#191 Prison talk: Inform Yourself

May 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

Prison Talk: Inform Yourself

I had not thought about blogging today, but I wanted to say something here that might help some reading. It’s based on the idea of what we know as far as prison issues, and what we assume.

Now, if you read my blogs, you know I try to say continually that I cannot speak for every inmate, nor do I imply that I know it all about prison, but what I DO share is based on experience and understanding of a little of how prison works.

Several days ago I was reading a post of a lady who was concerned about her loved one going to prison in Wisconsin. She wrote a post asking for some advice because she had heard that inmates up there, when they enter the prison system, had to be on lockdown for 23 hrs a day, with only 1 hour for exercise. She also said that because Wisconsin has some overcrowding issues, the normal time of processing new inmates of 4-6 weeks was enlarged to up to 16 weeks. She was concerned that her loved one being locked in isolation status for up to 4 months was inhumane.

I read it the first time and I was quick to add a response. In fact, let me copy and paste that for you…

“Hmmmm….something doesn’t quite add up there. I did time in NC, and when I went to intake (or processing) I was in a dorm. Now although each state is different, I want to first establish that there is overcrowding in almost every state…including NC.

So if I was asked if this was the regular protocol of Wisconsin prisons, I would initially disagree. I cannot believe that the common practice of Wisconsin DOC is to lock all new inmates for 23 and a half hours a day, for 16 weeks. Something isn’t quite right about that.

Now, I might agree that if you are sent to a max, or close custody prison, that MIGHT be the case, or if the state has problems with gangs in prison, it MIGHT be the case. But I am not sure that a lower security level inmate would be subjected to isolation conditions without cause. I can see if an inmate is there for a violent offense, or has been known to cause trouble, but in intake you are almost starting from zero…especially a first time offender.

If you can, check on this, see if ALL Wisconsin prisons do this, I have to wager that this is not the case, but I will agree that some prisons do this, depending on the security level of the inmate. I am not saying you are wrong, not at all, but I am saying that for an entire prison system to use this practice seems way out of hand. Maybe someone else can help you on this question”

I made that initial response because to me, as in ex felon, something wasn’t quite right about it. Was I arguing that inmates can be put in isolation…no. Was I arguing that the intake processing could take as long as 16 weeks…no. My argument was the extremes of the situation. I could not believe that an inmate entering the prison system, and going to an intake prison would be put on lockdown for up to FOUR months. Even some of the most hardened inmates in the state would have more freedom than that in prison. Understand the implications here folks…four months, in a cell, for 23 hours a day. That means at this condition, an inmate MIGHT get outside for a grand total of 120 hours in a third of a year.

I knew I didn’t know it all, but I strongly believed that this wasn’t exactly the case going on. Maybe some variations of it, but not in full.

So I made the comment in order to encourage her to see if she can find out the real info on it, because to this point she was going only on what she heard…which is what more than half of the people on most support sites do. They get a little bit of info, and run with it as gospel.

We all do this, so I am not trying to browbeat anybody, but when you have a loved one in prison, it really pays to inform yourself…find out what is going on from the sources available to you, and if you are unsure, then ask for advice. I suppose I kinda qualify as one you could ask, but again, don’t make me out to be an expert on prison.

I read some of the responses after it and one person who has a loved one in Oklahoma said that the assumption of 23 hours a day is correct, because “that’s how they do it down here”.

Another person said that her friend was in that same state (Wisconsin) and said he was on lockdown for 6 weeks at 23 hours a day. So if you go by the responses of those who “are in the know” then there maybe truth to that.

But I had to challenge that. Its not enough to know “my friend said” or “I heard that”…because to say that means you have to properly decide if the source was 100% true. We all can say things that somebody told us…that does not make it correct.

And if it is a concern, why not look into the situation and FIND those facts, instead of buying what somebody told you, based on second hand experience or intel? Hey, this includes ME too folks. I try my best to tell you what I can, but ultimately you have to get the true facts by taking a little time to contact the prison about your question. Not all answers are gonna come from them, because they can mislead you, but more times than not, you can get a general answer.

So I read these responses, and from what the members of this support group are saying is that yes, an inmate in Wisconsin can be in intake anywhere from 4 weeks to 16 weeks, and in that period of time, they will be on lockdown for 23 hours a day, in a cell, with only one hour of “recreation” outside the cell.

It just didn’t sit well with me folks…it just didn’t sound completely right.

So I got online and looked up the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and looked to identify some information. After a few minutes, I went back to that site and wrote the following:

“I was kinda cautious about the info, and you asked if anybody knew more about it. When I read this, I was pretty sure that it wasn’t totally accurate, and wanted to try to see if I could shed a little light on this. Now I say to most people, there are some misinformed lines of info when it comes to incarceration. Some folks believe that many inmates, when they go to intake, are put in a cell for 23 hrs a day, for weeks on end….folks, this is the exception, NOT the rule.

I looked up Wisconsin prisons, and found that Dodge Correctional Institution was the reception, or intake prison for your state. And you are right, they are currently having an influx of inmates. From what I looked up, Dodge normally houses about 1100 inmates, but at the time they had swelled up to abut 1600. If I am correct, it is indeed a max security, so dorm rooms would be rare, possibly they might have double bunks.

But the idea of being in a cell 23 hrs a day is questionable. I looked up some info on it, and found that some say that the first 3 days at Dodge they are likely on lockdown, but after that they are probably moved to general population.

Now don’t get this twisted, I am not saying that NOBODY is in intake under lockdown, but I will debate with almost anybody that very few prisons operate with every inmate on lockdown. Consider that this means that inmates have to shower, have to eat, and still have to be able to move around if the prison wants to keep the mentality of the prison generally safe.

Dodge Correctional is also moving inmates around, to other county jails, because of the influx of inmates. Now, because of this, one can see how a person might be in a cell for 23 and a half hours a day, because most county jails hold inmates in longer than prisons. Between prison and jail, prisons give inmates MUCH more freedom on the yard than jails.

If you asked me if I honestly thougth your loved one would be on lockdown for 4 to 16 weeks, I would say no way….none at all UNLESS he was in for a major violent charge, or broke some rules and was put in isolation. Because of the overcrowding, I would guess that he might spend a LITTLE time in lockdown, but certainly not a month…let alone 4 months. When prisons get overcrowded, they usually send the overflow to county jails, or make deals with out of state prisons to ship them there.

To put your mind at ease I would email or mail the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, I am very sure they can give you a solid answer on this. But as a guy that did time, regardless of the state, I honestly don’t believe they would put an inmate under such intense isolation for such a long period of time. CAN he be put on iso, sure, especially when first entering the prison system. CAN he be on lockdown for a few days, sure. But a MONTH? Not unless his charge was very violent, or he broke some prison rules. And the idea of the 23 hours is the minimum an inmate should have as far as exercise…. even in max prisons many inmates are on the yard longer than that. Some prisons the yard is open as many as 3 times a day, for about 2 hrs at a time.

I am not saying I have the gospel on this, but I am implying that the extremes of his incarceration may not be as bad as you think. No time in prison is easy, but unless there are paticular and specific elements to his incarceration, most inmates would not be subjected to such extremes for such a long period of time, unless there was a clear and present danger in the prison, such as gangs or a hostage situation, or if there was word on the camp that someone had some drugs or dangerous weapon. Then they would lock down the camp until they found what they were looking for. But lockdowns are dangerous to the prisn itself because if you supress the inmates too long, they will start to get stressed… and stressed inmates make for violent inmates.

Hope that helps, but if you can, email the WI DOC, I am sure they can give you more direct answers. Hang in there ok?”

What I did was very simple, I attempted to inform myself about the situation, and share what I knew based on what I read. Does this make me right? No, because there are still a few loopholes in this situation. In fact, what I plan to do after I finish this blog is to email a few people in Wisconsin DOC to find out how valid the debate is.

To get to a solution, you have to be willing to do a few things folks, especially when it comes to prison issues. First, you cannot embrace extremes. This is the stuff of rumors and panic. So little is know about what goes on in prison, because most inmates or ex felons don’t talk about it. So people are left believing what somebody else said, without really finding out the real facts on it.

You simply cannot embrace those extremes, because if you did, you would believe that every inmate gets into a gang fight, gets stabbed or raped…while it DOES happen, it does not happen to half the inmates in prison in this country. But when you embrace the extremes, you are already misinformed.

Second, weigh carefully the info from other people. This does NOT mean that people are lying to you, because then I would be a liar too, but it means to carefully look at what people are saying. Lots of times people talk about prison based on what somebody said…or what they heard somebody say. Hey, I can tell you I heard they are releasing 1000 inmates per state tomorrow…does that make me correct?

Some people on sites misuse vague information as fact, and spread it as if they hae the gospel on it. While some info is better than none, you still have to balance it, to make sure you are getting good info, or misinformed info.

Third, you have to do a little legwork yourself. You don’t have to research the history of the prison, or the specifics of every rule, you just have to get a little info to bounce around with. This puts you on the right track, and empowers you with information, rather than rumor. Rumor lead to panic, while the right information can help lead you to some peace of mind, or at least a better frame of mind.

Now in theory, I could be completely wrong about the Wisconsin situation, but what I can do about that is do what many others don’t do…I can dig for facts and see what turns up. Is it possible that those inmates could be doing time in such extremities…I suppose so. I don’t want to admit that, but hey, I could be wrong. But is it LIKELY…that’s what we need to find out.

And why is this so important to me? Heck, I don’t live in Wisconsin, why should it matter to me? Because this is a chance to step in, and fight fear and worry head on, by attacking what seems to be a fact in the negative, and try to find the solution, which could be nowhere as bad as it seems. I am trying to find out if guys are really on lockdown in intake prisons in Wisconsin for that long. Hopefully I can find a positive answer so I can let that person know that the things she was told was not as accurate as she might have feared.

We shall see. Anyway, I will do that right now, don’t forget to email me about support my blogs, or my books, cards and the like. Until then…


Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#190 Lost posts on PTO: Uncertainty pt 2 #192 Prison talk: The business end

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