it will not correct itself.
Some of the things we are asking people to do is to write letters, make phone calls, send faxes and e-mails, and even schedule face-to-face meetings with State Representatives from your area/ urging them to contact some or all of the following individuals responsible for this situation.

State Representatives
A-K Box 8952
L-Z Box 8953
Madison, WI 53707
Phone: (608)266-1501
Fax: 266-7038

State Senators
Box 7882
Madison/ WI 53707-7882
Phone: (608)266-2211
Fax: 266-7038

Alfonso Graham/ Chairperson Wisconsin Parole Commission 3099 E. Washington Avenue Box 7960
Madison, WI 53707-7960 Phone: (608)240-7280 Fax: 240-7299 Website:

Gerald Konitzer/ Director
Office of Offender Classification
and Movement Box 7925
Madison/ WI 53707-7925 Phone: Fax: e-mail:

DOC Secretary Matthew J. Frank
3099 E. Washington Avenue
Box 7925
Madison, WI 53707-7925
Phone: (608)240-5000 or 240-5055
Fax: 240-3300 or 240-3305

Steven B. Casperson/ Administrator Division of Adult Institutions "3099 E. Washington Avenue Box 7925
Madison, WI 53707-7925 Phone: (608)240-5106 Fax: 240-3310

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ron's continuing quest for freedom

As stated elsewhere, in January, a group of activists went to meet with Lenard Wells about Ron Schilling and several other inmates who were long overdue for parole. In the meeting with Mr. Wells, he promised that Ron " would be out by the end of the month." The month passed without any more word. Finally, after many letters and calls , Mr. Wells apologized, saying he did not have the power to release Ron Schilling. We all know this is not true, and is wrong on many levels.

Ron was finally transfered to Oakhill, where he is today. There is nothing for him there. Meanwhile, Leonard Wells has resigned and the new parole chairperson has canceled over 70 paroles that were authorized by the exiting Leonard Wells .
Below are recent letters by Ron Schilling that illustrate his continuing quest for freedom.
1)to new parole commisssioner Alfonso Graham
2) answer from Mr Graham
3) Letter to Gerald Konitzer,office of offender classificatiion

1) and 2)Letter to the new parole chairperson and his answer:

25 July 2006
Alfonso Graham, Chairperson
Wisconsin Parole Commission
3099 E. Washington Avenue
Box 7960 Madison, WI 53707-7960

Re:Parole grant recission
file I 32219

Dear Mr. Graham:

On 10 January 2006, Lenard Wells granted a parole in my case and verbally stated that I would be released within "30 days or sooner." At the same time he also granted paroles to two other individuals; parole grants which were ultimately honored by your office. In my case, apparently, the parole grant was rescinded for unknown reasons.

For ease of reference, enclosed please find copies of the letter from Frank Van den Bosch, dated 14 March 2006, inquiring about the above; Mr. Wells' response to that, dated 03 April 2006; and my subsequent letter to Mr. Wells, dated 01 May 2006. Please peruse these documents for a better understanding of this matter.

What becomes clear is that the parole grant was rescinded for absolutely invalid or otherwise unlawful reasons, and that it was accomplished without a recission hearing, as mandated pursuant to §PAC 1.07(5)(c)/ or the full panoply of required due process which should attend such a hearing.

To my knowledge, Mr. Wells never responded to my 01 May 2006 letter. I now suspect that is because he was preparing to leave office. Or, perhaps, he realized there was no valid rational or otherwise lawful reason for rescinding my parole grant and that fact would not fare well at a recission hearing. Whatever the case, I still feel I am entitled to a full and fair recission hearing. Or, better still, the reinstatement of my parole grant. I hereby respectfully request one or the- other at the earliest possible time.

Aside from the above, I pray you bring something more to the table of the commission. That there is a dire need for change cannot, be denied. Neither can the fact that if we change nothing, nothing will change, it is insanity to repeatedly perform the same action or inaction and expect a different result.

And I am not sure whether you are aware of it yet, but the system demands that you be a trail-breaker to move ahead and beyond currrent trends and facilitate progress toward a more fair and equitable system. A look at the current population is just one of myriad ways to learn how wrong past trends have been, and it points toward a massive and painful correction needed to bring the parole apparatus more in line with the current population and DOC trends.

It has been my personal trend to always get in line with whatever the system has dealt me over the decades. I strive to live in the good no matter what any given situation exposes me to. What is more, the more I learn from a situation, the more I can teach others. There is always good in the hearts, minds and lives of each of us who are to step aside from the mainstream culture and live more deeply. When the system seems to be cutting its own throat and becoming a beastly presence around the State, could there be a better or more important time for us to become learners and spiritual seekers? Could there be a more appropriate time for us to personally become beacons of compassion, humility and wisdom? And at what point in the evolution of uncertainty does one choose to act? How about now?

My earnest prayer is that you take the initiative to better identify those who have served sentences well beyond the averages. I have served nearly three times the average the judge intended at sentencing. There is really no valid reason for that when I am one of the most well-behaved, self-disciplined Prisoners in the system, have claimed plural college degrees, rehabilitated myself beyond any DOC expectation, and have even saved two lives during this incarceration.

I feel Wells consented to grant parole last January because perhaps he felt enough was enough, and this is the compassion he would desire if he found himself in a similar situation. I further feel that being in Wells' position disallowed him to see the ground falling away beneath his feet. He did good things but not nearly enough. And then in the end he went the way of his predecessor, John Husz, where under a little added pressure they crumbled like wet napkins. Sad, because they both had before them the statistics proving they were doing the right thing. And the truly sad reality is that they were both actually granting LESS paroles given the population increases.
If you fail to open your eyes to the entire prison reality you will only see how high you are riding and all will seem well enough. And at a time when the largest bodies of our common humanity — our government, the pop culture, the prison industry, consumer madness, crass and shallow national values — are bringing so much harm to the world, it is deeply useful to be reminded how good people are all across the land. Even in prison there are many genuinely good people, despite the fact they once acted inappropriately.

Last year I submitted a 4-page writing to Commissioner Williams, entitled "Spiritual Ruminations For The Commission," which probably didn't make it to the file you review. I am enclosing a copy of that for your review as well. The writing deals with the illusion of power experienced by Jesus as that relates to the display of power from your office.
The illusion of power can help people figure out how millions of people have unintentionally fallen into a mockery Christianity, or any other faith. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, "You have no power over me." Since Pontius Pilate then ordered Him to be executed and He was indeed killed, we need to reflect on what Jesus meant. Three days later Jesus returned to show us that even imprisonment, torture and execution are trivial next to the spiritual reality.

Jesus came to show us there is this world we are in, where Pontius Pilates will always seem to have power over us, but then there is this world we are of — a force which is a power beyond comprehension. And, moreover, Jesus' actions were intended to instill faith in God; that every crisis is a crisis of faith, no matter what else it appears to be.

His actual teachings of Jesus — putting others first, turning the other cheek, the giving away of wealth, etc. — can help anyone achieve a solid commune with God, with all of existence, and the cessation of the individual egoic identity. All the descriptions are virtually the same and describe the singular core experience that led to all religious teaching. It is intended to lead us to a higher reality. No Cathedral can guarantee us the direct experience of God, no prison cell can keep us from it. In fact, for the most part prison is quite a perfect ground for experiencing a higher spiritual reality. Granted, a real monastery would be more tranquil, but this still leads a responsive person to recognize the difference of being in this world but not of it. To be in life but not of it; to be in prison but not of it; to be in employment but not of it. This is a great place to do the work every human being needs to do.

My current employment, keeping a healthy body, a quiet mind, and an open heart are my primary goals — my daily spiritual practice. I need to live a spiritual life to be in tune with and responsive to God's whisper inside me. I feel that continually making my life more honorable, unselfish and kind is the best way to honor those I have wronged — more that any "apology" I could make. It's not about undoing the past; a lot of that will take care of itself, and some of it never will no matter how much I try.

I have pretty much always lived for the sake of others — helping people wherever and however I can. If someone needed an auto tune-up, or a bag of groceries or some guidance on art interpersonal level, I was there for them. That has not changed. I was raised with a high degree of appreciation for all life as well. That has not changed, either, albeit the few unintentional seconds of violence from more than three decades ago is all the system focuses on. The system has done everything humanly possibly to destroy all of the good and endearing traits I have been raised with, but it only strengthens my resolve to do better and to be more of a benefit to the world. I still wake up everyday and spend quiet moments in prayerful reminder that I intend to live primarily for the benefit of others today. It makes each day an interesting adventure of how to do that. But the State's focus remains to the negative, even to the extent of revictimizing the victim's family by drawing them to attend the pending parole interview. And yet my single and clear focus remains in the spiritual, in the revelation of what Jesus would do. And what would Jesus do in this situation? My thoughts on the matter are that Jesus would give God a chance! I can easily live up to the "go forth and sin no more" standard.

What is needed now is not more teachings, or more of the same inactivity, but
more sensible practice. Study the situation and you will come to realize it is simply the right thing to do. Be bold, serve your appointment by reinforcing what should mean most to prisoners and members of the public alike; reward where rewards are due, parole the worthy, and force people on both sides of the fence to realize that the notion of freedom represents the nobelest of aspirations. Be a trail-breaker by setting loftier goals for the commission; goals and policies that are more in tune with current prison realities. The current policies greatly undermine the judicial expectations of the legislators, judges and prosecutors. The current policies further deny freedom to people who have more than paid for their crimes, those who would be productive and taxpaying members of their communities if given an honest chance. Using ny case as an example, the judge intended for me to serve no more than the mean average length of time in 1975 which, statistically, was 13.6 years. I am currently into my 32nd year.

You have the power and opportunity to set an unquestionable fait accompli, to affect necessary and meaningful changes that will consioer a person's personal characteristics, traits, talents, spiritual evolution, educational achievements and other accomplishments, and parole those who have made substantial and honest advancements toward redeeming themselves. You can give the public a repaired impression with a more compassionate commission. I pray you do so.
In closing, I am compelled to reiterate my request to either reinstate my
parole grant or set a date for a recission hearing.

I thank you kindly for your patience and consideration of the above.
Ronald Schilling

from:Alfonso J. Graham Chairperson
State of Wisconsin Parole Commission
Mailing Address 3099 E. Washington Ave.
Post Office Box 7960 Madison, WI 53707-7960

July 31,2006
to:Inmate: SCHILLING, Ron # 032219-A
Oakhill Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 938
Oregon, WI 53575-0938

Dear Inmate Schilling:

Your recent letter to the Parole Commission has been received, reviewed and will be placed in the permanent file. It will be available at the time of your next parole consideration. According to our records the grant discussed in the enclosed correspondence was never initiated by the then Chairperson, Lenard Wells. Therefore your request for a rescinded grant hearing is not an option, as the parole grant you refer to never existed. According to your last Parole hearing of 01/17/06 you were given a deferment of 11 months. The reason for the deferment was explained on the Action Sheet of which you were given a copy. Your PED is 02/13/07, therefore you should be scheduled for review by the Commission in December 2006. The Chairperson concurs with the Commissioner's decision and the decision stands. We are returning the enclosures you have included with your correspondence. The Parole Commission is not the legal custodian of the offender files and we have no authority to add this information to the file. Sincerely, Wisconsin Parole Commission

3) 16 August 2006
Gerald Konitzer
Office of Offender classification and Movement
Box 7925
Madison, Wi 53707

Dear Mr. Konitzar:

It was refreshing to hear via that you will be rendering final decisions at BOCM. I pray that engaging you in meaningful discourse can repair any impression of the classification system. Ultimately, I hope to transfer to a facility more conducive to demonstrating my qualifications for parole.

Just yesterday I received the Inmate Classification Summary for the interview which occurred 6.29.06. While I understand and sympathize about the workload the committee must endure to comport with due process, I found it profoundly disappointing that they would not have the facts of my situation before them for their deliberation. Shortly after the brief interview I authored a letter addressing the matters to the Classification Specialist, Mr. Stensberg. A copy of that communiqué is attached hereto. I feel that after perusing the facts you will also sense the frustration and disappointment that everyone who is familiar with my situation feels and, subsequently, that you will intervene with your honed wisdom to correct the matter.

Since arriving at OCI it has become apparent that there is nothing for me here. In fact, there is considerably less opportunity here now than back in '94 when I was last transferred here. This was truly an inappropriate destination for a prisoner in my position after 32 years trying to progress through the system to a facility more conducive to proving my qualifications for parole.

About a month ago my social worker began the process of having my parole file transferred to Oshkosh from Beaver Dam. The parole agent agreed it would be best and was most helpful with that endeavor. I also have complete support for my release in Oshkosh; that is, clean, sober living quarters, secured employment, transportation, food, clothing, all of it.

That said, and with all due hope and without further adieu, I bid you the best at your new position, and pray that a favorable and more appropriate transfer can be facilitated in this matter. I would appreciate your serious consideration of placement at the Winnebago facility to facilitate my parole release to Oshkosh.

I thank you kindly for your time and attention to this important matter.
Ron Schilling 132219

2)from:State of Wisconsin Division of hearings and Appeals

August 3, 2006
to:Mr. Ronald Schilling
Oakhill Correctional Institution
P. O. Box 938
Oregon, WI 53575-0938

Dear Mr. Schilling:
I am responding to your letter addressed to David Schwarz dated July 25, 2006, which was received in our office on July 28, 2006, requesting a parole rescission hearing.
You will need to request a hearing through the Parole Commission. The address is
3099 East Washington Avenue, P. O. Box 7925, Madison, Wisconsin 537070-7925. A copy of
your letter and enclosures has been forwarded to the Parole Commission for further review.
William J. Lundstrom Assistant Administrator
cc: Parole Commission (w/enc.)
Back to Free Ron Schilling main page

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Truth in sentencing and old Law Lifers.
Starting to explain the problem

This is an injustice perpetrated nationwide. Sentences became much less flexible and stricter under Truth in Sentencing and "good time" and parole were all but dropped. People who went to prison decades earlier are now being held by Truth In Sentencing guidelines even though they were given sentences in a time when parole for life sentences began on average after serving 11.3 years. This is called "expost facto" sentencing and is unconstitutional.

Here is what Ron writes about the subject:
.." All across the board nowadays DOC policies have a tendency to undermine reasonable judicial expectations and negate the intent of the legislators, the judges an, prosecutors and defense attorneys. They further deny freedom to people who have more than paid for their crimes, and who could be productive, taxpaying members of their community if given an honest opportunity. If "truth in sentencing" is to be more than a mere slogan, the system should interpret parolable life sentences as they were intended by the judges who imposed them. In my case the judge could have rendered the maximum sentence allowed by law for each of my offenses, or he could have run the sentences consecutively, or otherwise made comments in the record which would have frustrated the parole effort in the future but he used none of those options... It is clear that he intended for me to serve not more than the mean average length of time in 1975 which, according to statistics, was 11.36 years. I begin my 31str year of incarceration next month. Even more ironic, I am one of the most well-behaved individuals in the system; I am highly disciplined, and do not partake in any endeavors not conducive to my ultimate release from the system. Moreover, they paroled my co-defendant back in 1992--same crime, same time--and he never did one thing to better his situation; messed with drugs, strong-armed weaker prisoners; never participated in any educational programs, etc., yet he was the one who got paroled." (from letter to Kathleen Hart, of CURE )
Click here for Milwaukee Journals' Mary Zahn Articles on Truth In Sentencing

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lifer law is misused
Board rulings remove distinction in state law on life sentences
Barbara Lavine
Los Angeles Times Syndicate

The March 3 State Journal article, "Man released after prison sentence is reduced," discussed the case of James Jones, a prisoner sentenced to "parolable" life for a murder he committed at the age of 16. The sentencing judge told the parole board that he had expected Jones to serve 12 years, but the board repeatedly refused to act.
Finally, after Jones had served more than 22 years, the prosecutor stipulated to a resentencing as the only way to secure release. Noting that lifers eligible for parole rarely receive it, a Corrections Department spokesperson asserted: "If you sentence someone to life, expect him to get life through the parameters of statute. If you want someone to get out in 12 years, sentence him to 12 years."
This statement wrongly suggests that Michigan judges do not understand the law. In fact, the parole board's interpretation of the law is undermining reasonable judicial expectations.
Life with the possibility of parole means the defendant may be imprisoned for life, not that he or she must be or should be. By statute, parolable lifers become eligible for release when they have served either 10 or 15 years (depending on when the crime was committed). (
Historically, Michigan judges have believed that these lifers could earn their release by their own behavior. Some openly assured defendants at sentencing that life "really means 10 or 12 years." Life sentences were often assumed to be more lenient than a long term of years. Many defendants negotiated guilty pleas that resulted in life sentences because all parties understood that parole would be a realistic possibility.
"The current parole board now takes the position that "life means life." This obliterates the distinction between parolable and nonparola-ble life, and negates the intent of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. It also effectively wipes out the Legislature's recent attempt to soften our harsh 650 drug law. Making: drug lifers eligible for parole will be meaningless if the board refuses to exercise its discretion to release them. -
•Parole board members are no 'longer civil servants who work their ; way up'to their positions. They are ! now hired and fired by the corrections director, and most lack experience in corrections. Yet a recent statutory amendment prohibits prisoners from appealing parole denials to the courts. That makes individual board decisions and overall policies largely immune from outside review.
Board policies that deny release to "whole groups of prisoners, regardless of each individual's merit, cause harm in several ways: '
• They usurp the functions of elected judges, prosecutors and legislators. : '.vy. „;-... •• ••
• They, deny freedom to people who havepaid for their crimes, and who could be productive, taxpaying members of their families and communities, and
.They contribute greatly to the need for more prison beds', and a $1.7 billion corrections budgeL:
Hundreds of parolable lifers have already have served between 15 and 40 years. Many have excellent institutional records and could be lafely released. Convicted before sentencing, guidelines existed, some could not even receive life terms today.1 i Many have served far longer than people who committed similar of-tenses, but whose judges opted to impose 10-, 20-, or 30-year terms instead of parolable life.
The parole board's unilateral application of its own policies to prisoners sentenced decades ago is neither fair not justified. If truth-In-i sentencing" is to ,be more than'a slogan, the board'should interpret parolable life sentences as'they were intended by the judges who, imposed them. '
Barbara R. Levine heads the Prisons and Corrections Section of the State Bar of Michigan.

Chain of laws that lead to almost no parole

Page from Flynn V DOC
Shows Violent crime control Act and
parole statistics since Thompson Directive

12. That 42 U.S.C- 13701-13704, "violent crime control act of 1994" has in fact been giving the state of Wisconsin Millions of federal dollars to Keep a sub class of offenders, classified as 'violent* locked up as long as possible.

13. That Plaintiff, Flynn, is classified as a 'violent1 offender only because of the nature of his crime (armed robbery) and not because of any physical violence whatsoever. (editor's note: You are considered "violent " whether or not you use the weapon if you are carrying one. Also, if the vicitm thinks you have a weapon, you are classified as violent)

14. That former governor Tonmy G. Thompson issued a secret / secrete Policy Directi-ve to the Department of Corrections Secretary on April 28, 1994, Ordering / Directing the DOC to not release offenders classed as violent and to find any avail­able means to blocfc the releases of this sub class of prisoners who were convicted under the old law or before April 21, 1994.
See full text of 1994 memo
15. Parole statistics since Thompson Directive

1992, the board released 2,921 prisoners on parole and 648 prisoners did MR.
1993. the board released 3,624 " " 607 "
1994. " - 3,327 " " 698 "
1995. " " 3,941 " " 965 "
1996. " " 3,705 " " 1,086 "
1997. " " 3,637 " " 1,291 "
1998. " " 2,627 " " 2,006 "
1999. " " 1,567 " " 3,347 "
2000. - " 2,325 " 4,424 "
2001. " 1,872 prisoners on parole " 4,131 prisoners did MR

16. That in 1992, when the Plaintiff went to prison, the State of Wisconsin only had 7,800 prisoners confined in its prisons and that as of 2004, the state reached over 22,O0O state prisoters.

17. That the Wisconsin Parole Board does not issue real discretionary paroles to the sub class of prisoners mentioned. The board gives these offenders continued defers until they reach their MR dates or very close to the same.
Milwaukee Journal /Sentinel Articles on Truth and Sentencing
1) editorial calling for reform
2) prisoners less motivated
3) Mary Zahn 4 part series
a) about the series
b)Cost to taxpayers, Wi law toughest
c)aging prison population
d) little help fro returnees
e) alternatives

Editorial: Reform Truth and Sentencing
From the Journal Sentinel Posted: Nov. 27, 2004
Truth in sentencing, which was not supposed to increase penalties, has actually accelerated a two-decade trend toward longer prison terms, often out of proportion to the crime. This development is driving up hopelessness and bad conduct among inmates and costing the state a fortune. Worse, the state is skimping on rehabilitation, often pushing released inmates on a track that leads right back to prison. Journal Sentinel reporters Mary Zahn and Gina Barton documented this worrisome mess in a four-part series of stories that ends Monday. Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature - both implicated in this costly muddle - should clean it up. They must: • Loosen the state’s truth-in-sentencing law, which went into effect on the last day in 1999 as one of the most rigid in the nation. It should emulate the federal government and most states with truth in sentencing and give the state Department of Corrections a bit of wiggle room so it can reward and thus encourage good conduct and let terminally ill inmates die at home. • Re-examine the criminal statutes with the idea of shortening maximum sentences where appropriate. Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a sponsor of truth in sentencing when he was in the Legislature, says the intent of the measure was clarity in sentencing, not longer prison terms. Yet a result, according to the Journal Sentinel analysis, is longer prison terms. The Sentencing Commission was set up as part of truth in sentencing to monitor judicial practices around the state, study their impact on the cost of corrections and make recommendations to policy-makers. It should, as soon as possible, supply the Legislature with the data it needs to make changes, with the goal of lowering maximums that are too high. • Adequately finance the Sentencing Commission. The commission could alert officials to costly trouble spots in the law, but a shoestring budget hobbles the agency. Legislative leaders should also activate the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties, which they also set up as part of truth in sentencing and then left out of the loop. The committee is designed to give prison-impact statements on criminal proposals in the Legislature. Both the committee and the commission are designed to make up for the lack of planning that got the state in its present prison predicament. • Drastically step up rehabilitation efforts inside and outside prison walls. If a person is released from prison without money, without a job, without skills, without housing, without prospects, how on earth is he or she supposed to survive? Getting offenders off the prison track and onto the job track is key to cleaning up the prison mess. • Make more use of alternatives to prison - such as house arrest, mandatory drug treatment, intensive probation - for appropriate offenders. Also key is adequate funding that will allow parole agents to lower caseloads and beef up their community supervision. In the era of indeterminate prison terms, a judge decided how much total time a convicted defendant would spend both in prison and on parole, and a parole board decided how to split the time between the two forms of supervision. Under truth in sentencing, the judge takes over the job of the parole board, but at sentencing. The virtue of this method is clarity: All parties know at the start of a sentence the exact length of a prison term. But what has been sorely missing in law and order in Wisconsin is planning. Lawmakers toughen criminal laws helter-skelter, without any consideration of the impact of the changes on prisons or the treasury - a big reason the state now faces a $1.6 billion deficit it must close in the next state budget. As attorney general, Doyle pushed truth in sentencing, so he can’t escape culpability for having failed to adequately plan for it. Of course, some very bad people deserve to stay in prison for a long, long time - some for the rest of their lives. Clarifying sentencing should not change this. The bill for the inadvertent lengthening of sentences will ring up to $1.8 billion through 2025. The prison system is on track to rival the University of Wisconsin System in tax support, Zahn and Barton noted. Doyle and lawmakers must take steps to avert that awful outcome.

Original URL:
Inmates less motivated, wardens find With no way to earn time off, desperation is more common, they say
By MARY ZAHN Posted: Nov. 21, 2004 Motivating inmates to enroll in prison drug and alcohol treatment programs and other rehabilitation programs has become increasingly difficult under truth in sentencing, according to some state prison wardens. "They know they are not going to get out any earlier, so they simply don't want to take the time to do the programming and don't want to invest in it," said Jane Gamble, who was warden of Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution in Plymouth until her retirement this summer. "It is a shame, because we have excellent programs here." Truth in sentencing, which applies to anyone who committed a crime on or after Dec. 31, 1999, requires inmates to serve every day of their prison term with no chance from the parole board for early release. Instead of time off for good behavior, the law adds time on for bad behavior. Of the 168 offenders who refused to participate in one drug and alcohol program last year at Kettle Moraine, 131 were truth-in-sentencing inmates, she said. "That is a dramatic difference from what it was before," Gamble said. "They go out and they will probably have to do the treatment somewhere on the streets if they can find treatment," she said. "We are just kind of moving the problem along with the offender." Even with the refusals, she added, the treatment programs at Kettle Moraine have long waiting lists. One program, she said is full through August 2005 and another had a waiting list of about two months. Budget pressures Gamble and other wardens who were interviewed said they also had long waiting lists for rehabilitative programs and are seeing inmates coming in with longer prison terms under truth in sentencing. "We have had to shift treatment and education dollars just for the beds," said Daniel Bertrand, the warden of Green Bay Correctional Institution. "We have lost positions - inmate complaint examiners, maintenance positions. I have about 300 inmates who don't have a job or program because there are just not enough staff." Meanwhile, Bertrand and other wardens said, inmate disciplinary problems have increased along with psychological problems. Additional segregation cells have been added at Green Bay to deal with the problems, he said. Gary McCaughtry, who retired this month as warden of Waupun Correctional Institution, said that he sees pros and cons about truth in sentencing but that the law does not "produce an incentive for inmates to participate in programs and try to earn their way out of prison by rehabilitation means." 'How much is enough?' "I think incapacitation is a legitimate goal of the criminal justice system," he said. "People who are away from society can't victimize. It's really a challenge from a public policy standpoint to come up with the right amount of incapacitation for the right individual. How much is enough? That is a very good question." Some inmates have shown signs of increased desperation, he said, because they know there is no way to earn their way out of prison. "From the public standpoint, they are going to start knowing more ex-inmates," McCaughtry said. "They are going to be coming out. They are going to be in their neighborhoods. They will be cooking their food, pumping their gas. There are just going to be more of them out there. We have to protect the public by keeping them in the best shape when they go out."

Truth in Sentencing 4 Part Series by Mary Zahn, of Milwaukee Journal/Sentinal

About The Series

PART 1: Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing law will cost taxpayers an estimated $1.8 billion for inmates admitted through 2025 if current trends continue, as offenders serve more time in prison and under supervision. With no parole board involved and wide latitude for judges, Wisconsin's law is one of the toughest in the country. Wardens report more disciplinary problems and inadequate treatment and job programs. Community supervision agents report caseloads of 60 or more with few direct services to offer their clients.
PART 2: With longer sentences, more inmates are aging - and dying - in prison. But even for a terminally ill inmate, early release is next to impossible. In other cases, district attorneys routinely block requests. The state Supreme Court has upheld the law's limitations on early release.
PART 3: Offenders who are released into the community find long waiting lists for help with employment, housing and drug treatment - the three keys to success on the outside. Many end up back in prison, often for violating the conditions of their supervision.
PART 4: While truth in sentencing keeps criminals in prison for longer terms, the restorative justice movement works to help them change their thinking and behavior, by bringing offenders face to face with victims and survivors. .

Tougher sentencing law carries hefty price
Estimated $1.8 billion through 2025
By MARY ZAHN and GINA BARTON;Posted: Nov. 20, 2004;First of four parts
A state law that gives criminals virtually no chance for early release will cost Wisconsin taxpayers an estimated $1.8 billion for inmates admitted through 2025 if current trends continue, a Journal Sentinel analysis of prison and court records has found.
The prison system is on track to rival the state university system in annual tax dollars as the cost of longer prison terms and extended supervision in the community steamrolls through the years. A dozen years ago, Wisconsin taxpayers invested three times as much money in universities as in prisons.
Wisconsin implemented one of the nation's toughest truth-in-sentencing laws four years ago without ever assessing the cost. Today, thousands of inmates are on waiting lists for prison jobs, education and treatment programs. Wardens report more bad conduct and hopelessness among offenders.
When they are released, inmates report to parole officers with average caseloads of about 60 who have little to offer in direct aid other than free bus tickets, hygiene kits and referrals to agencies with more long waiting lists.
When truth in sentencing sailed through the Legislature in 1998, Wisconsin's crime rate had fallen 14.3% over the preceding five years. From 1998 to 2003, that trend continued, with a decline of 12.4%.
Supporters hailed the law as a more honest system that would put judges - not the parole board - in charge of how much time offenders would spend in prison and then under extended supervision, formerly known as parole. Crime victims would know exactly how long the criminal would be behind bars.
Critics warned it would be a budget disaster for taxpayers and would not make communities safer without additional prison treatment and community supervision dollars. No additional money was appropriated by the Legislature for the new law.
For crimes that occur on or after Dec. 31, 1999, the law requires offenders to serve every day of their sentences. It eliminates time off for good behavior and adds prison time for bad behavior. Judges must tack on a term of extended supervision equal to at least 25% of the prison time.
The Legislature also eliminated the parole board's role for truth-in-sentencing cases. For earlier crimes, the board can release inmates it believes have been rehabilitated after serving at least 25% of their sentences, and inmates must be released after serving two-thirds of their terms.
'People do stupid things'
Harold Hudson, 22, is among the thousands of inmates sentenced under the new law. A 10th-grade dropout, he is serving a 10-year prison term for an armed robbery that he committed when he was 18. His only prior record was a juvenile arrest for possession of marijuana.
Armed with a miniature baseball bat, Hudson and an accomplice who carried a broken, unloaded pistol robbed a terrified clerk at a Milwaukee Walgreens store and fled with about $850. The men had been smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol and decided to do the robbery because they were broke and unemployed, records show.
Under the old parole system, Hudson could have been considered for release after serving 21/2 years and would have to have been paroled after serving six years and eight months.
Under the new system, judges sentence offenders to a set amount of time in prison plus additional time on extended supervision. When Hudson is released, he will be supervised for five years. He can be sent back to prison for that entire amount of time if he violates the rules at any point during his supervision. Time served in the community does not count.
"I was young and just made a mistake," Hudson said. "I'm not saying I didn't deserve prison. I did. But I got a bigger sentence than what I need to be rehabilitated. People do stupid things when they are young, and they learn from them."
Projecting the costs
To assess the impact of truth in sentencing, the Journal Sentinel interviewed more than 100 people over six months, including judges, victims, parole agents, offenders, politicians, defense attorneys, prosecutors, community advocates and corrections officials.
In addition, the newspaper reviewed hundreds of court records and analyzed a database of 123,087 inmate records kept by the state Department of Corrections. That database was used in creating a mathematical model to analyze trends and estimate the added cost of more prison and extended supervision over time.
The law will cost taxpayers an estimated $398 million extra just for the inmates who have entered the system in the first 41/2 years under truth in sentencing, as the time they would have been released under the old system comes and goes.
The annual cost will exceed $50 million by 2010, the estimates show, and the cumulative cost will approach $576 million in 2014 as more inmates enter the system.
The projections are conservative, in that inflation was not factored in, nor was the cost of offenders ending up in prison again for violating conditions of extended supervision. They also assume that current crime and sentencing patterns will continue.
Sentences got longer
Without the parole board involved, truth in sentencing places ultimate responsibility on judges to determine how long an offender will be in prison and on supervision. Judges were encouraged in training sessions to hone down prison terms and to consider that every day would have to be served behind bars.
However, the newspaper's analysis shows that both prison and extended supervision time significantly increased, and that offenders are serving more time locked up than under the parole system.
"One of the misconceptions at the time, and I think still is, is that I and other proponents wanted longer sentences," said Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, who at the time was one of the legislative sponsors of truth in sentencing.
"In some cases, like with sex offenders, that was something I was interested in," Walker said recently. "But overall the primary purpose was to just have the certainty of knowing exactly how long someone was going to be in prison."
The cost of the bill was not estimated at the time because there was "no way of calculating what the judicial response would be," Walker said.
Longer supervision terms
While the law requires judges to give an extended supervision time equal to at least 25% of the prison sentence, records show that judges statewide are tacking on much more - sometimes double the prison time.
"How many of them are going to make 10 years of community supervision without bouncing in and out of prison, given the generally poor supervision environment?" asked Walter Dickey, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor who served as the state corrections secretary from 1983 to 1987.
Anthony Washington, a high school dropout with no job skills, is typical of offenders who keep revolving through the criminal justice system. He was sentenced in April 2003 to eight years in prison for burglary and as a habitual criminal and to seven years on extended supervision. There were no violent crimes on his record.
Washington, 39, who has been in prison in the past, told a judge that he was able to stay crime-free for about two years. Then he lost one job after another when employers found he was a convicted felon. He turned to panhandling, drug use and then finally to the burglary, which yielded him $40 in cash.
"I have very little means of survival," Washington said at his sentencing. "I don't even have a change of underwear . . . I keep getting sent back (to prison) . . . I know what not to do, but what to do?"
'They feel there is no hope'
Wardens and other prison employees cite an increase in bad-conduct reports under truth in sentencing, more psychological problems and a pervasive sense of hopelessness among inmates who can do nothing to earn their way out of prison early.
The newspaper's analysis shows that as a group, inmates sentenced between 2000 and 2002 under truth in sentencing had 34% to 59% more major bad-conduct reports, compared with inmates admitted under the old parole system.
"I truly believe they feel there is no hope," said Kim Schauer, an officer at the Green Bay Correctional Institution and a 10-year veteran. "It doesn't matter if you are a good or decent inmate or if you are a troubled inmate. There is no more good time. They can't get out early."
Alternative programs
With budget pressure mounting, less-expensive programs that provide rehabilitation and early release for non-violent offenders have grown rapidly, from 106 to 362 beds since truth in sentencing began. Those who qualify for these six-month drug and rehab programs - which include boot camps for male and female offenders - can theoretically get out in a year or less. A judge must find them eligible at sentencing and can specify when they can be enrolled.
About 276 inmates are on the waiting list for openings. Some will be released before they get to the top of the list.
"We implement truth in sentencing, and the light goes on and we realize what a disaster it is," said Dickey, the former corrections secretary. "But instead of confronting what a disaster it is, what we do is we slide open the back door quietly, trying to have a safety valve. It's obviously an improvement but signifies our unwillingness to take this on more squarely."
Parole agents strained
For parole agents, who also function as probation agents, growing caseloads and increasingly limited resources have made their jobs even more difficult. Over the past six months, as reporters spent time with some of them, their desks were stacked high with paperwork, and they had little to offer in terms of direct services. Most of their clients were high school dropouts with few job skills, no money and often no place to live.
One offender had been referred for mental health services in August but by the end of October still had not reached the top of the list. Another who had been living in cramped quarters with relatives was on the list for housing help for several months before making it to the top.
By that time, he had been arrested on a new charge and was headed back to prison.
Even bus tickets are at a premium. Agents sometimes receive just enough for one per month for each of their 60 clients.
"I tell my offenders to make them last," agent Julie Nicholson said. "Use transfers. Get rides from friends."
The get-tough '90s
Wisconsin was one of about 40 states that passed versions of truth in sentencing in the 1990s, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The movement was due, in part, to the federal government providing more federal funds to build prisons for states that kept violent prisoners locked up for 85% of their sentences and a "get tough on crime" mentality that swept the country, authorities said.
Wisconsin got even tougher, according to Don Stemen, senior program analyst from the Vera Institute of Justice in New York. The non-profit, non-partisan group works with governments on criminal justice reforms and has surveyed states on the impact of harsher prison terms.
Stemen said Wisconsin appears to be the only state in the nation with this combination of factors for truth in sentencing:
· Requiring both violent offenders and non-violent property and drug offenders to serve 100% of their prison time.
· Eliminating any role for its parole board.
· Having no mechanism to force judges to sentence within specific ranges.
No more 'safety valve'
"Frankly I thought the parole system was working very well at the time," said Thomas Barland, who was an Eau Claire County circuit judge when he led a legislatively mandated committee to work on ways to implement the law.
"However, I recognized that the public was cynical regarding sentencing, because when someone was sentenced to 10 years, he or she might serve as little as a quarter of that time," said Barland, who is now retired and works as a reserve judge. "The downside to truth in
sentencing is that it produces a rigidity in prison time served, because the parole board formerly acted as a safety valve when prison population became too great or an individual prisoner showed rehabilitative promise."
In the years before truth in sentencing took effect, parole grants were steadily declining, parole board records show. In 1995, the board granted parole to 4,046 inmates. By 1999, that number had dwindled to 1,231.
Only a handful of lawmakers voted against truth in sentencing when it became law in 1998, with the support of then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and then-Attorney General Jim Doyle.
"I believe very strongly in truth in sentencing," said Doyle, who is now governor, this month. "The victim knows how many years the person is going to get. The defendant knows what the requirements are going to be - how many years he or she will be incarcerated followed by what period of supervision. Truth in sentencing is a lot better than un-truth in sentencing."
State Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) is one of the few legislators still in office who voted against the measure.
"It was the mentality of lock 'em up and throw away the key," Risser said. "They didn't use any logic; it was just emotion. The counter-argument was, how do you put a fiscal note on the amount of crime you can avoid if you put these people in prison."
Ready or not
Because of worries that the new law could be a financial disaster without changes in the criminal code, implementation was delayed until Dec. 31, 1999, and a Criminal Penalties Study Committee was appointed to make recommendations on changes needed before truth in sentencing would take effect. Barland, who was chairman of the committee, said the idea was to set the maximum prison term for a particular crime at roughly equal to the maximum time that inmates would have served behind bars under the old parole system.
The committee's report was presented to the Legislature in August 1999. Besides beefed-up extended supervision, the committee recommended lower maximum prison time for most major felonies, eliminating minimum penalties for most felonies so judges could opt for probation, providing judges with guidelines to help them reduce their prison sentences and creating a sentencing commission to help monitor the law's implementation.
But political gridlock kept the recommendations from becoming law for more than three years. As a result, on Dec. 31, 1999, truth in sentencing went into effect with even higher maximum sentences than had been in place before.
Why? Because when the law was originally passed in 1998, the Legislature had voted to increase the maximum penalties for most felonies by 50%, to accommodate the new reality that an offender's "sentence" would include both prison time and extended supervision afterward.
"The judges got mixed signals from the legislators and the politicians," said Victor Manian, a reserve judge who retired as chief judge in Milwaukee County earlier this year. "On the one hand they were screaming, 'We've got to get tough with criminals, and judges better give them sentences that are appropriate to the crime, and they are going to have to serve every day of it.' And then on the back side they were saying, 'What are you guys doing? You're filling up the prisons, and we can't keep up with it.' "
Caught in gridlock
Offenders such as Alexander Grubor, 52, a married father of three, faced significantly more time in prison and on community supervision than they would have if the Barland report had been implemented, the newspaper's analysis shows.
Grubor was among an estimated 8,200 offenders who would be sentenced under the harsher penalties. The Barland report, with its reduced sentences, was finally implemented for crimes occurring on or after Feb. 1, 2003.
Grubor, who is from New Berlin and had no previous criminal record, served three years in prison and 18 months of supervision for possession with intent to deliver after police found about 4 ounces of marijuana in his basement. If the Barland report had been implemented at the time of his offense, Grubor's maximum prison time would have been 18 months.
The marijuana was found during a police search. Grubor maintained it was for his personal use. Police said Grubor told them he was selling marijuana to make extra money, a statement Grubor adamantly denies making. A jury found him guilty.
Grubor had to serve his entire prison term despite prison records that describe him as a model inmate who "is very reliable and performs with minimal supervision, can be counted upon when needed."
"My family was devastated," Grubor said recently. "I've never been in jail, and I've never been in any trouble. I was never a threat to the community.
"We do need laws, and we do need prisons. But prisons in my opinion are for violent offenders."

Once released, inmates find little help
Resources remain scarce for those striving to restart

Posted: Nov. 27, 2004
Third of four parts
Hill's parole officer was trying to get permission for him to move to Illinois, but it hadn't come through. She gave him two local bus tickets and the names of some shelters and told him to check back in a week.
Hill spent his first night of freedom homeless.
When Ricky Hill was released from prison in October, he had $14 in his pocket and nowhere to live. His wife and six children were waiting in Chicago, but he wasn't allowed to leave the state.
"I thought when we get out, they were supposed to give us some help, some money or something. They didn't do nothing," he said. Before truth in sentencing took effect, a committee mandated by the Legislature worked to identify and head off potential problems with the law's implementation. Among its recommendations was more help for people, such as Hill, when they left prison.
"Wisconsin must strengthen its probation system and develop credible alternatives to prison," the report says.
Its authors hoped that extended supervision - the new name for parole - would be a vast improvement over the old system. The committee recommended that Milwaukee parole officers' caseloads be reduced to 17 and that their budgets be greatly increased in order to help former inmates succeed on the outside.
It hasn't happened.
"The failure to do this because of budget pressures is going to be costly to the state in the long run," said Thomas Barland, who was an Eau Claire County circuit judge when he led the committee.
While the Department of Corrections has begun some programs to address the needs in the four years since truth in sentencing took effect, resources for ex-inmates remain scarce. Many of those released on supervision find themselves back in prison. Most have not been convicted of a new crime; they have simply failed to meet the conditions of supervision, such as keeping appointments with their agents. They may have no work history, no driving privileges and nowhere to live.
Portage County Circuit Judge Frederic Fleishauer believes the system is part of the problem.
"We take their driver's license away and then are surprised when they don't have work," he said. "We preclude them from accomplishing exactly what we're hoping to accomplish."
At the same time, offenders are starting to leave prison with longer supervision terms under truth in sentencing, which gives offenders almost no chance for early release. The law requires extended supervision equal to at least 25% of the prison term, but many judges are far exceeding that.
By 2011, the truth-in-sentencing law will mean more than 2 million extra days of community supervision per year, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis based on records from the Department of Corrections. For inmates admitted through 2025, the extra days of supervision and prison time will cost state taxpayers an estimated $1.8 billion if current trends continue.
"I don't think there's a plan," said Barron County Circuit Judge Edward R. Brunner. "We're doing nothing for them. It's not a wise use of money, and there's no guarantee we're any safer."
With 69,600 offenders on probation, parole or extended supervision this year, the state's parole officers already have caseloads averaging around 60, with some approaching 90. The Department of Corrections is seeking to add 51 officers by June 2007.
30 days to find a job
Across the state, parole officers are charged with helping recently released offenders turn the three keys to success on the outside: employment, housing and drug treatment.
"If they don't find a job within 30 days, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy," said the Rev. Joseph Ellwanger, who serves on the board of directors at Project Return, a non-profit agency that helps former prisoners rejoin society.
"If they don't have a job, they're going to go right back to where they were. The state is learning the hard way," he said.
Matthew English is learning the hard way, too. English, 21, said he served as the getaway driver when some friends robbed several Milwaukee taverns because they didn't have jobs and needed money. English, a high school dropout, spent two years in prison and is now serving an additional year on extended supervision.
"I was being stupid," English said.
Over the summer, English managed to get hired as a part-time telemarketer, but he kept getting sent home because he wasn't selling enough. So he quit.
"It's like a revolving door," English said. "Once you get out, you can't get a job. They don't want a felon even flipping hamburgers at McDonald's for minimum wage.Days before I was released I would sit in my room, turn the TV off and think about what I was going to do. How was I going to live? Basically I take everything one day at a time. I don't look to the future."
Searching for housing
Although he remains unemployed, English has a roof over his head. His sister in Brown Deer is allowing him to stay with her.
Not every ex-convict has a family willing to help, and even those who can't always find housing. Federal rules prohibit felons from living in public housing for five years after the crime. Some public housing facilities won't allow sex offenders, no matter how much time has passed. A family member or friend who lets one stay could be evicted. To protect their victims, released inmates with domestic violence convictions or restraining orders against them often are not allowed to move back home.
As a last resort, a parole officer may refer someone to the Salvation Army or the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, but space isn't always available there, either.
The Department of Corrections has a few emergency and transitional housing programs that can provide shelter to people on supervision for up to 90 days. The demand far outweighs the supply, however, and the waiting lists are long.
'Wouldn't call it clean'
Gregory P. Hayes was lucky enough to get a space in one of the Department of Corrections' emergency apartments in July, while serving 18 months of extended supervision. In and out of custody since 1995, he has a history of funding his drug habit through garage burglaries, according to court records.
"The Price Is Right" played on a tiny television set in the sparsely furnished apartment when parole officer Ken Ryback checked in on Hayes, whose days of temporary lodging were nearly up.
"How's the job search going?" Ryback asked.
"Applied at a couple temp places," Hayes replied.
"Have you been using drugs?" Ryback asked.
Hayes shook his head.
"How long have you been clean, then?" Ryback asked.
"Wouldn't call it clean," Hayes replied.
Ryback rephrased his question: "How long has it been since you've used drugs?"
"Close to a month or something," Hayes said.
Ryback said a few words to encourage Hayes in his job search, then reminded him that he would need to find somewhere else to live within the next few days. Ryback headed for the door, knowing all too well what would happen once Hayes was kicked out of the apartment. Records show it's happened before: Hayes uses drugs, then sits outside Walgreens begging for money. The police know he's on supervision, so they hit him with a ticket for loitering, panhandling or public drinking and pick him up. He sinks deeper into debt and gets no closer to stability.
Sure enough, by September, police had used DNA to link Hayes to two more burglaries, and he was arrested again. In November, Hayes pleaded guilty to two burglary counts. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 10.
"It's going to be a hard cycle for him to break," Ryback said.
Need for treatment programs
Hayes is among thousands of released inmates who need to conquer their addictions to succeed. Although drug treatment programs are operating inside the state prisons, the waiting lists are long, and many people are released before they are accepted.
The Department of Corrections estimates that 70% of offenders entering the prison system need drug or alcohol treatment. An average of 1,061 offenders still needing treatment will re-enter Milwaukee County every year, according to department projections. On the outside, they find more waiting lists.
"It is . . . essential that probation and extended supervision officers have the funding to see that their clients receive the alcohol and drug treatment that so many need," Barland said recently. "In the absence of that we are going to have higher incarceration rates and probably a higher crime rate than would otherwise be the case."
It's a problem the Department of Corrections is working to solve, Superintendent Matthew J. Frank said.
"What we need to do here is make sure when someone is released if they need alcohol and drug treatment that we get them through a program," he said. "As we look at the system, we need to be focused on re-entry and reintegration. This is a change in philosophy at the department."
A new program at the Sturtevant Transitional Facility is one of several recently begun by the department to address that need. There, addicts who have violated the terms of their supervision receive a final chance to avoid prison.
"If someone has an alcohol problem, putting him in prison isn't going to help," Superintendent Deb Chambers said.
The 90-day program at Sturtevant can accommodate 50 men. Because the program started in January, statistics about its success have not yet been compiled, Chambers said.
In addition, the state this year won a $23 million federal grant to improve access to drug treatment in Milwaukee County. Gov. Jim Doyle said in August that the grant would help an estimated 3,000 people, including 1,000 offenders on supervision, over three years.
Hard road to recovery
While people who have completed treatment are less likely to commit new crimes, it often takes more than one stint in rehab to cure an addiction, experts agree.
Joleen Taliaferro, 46, said she has graduated from drug and alcohol treatment programs nine or 10 times. Her first arrest came in 1976, when she was 18.
Her most recent felony conviction stems from a drunken fight during which she beat her ex-boyfriend's girlfriend into the hospital. She says the other woman hit her first. Taliaferro already was on supervision for drug and weapons charges at the time.
"I beat the crap out of her," she said. "I was drunk. I hit that lady 46 or 47 times."
Taliaferro said she has conquered the crack cocaine problem that led to both dealing and trading sex for the drug. She still drinks the occasional beer, however, despite an alcohol addiction so severe that she used to drink a fifth and a half of Bacardi rum daily.
Taliaferro hopes she'll make it but is far from certain what the future holds.
"The drug game is a dirty game," she said. "I'm getting back into church now, and I just pray every day."

Door on early release closes tightly
Even inmates near death often find sentencing law unyielding

By MARY ZAHN and GINA;Posted: Nov. 21, 2004;Second of four parts;
Dexter H. Harris, 47, fought alcoholism his whole life. Now he was in prison for the second time for drunken driving, and cancer was spreading through his body.
After he had surgery last fall, his family began pleading that he be released to die at home.
Then Harris ran into a little-known provision of a state law implemented four years ago - called truth in sentencing - a law that experts say is one of the harshest in the country.
The law requires that violent and non-violent offenders serve every day of their prison terms. It also eliminates any role for the parole board, which in the past could release offenders who served as little as 25% of their sentences. Early release could be awarded if the board believed an inmate had been rehabilitated, was terminally ill or was no longer a danger to society because of age or infirmity.
Terminally ill inmates such as Harris must now get two doctors to sign affidavits stating that the offender will die within six months - something prison doctors say is almost impossible to predict. Inmates then must get approval from prison officials to petition the sentencing court for a release. They are not entitled to legal help.
While an extreme example, Harris' case illustrates how difficult it is for inmates even facing death to be released from prison early under truth in sentencing.
Petitions for clemency from inmates who believe they have learned their lesson and have served most of their sentence are being routinely blocked by district attorneys. A recent state Supreme Court decision upheld the limitations on early release under truth in sentencing.
In short, the door - for even model prisoners, or aged or ill inmates who want to plead their cases - is tightly closed.
"This was a get-tough-on-crime law. The end," said Barron County Circuit Judge Edward R. Brunner, who signed the petition for Harris' release. "It was, let's put everyone away and who cares what happens to them next. Out of sight, out of mind.
"It's only now that legislators and others are beginning to realize the serious cost to taxpayers and the cost in real lives."
An informal survey of 22 judges around the state found that while many like being able to determine exactly how many years an inmate will serve in prison, that power has become a double-edged sword.
"For me, it boils down to the crystal ball," said Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust, who said he is most troubled by the offenders who receive 10 years or more. "Everyone knows that people change. With truth in sentencing, we don't have a mechanism to evaluate that change the way we had when we had the parole board.
"This business is really about predicting future human behavior, and no one has a perfect crystal ball when it comes to that."
Under the law, judges sentence offenders to an exact number of years in prison and an additional number of years on extended supervision to be served in the community. Some inmates can be released early if they are placed in a short-term treatment program such as boot camp and complete it successfully.
Judges were encouraged by a committee studying how to implement the law to modify their sentences to roughly what offenders would have served under the old parole system.
However, a computer analysis of Department of Corrections and court records by the Journal Sentinel shows that did not happen, and that offenders are serving more time in prison and on community supervision than under the old system.
Harris, for example, who was sentenced to three years in prison on his most recent charge, would have been eligible for parole consideration after serving nine months and would have had to be released after serving about 24 months under the old parole system.
"Are we better off with truth in sentencing? I believe the answer to be yes, because we have more predictability and more control over offenders," Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Elsa Lamelas said. "I frankly feel more comfortable with the notion that there is not a parole board there that may be susceptible to fiscal pressure in the release of offenders. That is s omething that gives me confidence."
Prison population aging
Older inmates such as Harris have increased in number as sentence lengths have increased for both violent and non-violent offenders. The population of inmates 40 and older has more than tripled, from 1,711 in December 1993 to 6,516 in December 2003.
In addition, corrections officials are proposing to open two special geriatric units in existing prisons - in effect, small nursing homes for criminals.
"More inmates are dying in prison due to many different chronic conditions and the imposition of longer prison sentences, creating a need for geriatric and hospice services," a Department of Corrections budget document states.
Release due to the infirmities of old age are limited under the law. In order to petition a court for release, an inmate must be at least 65 and have served at least five years in prison or be at least 60 and have served at least 10 years in prison.
Prison medical care expenditures have more than doubled in five years, from $30,354,830 in fiscal 1999 to $75,595,500 in the year that ended on June 30, 2004, state records show.
Releases blocked
The broadest release provision in the law allows offenders to petition a court for sentence adjustment after they have served 75% or 85% of their time in prison, depending on the crime.
However, authorities said that district attorneys statewide are routinely blocking these petitions. Under truth in sentencing, if a district attorney objects to the petition, it cannot be granted. The same is true if victims in some sexual assault cases object.
"The courts in our area are overwhelmed with volume, and this adds one more thing," Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser said. "There are no good guidelines or standards or direction. So you have an out to say no if the DA objects. I think the DAs kind of do it for the same reason. They are overwhelmed and overworked, too."
La Crosse County District Attorney Scott Horne, who is also president of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association, said he supports the district attorney and victim veto provision in the law and said that each case in his office is reviewed on its merits.
"I think what the Legislature is saying is if there is going to be a time cut, there ought to be a consensus that it is an appropriate case for reduction," Horne said.
"From our perspective in this office, we don't blindly say no. We do confer about it and decide what our position on the case ought to be, and I assume most DAs would take that responsibility seriously. It's not something that we would easily agree to, I will say that."
Horne said his office has not received many of these requests, and he could not remember whether he had approved any.
Most judges interviewed for this report said the district attorney in their counties has objected to every single request for sentence modification.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Mark Gempeler said that even if the requests aren't opposed by prosecutors, judges aren't likely to grant them.
"Judges have to run for office every six years," he said. "Why would a reasonable judge want to swim upstream? It's a question of judicial survival, but it's also a matter of giving the public what it wants."
Supreme Court weighs in
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear arguments in December in a case challenging the right of district attorneys to veto these release requests and other matters relating to requests for early release by truth-in-sentencing inmates.
However, in a unanimous decision this year, the high court signaled its reluctance to change the law, citing legislative intent.
The case involved James Crochiere, 29, who pleaded guilty to one count of reckless endangering safety in Marathon County in 2001 and was sentenced to three years in prison and five years on community supervision. He refused to turn his truck off when stopped by police. When the officer tried to remove the keys from the ignition, Crochiere drove away, dragging the officer, who then fell to the ground, records state. Crochiere had two previous convictions for drunken driving as well as other misdemeanor convictions.
Once in prison, Crochiere earned the privilege of working off prison grounds. He got a job maintaining state parks for 24 cents an hour.
After serving 18 months without incident, he petitioned the Marathon County Circuit Court for release, arguing that his previous job, which paid $10 an hour, was available to him and that his child-support obligations were going unpaid while he was in prison.
His situation and apparent rehabilitation was "a new factor" that the court should be allowed to consider in deciding to release him - something the old parole board would have done, Crochiere's attorney, Stephen Weiss, argued in his brief to the Supreme Court after lower courts denied his client's request for release.
"There is simply no logic in a sentencing system that does not provide for some form of review and release due to changed circumstances," Weiss argued.
In its June decision, the state Supreme Court stated:
"To do what Crochiere asks of us would turn circuit courts into parole boards, a result that would change the role of the circuit courts and be inconsistent with the Legislature's intent.
"The Legislature intended that conduct subsequent to incarceration would not reduce an inmate's sentence."
Underfunded commission
As part of truth in sentencing, the Legislature created a state Sentencing Commission to collect data on judicial practices and advise policy-makers on how the law is being implemented.
However, the commission is struggling on a shoestring budget and is not expected to begin analyzing sentencing data until next year. The panel has funding for only two positions, an executive director and a deputy director.
When salaries and benefits are eliminated from the commission's $235,000 budget, it is left with only about $25,000 for data collection and outside help, said Michael Connelly, the commission's executive director.
Connelly was not even hired until January 2004, more than three years after truth in sentencing was implemented. The commission has 19 members representing a cross-section of the criminal justice system, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and victim advocates.
Connelly said that by January, the commission expects to provide judges with new sentencing guideline work sheets to help them decide which offenders should be sent to prison and for how long. However, judges are not required to follow the guidelines, which are only advisory. That is one reason Wisconsin's truth-in-sentencing law is considered by experts to be one of the toughest in the nation.
Records show that as of June, more than 50% of the 241 circuit court judges in the state failed to use the currentsentencing guideline work sheets, which have been in place since February 2003. Those numbers have increased in recent months, Connelly said. The work sheets list factors such as age, previous criminal record and type of crime and then suggest a sentencing range. The completed work sheets were to be returned to the commission for analysis.
"The judges are as unguided as ever," said Walter Dickey, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor who was secretary of the Department of Corrections from 1983 to 1987. "They are unguided by either numerical data or policy guidance."
Gov. Jim Doyle is in favor of mandatory sentencing ranges for judges.
"I think there should be judicial discretion. I think the judicial discretion should be much more limited, and that people with similar criminal history backgrounds and who have committed similar crimes should be looking at roughly the same time.
"This is a balance. I do not believe that there should be a computer that kicks out a sentence. Nor do I think there should be wide open anything from zero to 20."
Going home to die
For Dexter Harris, death was his ticket out of prison.
Brunner, the Barron County judge, approved Harris' release on June 9 after family members said they were finally able to get two doctors to agree that he had six months or less to live. However, because of problems arranging community hospice care for Harris, he was not released from prison until July 6. He lived for five weeks, said Harris' sister Betty Moore, who cared for him along with other family members in her Kenosha County home until his death.
"It was so heart-wrenching," said Sarah Bohner, another sister of Harris. "You could have poured a cup of water in his sunken shoulders, and it would have stayed.
"He wasn't a danger. I want to see the law fixed so that other families don't go through what we did, because it's one of the most pitiful things in the world."

Another road to justice
Programs seek to change offenders' thinking, behavior
By GINA BARTON and MARY ZAHN ;; Posted: Nov. 28; 2004 Fourth of four parts
Green Bay - The group of men listens, mesmerized, as Lynn BeBeau talks about the last time she saw her husband alive.
I told him the same thing I always did: 'I love you. Be careful.' "
Her husband grinned back.
"Honey, don't worry about me. Me and God are like this." He held up two crossed fingers and smiled.
Hours later, the Eau Claire police officer was shot to death in the line of duty.
The hulking men in prison greens sit perfectly still as BeBeau fights back tears. They are murderers, armed robbers, drug dealers, child molesters.
Later, convicted killer Ruben Herrera tells BeBeau what her story meant to him.
"I hear you talking about forgiveness. That would be something I would ask for, but it would be selfish," he said in a voice racked with emotion. "I don't have any right to ask for forgiveness or to forgive myself. I don't even know how to go about doing that."
As judges follow the state Legislature's mandate of truth in sentencing, giving prisoners little hope for early release, a movement to help criminals change their thinking - and their behavior - is under way. BeBeau is one of its foot soldiers. Another is former state Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske. Another is Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney David Lerman. Their cohorts fan out across the state, a counterpoint to the proponents of truth in sentencing who believe that longer prison and supervision terms are the answers to the crime problem.
"There are two different philosophies at work," Dane County Circuit Judge Angela Bartell said. "Do people need to be treated, monitored, and considered human resources, or just locked up?"
Department of Corrections Secretary Matthew J. Frank said the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
"Truth in sentencing is not inconsistent with giving judges more options. . . . The challenge here is to be smart on crime and that we give options to our judges to hold people accountable in ways that best protect the public safety," he said.
Changing thinking, behavior
Geske, who sentenced her fair share of defendants to life in prison during her tenure as a Milwaukee County circuit judge, believes people who commit crimes need to change their thinking, whether they're serving time or not. In contemporary terms, the concept is called restorative justice, and it is a far cry from the adversarial court system that is the norm in American courtrooms.
Restorative justice has a long tradition throughout history, including in Native American cultures. It teaches that communities, victims and offenders need to be healed after a crime occurs.
"Unfortunately, most people do not think about how much their actions hurt others," Geske said. "Knowing that information can dramatically affect future behavior."
Challenges and Possibilities, a program at the maximum-security Green Bay Correctional Institution where BeBeau and Geske volunteer, is one way community members are trying to inspire prisoners to change their behaviors. About 30 inmates in a recent semester-long course attended workshops where they interacted with crime victims and with one another.
The prisoners work on their attitudes through group therapy-style discussion, writing and art. Volunteers include victims and survivors of violent crime, who share their stories in hopes that the offenders will think about the consequences of their actions.
During a session this fall at Green Bay, Mayda Crites told the story of her son, Bryon, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1999.
Afterward, inmate Jesse Vega spoke up.
"I don't even want to drink no more," said Vega, who admitted drinking and driving in the past. "I just thank God I didn't hurt anyone.
"Now that I heard you speak, I don't even want to ride a bike anymore. It touched me, what you said, and I'm sorry you had to go through that."
In the Green Bay program, a few volunteers serve as representatives of the people who have been harmed by the inmates. In the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, however, participants in a restorative justice program talk directly to the people they have robbed, defrauded or otherwise harmed.
Neighborhood involvement
Milwaukee County's community conferencing groups include victim, offender, a facilitator and a community representative - ideally someone who lives in the neighborhood where the crime occurred. The parties discuss both the facts of the case and its impact. They may ask each other questions, which often leads to emotional insight.
"There is a ripple effect to many of these crimes," said Lerman, who is in charge of the program.
For example, a simple car theft may prevent the car's owner from getting to work, which could lead to his being fired. A corner drug dealer may intimidate neighbors, keeping their children from playing outside.
Only non-violent offenders who have admitted their crimes may participate in community conferencing. Although the judge may consider it at sentencing, prosecutors make no promises of leniency.
Lerman and Erin Katzfey, who works with him, have seen victims and community members benefit, too, as they gain a greater understanding of the crime. A victim of home burglary, for example, may fear she is being stalked and her home will be violated again. In reality, the offender may have chosen the house at random and already forgotten where it is.
"I like to watch the faces as the dialogues are going on," Katzfey said. "It's humanizing for the victim. They see that this is not a monster that did this thing. It's a person who made a really dumb decision."
Funding will run out
Milwaukee County's community conferencing began in 2000 with a $20,000 grant from the Milwaukee Foundation. The following year, the state Legislature earmarked federal grant money to fund Lerman's full-time position and a similar one in Outagamie County. That funding expires next summer. Lerman is hopeful that it will be renewed or that he will be able to come up with an alternative funding source to continue his work.
Wisconsin isn't the only place where money is an issue. Restorative justice programs around the country - even those touted as amazingly effective - face funding hurdles. For example, in Deschutes County, Ore., the state gave the county the money it would have spent to lock up certain juvenile offenders. In turn, the county spent half the money on rehabilitation and half on prevention. In 2000, Deschutes County received $800,000 from the state.
The Oregon program was hailed as a beacon of corrections reform and copied by municipalities around the country. Nonetheless, its funding was cut during a state budget crisis last year. Today, it continues with local funding, said Wisconsin native Dennis Maloney, who spearheaded the Deschutes County program.
Maloney, now the president of an Oregon consulting firm, formerly served as superintendent at Lincoln Hills school for delinquent juveniles in Wisconsin.
"I would see highly motivated kids getting ready to leave the institution, and the community didn't want them back, even when they'd done their time. Just doing your time doesn't win you redemption in the community," he said.
And without community support, the motivation to stay out of trouble began to slip away. After moving to Oregon, Maloney pioneered a program that allowed young offenders to earn their way back into society through restitution and service. For example, juveniles who have committed serious property crimes build Habitat for Humanity houses, which in turn are given to families affected by domestic violence. They work four to six hours a day, all the while earning money for restitution.
Meanwhile, citizens decided the prevention money should go to things such as parenting classes, home health care for pregnant teens and kindergarten for at-risk children.
As a result of the program, incarceration in Oregon's juvenile institution was reduced by 72%, Maloney said.
"If you don't do this kind of thing, you create an incentive for counties to unload as many people into the state prison system as possible, because they pick up the tab for you," Maloney said. "This model turns it around."
'Not just about punishment'
Restorative justice also saves money indirectly by reducing recidivism, its proponents say.
"Justice is not just about punishment. Prison is not necessarily enough to deter a person from committing crimes, and - (prison) doesn't necessarily help the community," Milwaukee County's Lerman said.
Although restorative justice programs and other creative approaches to rehabilitation can be pricey, many believe they would cost less than prison in the long run.
"There's no question in my mind that as expensive as those programs are, they're a lot cheaper than building prisons," said Oneida County Circuit Judge Robert Kinney. "We're not going to build ourselves out of this problem."

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