- Politics and Social Issues
Truth in Sentencing to Be Renamed Injustice in Sentencing
Truth In Sentencing To Be Renamed Injustice In Sentencing!
Wisconsin has recently uncovered yet another judge who was apparently operating outside of his scope of practice; or, outside of his psychological and characterological capacity. Bizarre sentences given to a number of male offenders led to many men being set free in technicalities and gross incompetence. Sources indicate that the Federal Government had to get involved to unravel this mess. This leads one to wonder how many of the more than 22,000 incarcerated individuals in Wisconsin actually belong in prison. One such case is presented in this document.
It seems that Mr. Paul M. Nigl (#280834 - Waupun Correctional Institution [WCI]) was made an example of by a corrupt judge, Bruce Schmidt, and a corrupt District Attorney, Joseph Paulus in Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin in 2001. The pair, who wanted to appear to get tough on drunk driving, increased the sentence given to Mr. Nigl for an alcohol related accident from the average 5 years to 60 years with 40 years of probation. Mr. Schmidt has since retired and Mr. Paulus, who now lives in Florida, has since served a short federal sentence for gross corruption while in office; much less time than Mr. Nigl is serving. Mr. Nigl, on the other hand, works for the maintenance department in the prison in a position of trust, yet earns less than $4.00 per hour for the vital work he performs keeping the prison’s archaic plumbing and electrical systems functioning. He remains in good standing with the WCI staff, yet is treated as though he is less than human by many security officers. He has spent almost 15 years in prison maturing into a man who has valuable talents that could benefit society, but remains in an environment of danger and degradation. Wisconsin spends more than $30,000 a year incarcerating Mr. Nigl. It's time to save the taxpayers money and allow more men to have a second chance. Mr. Nigl deserves a second chance. He is seeking sentence restructuring, but should be seeking freedom.
How many other men were unfairly sentenced in Wisconsin in recent times for political platform advantage? Is there not a class action lawsuit in the making that has suddenly freed men who have committed 1st Degree Intentional Homicide among other crimes? Many of them are going free right now because of the misconduct of a judge in Milwaukee who was allowed to serve insane, out-of-control sentences for decades in an inconsistent manner reminiscent of someone who is mentally ill. Mr. Nigl and others deserve the same opportunity to be re-sentenced or set free just like those who are now being released on technicalities thanks to that Milwaukee judge. A high ranking state official has confided to this writer, "Future sentences will be lighter. Those who are already incarcerated are screwed".
At Waupun Correctional Institution the water is almost undrinkable due to heavy metal in the old, and sometimes original, pipes and a break down in the City of Waupun water system last year. Men were forced to drink water after letting it run for long periods of time; it was still cloudy and discolored. The response from WCI staff was, “Well, don’t come to prison then.” The sewer system under the prison is so decrepit that the inmates who work down there making necessary repairs, like Mr. Nigl, are exposed to dangerous communicable diseases and are not always allowed to properly shower or obtain clean clothing afterward. Recently, Mr. Nigl, who is a plumber at WCI, was required to unclog some pipes in the sewer under a cell hall. He and his co-worker returned to their main worksite after the job was complete expecting to shower and change clothes. The officer at the site told them to wait while he called an upper level security supervisor first. The men were covered in feces and urine which may contain HIV, blood, Hepatitis-C, herpes, and other dangerous communicable pathogens. The officer told the men that the security supervisor was denying them a shower. They were to return to their cells and wash up in their sinks. Both men were shocked and protested the decision, giving valid reasons for their protests. The office told them he would “write them up” if they continued to protest. Mr. Nigl quietly returned to his cell, took his clothing off, and sat up all night on his bunk after attempting to wash up the best he could in his cell. He phoned a family member the next morning who in turn phoned the institution, and made a verbal complaint. Only after this was done did the Security Director go to the cell hall and apologize to Mr. Nigl in person and allow him to shower properly.
Food is so overcooked there is no nutritional value left in it. Inmates are not always allowed to have medications in a timely manner, or at all, by security staff who are not trained to manage medical or psychotropic medications. Psychiatrists in DOC and at the Wisconsin Resource Center (paradoxically under the Division of Health Services) are known to remove men cold-turkey from drugs that normally require titration. Inmates are forced to remain in their cells most of the day without sunlight or fresh air. Illness spreads rapidly among the inmates and staff. Fans in the cell halls are turned off to punish inmates, leaving them without cool air movement on upper tiers that get tremendously hot year round. Reports have leaked out of WCI for years of neglect and abuse by over-worked, underpaid staff members, who may not see their families for days at a time due to mandated overtime. This is what the taxpayers are spending $30,000 a year per inmate on instead of allowing them the opportunity to lead successful lives outside of the bars.
More disturbing is that there is a power higher than the Wisconsin Department of Corrections which unfairly incarcerates men who do not belong in prison and also imposes some (not all) unfair sentences on men who are deserving of a second chance. Those are the judges, who are allowed the freedom to impose sentence structures on a case-by-case basis, without strict guidelines, expert knowledge, and who are not accountable to anyone, least of all the public which they serve. This, in conjunction with misrepresentation by some state media sources, has led to grossly unfair treatment of many individuals in our state.
There happens to be a high number of individuals incarcerated in Wisconsin who do not belong in prison at all. Those are men who have intelligence scores so low as to make them vulnerable to the true criminal element within the prison system. Those men are taken unfair advantage of sexually, financially, physically, and emotionally by staff and inmates. United States veterans, who served our country with their lives, have been incarcerated instead of receiving appropriate help from the Veteran’s Association. They were abandoned to cope with posttraumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues on their own. Many of them turned to drugs and alcohol and made mistakes for which they are now paying with long or life sentences. Men who were not career criminals are being punished with what amounts to life sentences for accidents or mistakes that occurred once, and usually in late adolescence or early adulthood.
Many of them seek help, and are turned away. They are provided a greater chance of becoming criminals due to the corrections environment in which they are forced to live. Rather than habilitating or rehabilitating them, as the Wisconsin DOC claims, they are locked in a cycle of failure with no hope for a second chance or a life of purpose. Our prison population grows younger every day across the United States. Men who are incarcerated at ages ranging from 19 to 30 are stuck in developmental stages that will never allow them to mature or be productive members of free society. The United States is losing a valuable portion of its young men and women to the short-sighted, arrogant, jaded, decisions of some judges; Wisconsin is one the most guilty in that respect.
Wisconsin purports to be a state with harsh sentencing laws, yet many individuals who belong in jail or prison live free lives in our communities. Individuals with money or “the right connections” commit the same types of crimes that incarcerated individuals committed, and are given light sentences or no sentences at all. There is no justice in that. Justice is not blind in Wisconsin, and lawmakers look to line their own pockets or to use their supposed beliefs simply as political platforms for self-promotion. It’s time to look at the sentencing structures of the incredible number of incarcerated men and women in Wisconsin and make immediate changes. The prison system is nothing more than a grand money-making scheme for this state.