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WISDOM 11x15 Campaign is now ROC Wisconsin

Posted by: Gordon on 11/2/2015

ROC Wisconsin new website

A new website describes WISDOM's Restore Our Communities Wisconsin, ROCWisconsin, campaign


In 2012, WISDOM’s faith and community leaders set a goal to reduce Wisconsin’s prison population by half to 11,000—their 11x15 Campaign.


Now they are marking a turning point in the campaign by renaming it Restore Our Communities Wisconsin, ROC Wisconsin. They have created a new website for the campaign: ROCWisconsin.org.

The group's work for criminal justice has spawned a public-health approach to the negative consequences when communities of color suffer from biased laws and policies, influenced national campaigns to address these issues, and leveraged changes in the state:

  • WISDOM’s advocacy and organizing has educated policymakers and legislators and led to millions of dollars for treatment instead of prison flowing to the state budget.
  • The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has changed policies around solitary confinement after faith leaders called attention to inhuman policies enforced in the state’s criminal justice system.
  • Drawn attention to abuses around parole, which are among the worst remaining obstacles in the state system. For example, former prisoners can be re-arrested for minor offenses, while a group of “old law prisoners” who were sentenced under one parole system but now living under a different set of rules remain stuck with no way out.

Perhaps the most important shift has been the way formerly incarcerated people have themselves come to the forefront of leadership of this campaign. Over the past couple years WISDOM has trained dozens of leaders who have been through the state’s criminal justice system.

“The Wisconsin criminal justice system is badly broken,” says Rachel Shramek, of Eau Claire. “Today there are many good people behind bars in Wisconsin whose basic crime is that they are chemically dependent, or mentally ill, or suffering from a sort of generational trauma that keeps repeating and repeating. I know this because this is my story too.”

After graduating from a local prison alternative program that WISDOM helped establish, Shramek was reunited with her son and recently returned to college. Earlier this year she also participated in leadership training with WISDOM.

“It is time to expand meaningful alternatives to incarceration for minor crimes of substance misuse. It is time to decriminalize mental illness,” she says. “It is time to stop revocation without a conviction. It is time to humanize the prison experience and it is time to dismantle barriers for successful re-entry for people like me.”

The new website also has an extensive set of resources on the issue of criminal justice in Wisconsin. (More about WISDOM is still online at their existing website, prayforjusticeinwi.org).
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