By Dylan Deprey
At 18-years-old Frank B. Davis changed his life forever.
On March 17, 1988, Davis was charged with first-degree sexual assault, armed burglary and resisting arrest after stabbing and raping a woman in her Madison apartment. He was later sentenced to little over 20 years in prison.
With six months before his release and no family or friends in Wisconsin, he decided to move back to Kansas City, MS with his family.
He had an apartment and two job interviews lined up. His brother-in-law had a car for him to use. He was set to transition back into normal life.
Three weeks later he was told that his only option was to stay in Wisconsin for a year.
Unlike many of his fellow ex-prisoners, he found work within two days after his release. Even after being laid off, he found any work he could to make money.
“I made legal money, I never did anything illegal,” Davis said.
Three years later he was working as a freelance writer for UMOJA Magazine and the Madison Times. He was even offered to work as the head for an up-and-coming magazine.
Following a breakup with his girlfriend of two years, the past caught up with him. A now jealous ex-girlfriend had reported false accusations against Davis to his parole officer. As the accusations were being investigated, Davis sat in jail.
He was cleared of the accusations, but he wasn’t out of the woods.
One of Davis’s laundry list of rules was that he needed permission for a laptop and a cellphone. He had two options: use one of the computers at a job center twenty minutes across town, or try to use the dinosaur of a computer at home. He eventually bought a laptop for work.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong, I was just trying to live my life,” Davis said.
He broke the rules, and was tried for revocation.
Revocation occurs when Department of Corrections (DOC) reincarcerate an individual who is on probation, parole or extended supervision. Some individuals are sent back to prison because they commit a new crime. Others, like Davis, have been revocated due to a technical violation.
He spent three years in prison.
Now Davis is fighting to eliminate crimeless revocation in Wisconsin. He is a board member for Ex-Prisoners Organizing (EXPO), a leadership team made of formerly-incarcerated people for ROC Wisconsin, a project of WISDOM. ROC Wisconsin works to end mass incarceration in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin holds some of the worst incarceration numbers in the United States, including the highest incarceration of African American and Native American males.
The 53206 zip code, which has been recently featured in a documentary, is the most incarcerated zip code in the nation.
EXPO associates and their family members told the unheard stories of those trapped in the cycle of crimeless revocation at the “Incarcerated Without Conviction” Book of Stories Release Event Nov. 22.
“People caught in the system of mass incarceration aren’t just numbers and statistics, they are real people with real families,” said Earlean Gilmer, a former social worker and corrections employee.
DOC officials can issue a warrant based on complaints or suspicion of rule violations that those on extended supervision, probation or parole may have committed.
Agents can recommend alternative options including drug and alcohol programs. But like many that spoke during the forum, instead spent years in prison.
For those that choose to challenge their agent’s decision can often spend up to 90 days in jail awaiting the decision.
“Do you know how many times my family had to come pack my stuff up where I was living while in transition because I was sitting in custody, while they (DOC) were doing an investigation,” said Troy Hawkins, to the group of community members at the St. Matthews C.M.E Church.
Around 3,000 people are sent to state prisons every year due to revocations. Whether it’s failing a drug test, signing up for an email account or crossing the state line without permission, those on extended supervision, probation and parole are far from the 11×15 cell they once called home, according to WISDOM state Director David Liner.
It was reported that it costs tax payers around $100 million per year to lock ex-prisoners back up due to technical violations.
Davis said that his trip back to prison may have cost the taxpayers their hard-earned dollars, but it also cost him his forward momentum for a proper second chance on life.