Oakhill Corr. Inst.
Oregon, WI 53575-0938
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
333 W. State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53201
26 September 2011
Re: Chisholm's suggested prison reform
Dear Mr. Vielmetti:
Let me begin with a belated compliment on the Chisholm article you authored back in February. It is my earnest hope that something positive has occurred since then and that this writing will encourage you to follow-up on it.
The Forum for Understanding Prisons (FFUP) only recently sent me a copy of your article covering the Chisholm speech at Marquette Law. The article was well written, but the prospect of yet another proposal to "rethink the criminal justice system" is, well, nearly nauseating. The mental process has more than been exhausted; action is long overdue.
The problem is multi-faceted and merely addressing one point of interest will never do much to comprehensively correct corrections. Chisholm hit one of the nails squarely on the head when stating, "if they're serious about one of their biggest deficits, this is a real opportunity." But then in the next breath he digresses with "people just have to start thinking about it." The problem is that the identical issues have been thought about ad nauseum and by agencies with that express purpose in mind. Trouble is, none of the resulting committee recommendations are implemented. And the reasons for this are themselves multi-faceted and have been occurring for decades with byzantine complexity.
In the insular world of corrections, the system has become morally numb as it becomes ever more aligned with political and corporate ideology. It has been a gradual evolution of power resulting in sparse allegiance to the tenets of traditional common sense, economics, morality or justice. The reigning corporate ideology has infected the minds and hearts of legislators and DOC personnel so thoroughly it creates a disconnect and an inability to see that the dark machinations of their corporate power is itself a criminal enterprise that helps plunder the nation and destroy millions of lives, leaving them all the more morally bankrupt.
What is more, free rein amorality is praised by those operating the system — they exemplify subservience to various political aspects of DOC and the abject careerism that poisons the prison industry and leaves it with no real moral compass. They know the demands of the industry and understand the bottom line of the play-book completely and have ingested all the byzantine quirks to a point where they cannot finally make independent moral choices. And thus meaningful recommendations become mere rhetoric and the hymns of instruction fall upon deaf ears.
We are all impacted by the system; those in positions of control as well as those captives dwelling in the bowels of the beast. When a captive allows an institution to provide him with his identity and sense of self-worth he becomes an obsequious pawn, no matter how much intelligence or talent he possesses. He lives in perpetual fear of what those in authority think of him and might do to him. Such a mechanism of internalized control is highly effective. The rules for advancement or release are never clearly defined or written down. Moreover, careerists pay lip service to the stated ideals of the system which are couched in lofty rhetoric about balance, impartiality, neutrality, fairness and justice. Conversely, at the same time they astutely grasp the actual guiding principle fostered by those in control and advanced by a self-serving media, which is not to significantly alienate the corporate and political power elite upon whom the system depends for fresh captives and funding for their enterprise.
Those who master the duplicitous game do well. Those who cling tenaciously to a desire to tell the truth, even at a cost to themselves or the institution, become a management problem. Such is my personal experience. But one's position must be contemplative, not only to recognize the Maoist tendency to hammer the hardest on the nail sticking up the farthest, but to realized when one sticks with what has already been done there is generally no true advancement.
If Chisholm examines the effects of systemic hubris and the pathology of the system's self-infatuation; if he looks at the system's large and small failures — as well as its relatively few successes — he will eventually push past the myth of corrections peddled to him by legislators and DOC minions and uncover its troubled core.
As things stand, it is no longer about "corrections." There is nothing being corrected by the current mess. "Corrections" has been leached of all real meaning, and only the notion remains of a parole opportunity even for the most deserving. Even the most hardheaded critics must concede that rethinking a failed policy is not a weakness — nor soft — but the only wise way to proceed.
And be it not unlike me to expose a perceived problem, but I would be remiss to not also offer valid suggestions to correct corrections. Chisholm acknowledges the exponentially increasing fiscal problem, and states it is in part due to parolees violating the conditions of their parole. While that is a despicable and unnecessary problem, other States have realized the ineffectiveness of it and have done away with parole revocation for minor infractions of rules. That alone would achieve a 40% decrease in the recidivism problem and yield a significant fiscal savings.
An even bigger problem is one of judicial intent not being adhered to. It is HUGE, and largely ignored. And it is increasingly costly as more captives are entangled in the system. But it's not necessarily the system's fault; any system is only as good as what is put into it. And in this case, there simply are no safeguards in place to make the system accountable to the tenet of judicial intention.
Contrary to Chisholm's thoughts, all changes do not need to come from Madison, nor do they need to be studied by yet another committee/ nor sponsored by some legislative Act. Enormous benefits could be realized on a personal level if various people would act more responsibly.
For instance, if Chisholm himself is sincere about trying to save the State millions of dollars each year he could immediately implement a procedure to follow-up on those captives he was responsible for prosecuting. Some simple mousing around the DOC data archives would yield data allowing him to confirm just how much time has been served by any given captive, and how far it is beyond the mark of the sentencing judge's intent. And I offer my own case as an illustration/ where the judge intended for me to serve the mean average at the time of sentencing — which was 13.6 years — and yet here I sit well into my 37th year. And truth be known, I had a more honest opportunity at obtaining a parole 20 years ago than I do under the current incarnation of the parole schema.
For more information on the manifest problems creating the above scenario, please visit
Thank you for your time and attention to the above matters. Sincerely/
. Ron Schilling
cc: Senate Committee :on Judiciary/ Utilities/ Commerce/ and Government Operations: Senator Zipperer (R)/ Chair Senator Neil Kedzie (R) / Vice Chair Senator Pam Galloway (R) Senator Fred Risser (D) • Senator Jon Erpenbach (D)
Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections: Representative Gary Bies (R) / Chair Representative Andre Jacques (R) / Vice Chair Representative Steve Kestell (R) Representative Ed Brooks (R) Representative Scott Krug (R) Representative Frederick Kessler (D) Representative Robert Turner (D)
Milwaukee DA John Chisholm
Forum For Understanding Prisons
WI Prison Watch
WI Network for Peace and Justice
picture of original letter