The American Civil Liberties Union and the Prison Policy Initiative granted an F+ grade to the state of Wisconsin for its COVID-19 prevention practices in prisons. The report in its entirety analyzed each state’s handling of COVID-19 in jails and prisons. Nine states received D grades, while the rest received F grades. 

In the report’s analysis of Wisconsin, points were lost for measures such as failing to provide virus data broken down by race, as well as failing to order the release of prisoners. 

What were states graded on in the ACLU analysis?

The ACLU graded states’ response to COVID-19 in jails and prisons by analyzing measures such as:

  • Administration of masks
  • Availability of data
  • Reduction of population
  • Governor or correctional department orders calling for the halt of jail admissions or the release of inmates

What does the health and wellbeing of prisoners living in facilities currently look like?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, as of August 20, the data representing all testing and case information amongst individuals in their care stated:

  • 399 total cases of COVID since March 18
  • 308 inmates had recovered since March 18
  • 3 had been released from custody since March 18
  • 88 were currently fighting the virus

228 of the total positive COVID cases reported since March arose from Waupun Correctional Institution, where a substantial outbreak erupted in May. 

What are prisoners’ take on the handling of the virus in Wisconsin’s correctional institutions? 

Prisoners in Wisconsin have voiced that there has been a slow response from the Department of Corrections, and a weak implementation of social distancing and cleaning initiatives. Prisoners have also stated that there are guards who fail to wear masks. Sean Wilson, Smart Justice Statewide Organizer for the ACLU of Wisconsin agrees that there has been a failure to exercise important practices, saying, “Wisconsin has not done nearly enough to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our jails and prisons.”

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