Religious coalition calls for change at Department of Corrections

Families say inmates complete problems, are continually denied parole
Religious coalition calls for change at Department of Corrections

Religious groups in Wisconsin are calling for change in the Department of Corrections.

Faith-based coalition WISDOM held a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday, calling attention to thousands of inmates eligible for parole in the state who never get it.

Families of inmates told a crowd at the Capitol Wednesday that while their loved ones complete programs in prison, they are continually denied parole.

“I would like to know when is enough time?” said Tanya McMahon, the fiancee of an inmate. “When does he deserve a chance? When will they stop wasting the tax dollars of the citizens of this state to keep men and women who are truly reformed in prison?”

Judy Cooper’s husband has also been denied parole numerous times, and said she’s spent years trying to navigate the system.

“Many of them such as my loved one have seen the parole board 10 or 11 times only to be told something different each and every time they are seen,” Cooper said. “Yet we continue to hope and fight for what is right.”

Neither Cooper nor McMahon would give names of the inmates they spoke of for fear of retaliation by the DOC.

A spokesman for the DOC confirmed that there are more than 2,800 inmates eligible for parole, all who were sentenced before the Truth in Sentencing law passed in 2000. When asked about their continued incarceration, the spokesman said 95 percent of inmates eligible for parole are serving a sentence for a violent crime.

The WISDOM group said it will roll out four areas of concern over the next few months, including the lack of compassionate release and the use of solitary confinement.

The group members said they hope to force change to the system, while being respectful of victims and their families.

“We have great compassion for victims and they need our care and concern,” said Rev. Jerry Hancock, with the Prison Ministry Project. “But the families of people in prison also suffer and they need our care and concern. And what we’re asking for today is fairness.”