Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Gov. Super Max finds another use for prisoners

[Updated from 4/23 to highlight Tommy envisioning "a select group" of future parolees remade into Foxconn workers.
"[A] “Second Chance Skills Institute” could be part of a broader strategy...for a select group of future parolees. What if the first "Second Change Skills Institute" was located in Racine County, partnering with and neighboring the massive and employee-hungry Foxconn plant?   
Tommy Thompson sees rehabilitated prisoners mitigating Wisconsin's labor shortages and has penned an op-ed on the subject that is part self-congratulatory, part self-critical, but missing a few historical details.
Help solve Wisconsin's coming labor shortage by rehabilitating prisoners
Today, I take great pride in sharing the credit for what we accomplished on key issues including welfare reform and school choice, successful policy innovations in which Wisconsin created a blueprint adopted across the nation.  
But...I presided over the largest expansion of our state’s prison system, believing our families are safer as a result. But I've also come to believe that our corrections system and incarceration practices are both financially unsustainable and provide questionable outcomes worthy of strenuous review...
Today, 22% of Wisconsin adults have criminal records. Setting aside those within the walls of our prisons who have so seriously violated the public trust that freedom is no longer an option, there remains an even larger population for which institutional constraint may one day come to an end. 
Looking back, I regret not spending more time considering, “What does tomorrow look like for that parolee, and can we work together to help provide the necessary tools to reap a new opportunity?”
Let's insert his new-found more thoughtful attention to the same sort of people that he'd earlier used to solidify his 'tough-on-crime' ballot box persona into the analysis this blog has provided when people were re-writing Tommy history on transportation.

Or when Thompson, despite years of promoting Amtrak, gave Scott Walker cover when he killed Amtrak connections between Milwaukee and Madison.

Or when Thompson, in a vacuum, talked up the Wisconsin Idea knowing that Walker had tried to delete it from the UW mission statement.

And that he, Thompson had dealt the Wisconsin Idea his own serious blow by terminating the Office of Public Intervenor and thus further tilting the legal playing field in environmental cases to industry's side and laying the groundwork for Walker's full-scale assault on clean air and water.
Tommy Thompson 1.jpg
Thompson, circa 2001
But back to Tommy's mea culpa about people caught up in his "largest expansion of our state's prison system," and about whom now, decades later, he's wondering "what does tomorrow look like for the parolee...can we work together...to reap a new opportunity?," since:

This is the same Tommy Thompson, who, as Governor:
...consistently advocated stronger punishment for crime, abolishing mandatory parole, and allowing children as young as 10 to be tried as adults. During his tenure he doubled the state’s prison capacity and initiated construction of “Super Max” prisons for the most violent offenders.
And where, in his "Super Max prison: 
Prisoners were on permanent lockdown in tiny cells, with a light that shone at full brightness 24 hours a day. They were prohibited from using their blankets to cover their eyes at night. Their three hours of weekly out-of-cell time were spent alone in a cement room without so much as a tennis ball. The only human interaction came when guards dropped off meal trays. 
Cell temperatures have climbed into the triple digits during summer. Inmates were required to sleep with their heads toward their toilets, which flushed intermittently and often backed up. Clocks were prohibited, so inmates lost all sense of time. Even guards weren't allowed to wear watches. These conditions, said one expert, were 'an incubator for psychosis....'
The biggest spur [to change] was a federal class-action lawsuit filed against the prison in 2000. Inmates alleged that conditions inside the $47 million prison violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. 
A settlement agreement reached in 2002 ended the extreme isolation and sensory deprivation that once underpinned Supermax's correctional philosophy. Among other things, the agreement prohibited mentally ill inmates from being housed there.
Let's remember that while Thompson was building a career on the backs of prisoners, another budding careerist politician in 1997 was singing from the same hymnal:
The state Assembly Wednesday approved a "truth-in-sentencing" bill that would make criminals serve the full sentences handed down by judges -- and possibly raise prison system costs by more than a third...
"The bottom line is about victims," said Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, the sponsor of the bill. "This gives prosecutors, judges and especially, victims, some certainty to these sentences....''  
Bill authors said the cost is impossible to project because judges will alter the way they sentence criminals beginning in 1999 when the bill would go into effect.
"If a judge wants to be sure someone will spend a year in jail right now they typically give them four years in jail," Walker, the sponsor, said. 
Further, inmate numbers won't go up dramatically because nearly two-thirds of the people now sent to prison are actually being returned to prison for parole violations. "Under this bill, they wouldn't leave in the first place," he said. 
Oh - - by the way, after Tommy was out of office in 2004, and Walker was training for Governor as the disinterested Milwaukee County Executive, the truth of their 'impossible to estimate' cost for 'truth-in-sentencing' was finally determined at $1.8 billion, in part because the Thompson-Walker legacy was built on this unique set of circumstances: 
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.
So - - cue the new and improved Tommy T., who, having begat Walker and served both him as mentor and as co-enabler of the state's cycle of over-spending on over-incarceration, is having a change of heart lo these decades later - - but as we'll see, for "a select group of future parolees."

And, yes, he suggests his 'second-chance reforms' can help Walker find the workers not on the horizon now to make all those Foxconn TVs.
The end product, a highly-skilled and marketable job applicant best-equipped to enter the workforce and far-better equipped to reenter society. This high-quality program would create a highly marketable and sought after payroll-ready employee, permanently attached to an ongoing "Second Chance Skills Institute" support network....
“Second Chance Institute” graduates will be working taxpayers rather than costing working taxpayers. But I tend to think merely being a contributing taxpayer doesn’t fully- satisfy the front-end commitment and necessary investment program partners would need to make.  I believe some sort of reasonable paycheck-drawn loan repayment is necessary, both in terms of addressing program costs but also to further define program value for our newfound successful graduate and working parolee...
The “Second Chance Skills Institute” could be part of a broader strategy to address the challenge of an aging workforce while also providing the tools, skills and lifelong supporting partners to generate opportunities for a select group of future parolees.
What if the first "Second Change Skills Institute" was located in Racine County, partnering with and neighboring the massive and employee-hungry Foxconn plant? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is he suggesting that in exchange for parole, certain prisoners will be trained to work at FoxConn? For how long will prisoners be required to work at FoxConn in exchange for training? I see potential for abuse by FoxConn and the Dept of Corrections: "You can be eligible for parole because we need FoxConn workers but you will be indentured to them for X years!" "You will never be eligible for parole because you refuse to work for FoxConn!" I don't trust Thompson to come up with an idea that doesn't hurt poor people without profiting the rich.