By Dylan Deprey
The truth can be hard to find. Some have searched for it for decades. Others have worked to cover it up. Whether it is the government, media, recent Facebook post or protestors picketing, people examine “the truth” and construct their own assumptions.
One truth that cannot be revoked is the truth in numbers.
According to a Human Impact Partners healthcare assessment regarding excessive revocation in Wisconsin released on Wednesday, Dec. 13, in 2015 the Department of Corrections sent 3,000 people back to prison for breaking supervision rules without committing a new crime.
Revocation is when ex-prisoners on parole, probation or extended supervision break their rules of supervision. Rules can include anything from failing a drug test, to failing to meet with a parole officer because of a conflict with work.
It costs Wisconsin tax payers a pretty penny to house those sent back for revocations. According to the study, the average revocation sentence was 1.5 years, and in total costs around $147.5 million.
The numbers were also unafraid to hop across racial boundaries as disparities showed that in 2015, 40 percent of Wisconsin’s formerly incarcerated black population was sent back to prison, but those that identified as black only made up 6.6 percent of the entire state population.
It is no secret that the United States holds the infamous number one seat for the world’s largest prison population, including Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code holding the highest black male incarceration rate in America.
“Every sentence can’t be a life sentence,” said David Liners, Executive Director for faith-based organization WISDOM during an education session regarding revocations prior to a press conference to present the health assessment on Dec. 13 at
“We can find other ways to hold people accountable for violating the rules,” Liners said. “If somebody has a problem with drug and alcohol addiction, let’s focus on that, not incarcerate them.”
WISDOM and its Restore Our Communities (ROC) Wisconsin Campaign and its leadership group Ex-Prisoners Organizing (EXPO) have worked to end mass incarceration in Wisconsin. They worked with Human Impact Partners, which researches how public policy ultimately affects public health, for the health assessment.
“Our conclusion is the health of these justice involved individuals, their children and their families are needlessly suffering,” said Sarah Satinsky, an HIP member who worked on the study.
Satinsky said that data was a collected from 35 peer reviewed articles, information from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Wisconsin’s Department of Correction’s (DOC) as well as focus groups around the state
She said that those on parole, probation and extended supervision were in constant state of stress for the possibility of having the police at the front door. They also experienced the world differently with the “ex-convict” stigma that has been tattooed on their forehead.
Revocations two immediate affects are housing and employment. While a person’s case is being investigated, they sit in jail. The re-entry process is then broken because even if they had managed to find a job and housing, they wouldn’t be able to work to pay for it.
According to the health assessment, people who have ever been incarcerated do poorly in the job market with harms to employment, wages, and income. It also noted that employment declined 5–20 percent after incarceration.
Dr. Geof Swain, Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer for the City of Milwaukee Health Department, said that there are health risks involved with the stress that comes from living in prison and carried on while on parole, probation or extended supervision.
He added that being in a continuous state of stress whether it be finding a job or house, or the knowing that the police could be sent to their house at any time had damaging effects on the body.
“We know chronic stress causes high blood pressure, it causes diabetes, it causes a lot of other chronic illnesses ranging from asthma to cancer, and people under supervision with the threat of being back to prison for not committing a new crime have increased stress and ultimately decreased health.”
Swain said that children and families also paid a price, as almost half of those sent back to prison for revocation were parents. According to the health assessment, in 2015 an estimated 2,700 kids were put at risk of increased poverty with their father being convicted for a technical violation.
“We know from very good studies that having a parent go to prison is a significant adverse experience,” Swain said. “When people lose their jobs, kids are more likely to go into poverty and their school performance goes down, and this makes the children’s health worse.”
WISDOM president Rev. Willie Briscoe closed the press conference with a call for action to policy makers, the media and the community.
“It is unjust to send somebody back to jail, after having them start their lives all over. Then there is a stigma for already being in jail, and then you tell them to recover. It is like putting an anvil on their back and telling them to run the same race with the rest of us,” Briscoe said.
The Excessive Revocations in Wisconsin Health Assessment can be found at www.sentback.org.