Dear Editor: In response to Sheriff Dave Mahoney's recent op-ed about rebuilding trust: Make no mistake — the police violence we are protesting is not limited to the streets. Thousands of men, women and children locked in the Dane County Jail are subjected to this same violence. Hidden behind a cement and steel fortress, there are no bystanders to video their frequent, unjust and cruel treatment. And due to the deeply rooted rule of “Deputy Discretion” there is rarely accountability.
Our incarcerated brothers and sisters file complaints but their testimony as “criminals” and “convicts” is denied credibility, while the judgement of uniformed perpetrators is unquestioned. The irresponsible grievance system ensures the carbon copy-less complaints are filed in the trash.
Having served in the jail, we are witnesses of the dominance against the incarcerated, many of whom are poor, black and brown. Daily rights are revoked due to a “look or tone,” confinement in a solitary cell is punishment for a “bad attitude,” limbs and digits broken and crushed in response to mental health crises, and medical care withheld as retribution. All of this happens atop the normalized violence and oppression inherent to institutions which lock people in cages.
We should not be surprised by police violence on the street. Police officers are trained to do this. New sheriff’s deputies begin their careers in the jail, often serving five to seven years. Many are interacting with people of color for the first time. The jail requires them to perceive every “inmate” as a threat, tasks them with controlling black and brown men and women locked in cages, and then rarely holds them accountable for their actions, no matter how extreme. And we wonder why they treat black and brown people as perpetual threats which need to be controlled or dominated.
If Sheriff Mahoney is sincere about reform, he needs to begin with his own institution!
Rev. Christa J. Fisher, Former Chaplain of the Dane County Jail
Rev. Katharine Goray, Former Chaplain of the Dane County Jail
Ms. Tina Hogel, Former Director of the Dane County Jail Tutoring Project
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