Criminal justice reform advocates gathered in front of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections office Tuesday to call for changes to the state’s community supervision policies.
Chanting, “No more crimeless revocation, we demand their liberation,” the crowd of about two dozen community members argued that too many people are locked up for violating their parole, probation or extended supervision agreements.
“You are taking productive members out of society,” said Jerome Dillard, leader of Ex-incarcerated People Organizing, about the state’s corrections department.
The protesters also specifically called for the release of Caliph Muab’el, who has worked with youth in the Madison community through Breaking Barriers Mentoring.
"He gave us the good messages and that good support that we didn't have in our school system," said Ryia Steps, a graduate of James Madison Memorial High School.
Muab'el was detained in February following sexual assault allegations from his son's mother. The Madison Police Department investigated the allegations, and the Dane County District Attorney's Office has declined to prosecute his case.
In addition, Circuit Court Judge Peter Anderson denied a petition for a second temporary restraining order against Muab'el. A restraining order filed against Muab'el in 2014 that was granted expires this month.
Under the original order, Muab'el was prohibited from having any contact with his son's mother. However, his attorney Andrea Love Sumpter said they would text about Muab'el's son. Anderson noted during the discussion about the denial of the second restraining order that Muab'el's mother was complicit in those communications, according to Love Sumpter.
"It’s very telling that the DA also did not proceed not only with the sexual assault allegations but violating the condition of the restraining order, which is an issue separate and apart from the assault allegations," Love Sumpter said.
Muab'el's May 1 revocation hearing was not completed, and he has an additional hearing scheduled for July 11. A decision is expected about 10 days after the hearing, which could result in the case being absolved, additional parole conditions or extended incarceration time.
Muab'el has been in Columbia County Jail since February.
"Not only is he not a threat to the community, he is an asset to the community," Love Sumpter said.
Department of Corrections spokesperson Tristan Cook said the DOC recommended revoking Muab’el’s supervision following allegations from the MPD of potential criminal law violations.
“As the first revocation hearing was rescheduled and he is currently awaiting a revocation hearing, I’m not able to provide additional information at this time,” Cook said in a statement. “It is up to the administrative law judge hearing his case to determine whether to revoke Muab’el’s supervision and, if revoked, to determine the amount of additional confinement time.”
When individuals are placed on community supervision, they work with their agents to develop case plans. Individuals on parole or probation must follow standard rules of supervision, which can include adhering to a curfew, notifying parole agents of any police contact within 72 hours and complying with DNA tests.
If offenders violate their supervision rules, the DOC conducts an investigation and if allegations are substantiated, hold offenders accountable, Cook said.
“The Department’s primary focus is public safety; when an offender engages in behavior which places the public at risk, the Department will take decisive action in the interest of public safety,” Cook said in a statement.
When a “hold” is placed on people who break the supervision rules, they end up waiting in custody to go through revocation proceedings. For example, 185 people were being held in the Dane County jail for probation or parole violations, according to a July 2 custody report. Individuals going through revocation proceedings face a lower standard of due process, including a lower standard of proof and inclusion of hearsay to support an allegation.
Dillard, formerly the Dane County Jail’s re-entry coordinator, described the detrimental effect waiting in jail for a revocation hearing can have on a person.
“I’ve been seeing the hope drained out of people who are in community corrections and one way I see them doing this is individuals cycling in and out of our jail,” Dillard said.
Former Dane County Jail chaplain Christa Fisher said too many people are on the “revocation train.”
“Revocation, regardless of the reason or lack thereof, almost always ends in extended incarceration,” Fisher said.
This article has been updated to reflect comments from Andrea Love Sumpter.