Statement from Sharyl McFarland, JLUSA Milwaukee Campaign Coordinator, on Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ Budget Address

March 4, 2019

“During his campaign for governor, Tony Evers committed to the #CLOSEmsdf campaign at a gubernatorial candidates forum, and separately stated publicly, that he would close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) as soon as possible and end the practice of incarcerating people for crimeless rule violations. As members of the #CLOSEmsdf campaign, we had been cautiously optimistic, but Governor Evers’ refusal to include a proposal to close Wisconsin’s high-rise torture chamber in his first budget is unacceptable. The problem with Govern Evers’ proposed budget is that when he says, “The People’s Budget” he is not including those of us impacted currently or in the past, by Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections, through the systems of incarceration and supervision.  He has ignored the demands of directly impacted people across the state of Wisconsin and has not included us in his definition of the ‘People.’

A true people’s budget focused on racial equity, fairness, and compassion must include a proposal to depopulate, defund, and close MSDF and redirect resources saved to build stronger communities. A budget that does not include this proposal is out of step with Governor Ever’s vision for Wisconsin that he touted during his campaign. Led by WISDOM, EXPO (EX-incarcerated People Organizing), IWOC (Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee), and JustLeadershipUSA, in a broad coalition of over 50 organizations, #CLOSEmsdf, demands that Governor Evers and Department of Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr immediately take steps to depopulate, defund, and close MSDF.

Former Governor Tommy Thompson and Wisconsin legislators approved funding to build MSDF in a state budget in the late 1990s. MSDF can also be defunded and closed in a state budget. Disturbingly, Governor Evers has decided to remain silent about MSDF and Wisconsin’s horrific, racist system of supervision when support for closing MSDF and overhauling the state’s supervision system is at an all-time high, broadly supported by faith-based, human rights, public health, conservative, libertarian, and racial justice groups.

With this budget, Governor Evers is not demonstrating that his intentions are to shrink the state’s carceral systems. Wisconsin does not need the 400 more beds he is currently proposing – and could further reduce bed space if MSDF is depopulated and the number of people on supervision is reduced. In the same way that other parts of his budget direct more funds to education, healthcare and other services, Governor Evers could create significant cost savings that could be invested to support communities harmed by MSDF.

Governor Evers has not shown respect for the people who put him into office. He has publicly ignored the people’s demand for change and even used the faces of our #CLOSEmsdf campaign leaders on video during budget talks, but in the end, his budget has not reflected our needs. His failure to address #CLOSEmsdf demands is unacceptable. The #CLOSEmsdf campaign calls on Governor Evers to keep his word and immediately close the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) and end the practice of incarcerating people for crimeless rule violations.”

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