A demonstration scheduled for Saturday will draw attention to conditions at the Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez.
Organizers say: the protest will include: a march to the prison, where they will read letters from people currently incarcerated there. ABOLISHmke and the Socialism and Liberation Milwaukee Party will lead the event, which is part of a national mobilization effort of Speak to Jailhouse Lawyers which runs from August 21 to September 9.
Segdrick Farley, 41, spent 12 years at the facility. He plans to travel from Eau Claire for the demonstration.
“There are people in it. We have fathers and grandfathers, uncles, aunts. People in prison are people,” he said. “Sometimes we have to look at the circumstances because some of these people are returning to society, and the way they return to society should be better than when they went in.”
The state prison was opened in 1898. Farley’s arms could span the width of his cell, he said, and the plumbing and heating were old and outdated. There was little ventilation, he said. He said he has many difficult memories of his time there.
“I said if I ever get out, people will hear about it,” Farley said. “I’ve left a lot of people there and I feel it’s my duty to do that.”
The facility’s shortcomings were: mentioned in a report released last year by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. The site visits started in the summer of 2018 and lasted a year.
According to the document, the prison’s plumbing and HVAC infrastructure was nearing the end of its “useful life.” Parts of the facility don’t have sprinklers, and the cells are smaller than industry recommendations for one person — though the report indicates many housed two.
“That building should be some sort of historic place or something,” Farley said.
Needs outlined in the report include a new health services building and improvements to temperature control, plumbing and steam distribution systems.
The DOC has begun more than 30 projects at the prison since 2015, ranging “from boiler and steam plant repairs to sewer replacement and fire alarm system upgrades,” a representative of the agency said by email.
Renovations now underway in the north and south cell halls should improve ventilation and plumbing issues, the agency said, adding that it has spent $29 million on improvements to the facilities since 2014.
“Evaluation and planning for possible replacement” is needed for the Green Bay prison, as well as for the Waupun Correctional Institution, according to the report. A DOC representative said the report does not recommend that the facilities be closed, but it outlines the agency’s options for the future.
However, state representative David Steffen, R-Green Bay, said it is clear the facility is beyond repair.
“I really hoped that Governor Evers would take a real step forward in prison reform by closing (it),” he said. “We just haven’t been able to pull that off, and it’s very disappointing.”
“Tough on crime” laws passed under previous governors contributed to overcrowded correction facilities and wear and tear on buildings, according to the DOC. But it says the population in custody has declined during the pandemic.
Editor’s Note: The report referenced in this article has been released by the Administration Department. This article previously said it was released by the Department of Corrections.