The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 7, 2001 Issue
Local News

Help asked to restore offenders to society

Catholic Conference urges State Senate Committee to fine-tune revisions to rules

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference urged the State Senate Committee on Economic Development and Corrections to consider proposed revisions of Department of Corrections rules with an eye toward restoring offenders to society.

The committee is reviewing revisions to administrative rules (Rule DOC 302) on inmate security classification, assessment and evaluation and program review.

In written testimony, the conference said, "Public policy responses to crime must ensure that our societal responses to offenders are redemptive rather than vengeful."

"The overwhelming majority of prison inmates will be released into the community at some point," said M. Colleen Wilson, WCC's associate director for education. "It is imperative to the common good of our state that the policies fashioned by policy makers prepare them for reintegration into the community."

Wilson emphasized the bishops' strong support for effective rehabilitation and education programs in correctional institutions. She asked Department of Corrections officials to make certain that space in programming is available for inmates who seek help in their rehabilitation.

Wilson cautioned lawmakers about language in the proposed rule revisions that could make it easier for prison officials to send inmates to the Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel.

"We are concerned that provisions in the proposed rule will allow the department to transfer inmates to any facility, including Supermax, based solely on space considerations," wrote Wilson.

"Given the myriad of concerns that already have been raised about Supermax, and the lack of information on the effects of that institution on the mental health of both inmates and staff, the Committee should consider revising the language to reflect that an inmate may not be assigned to Supermax simply because of space considerations," she said.

Wilson asked committee members to consider revising the proposed rules so inmates can continue to appeal decisions related to custody classification, transfer and placement. As currently drafted, inmates would be able to appeal only due process issues.

Wilson cautioned the committee that the rehabilitative journey of an inmate could be harmed by an improper decision, which also would negatively affect taxpayers, who pay for rehabilitation.

The Senate Committee has approximately 30 days to request revisions to the proposed rules. If the Committee makes no requests, the rules would likely become effective by the end of the year.

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