Taycheedah Correctional lawsuit settlement both good news and bad
Late last week, the state settled a lawsuit filed by the ALCU on behalf of female prisoners at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution in Fond du Lac agreeing to spend millions of dollars upgrading medical facilities there so that they will, and I quote, "provide female prisoners with the same level of health care services and mental health treatment already provided to male inmates."
Why is this both good and bad news? I think the good is pretty obvious a grossly underfunded, understaffed, and under-facilitated health care system for a captive population will get a much needed boost but the bad? Well, the fact that any of our prisons have been allowed to fall into such disarray in the first place is fairly distressing. That women were receiving substantially subpar treatment when compared to their male counterparts is even more troubling.
We've got plenty of things to worry about in terms of where our money goes these days. With the economy still in recession, aging infrastructure, and people in need all across the state, I can understand how not everyone would be thinking about or prioritizing prison conditions.
That doesn't make it right to neglect them, though.
First, I'd like to know why female inmates had been so thoroughly overlooked by the system. Is it because there are technically fewer of them? Is there some sexism involved? I can't say for certain, of course, but the fact that such a lawsuit had to be brought to see real changes made should raise some serious concerns.
Secondly, it strikes me as a grave mistake that we (in Wisconsin, in the US) have seemingly allowed our prison system to become less and less about actual rehabilitation. There are programs in place and people working to provide mental health, job training, and reintegration help to inmates who will eventually be released but our society has made that a somewhat thankless job. We also appear to have done everything possible to lessen the chances a former inmate has of making it on the outside by making it difficult to find housing, meaningful work, or even civic engagement.
That we're also allowing our prisons to become wildly overcrowded (through a combination of biased and/or just plain crappy sentencing laws) and neglecting inmate's mental and physical well-being only makes things worse.
It may be difficult to find any sympathy for some of the folks who end up incarcerated, and that's understandable but part of being human is recognizing when humane treatment of even those with whom we disagree or outright disdain is simply the right thing to do.
Ron Johnson and the sunspots of Greenland
If you've been paying any attention to state politics lately, it's likely you'll have heard or read about Ron Johnson's most recent anti-manmade climate change claims.
More recently, Johnson who's running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in this fall's election pointed to the country of Greenland as a supposed example of why modern global warming is a myth.
How does that work, exactly? According to RoJo, "There'sa reason Greenland was called Greenland…Itwas actually green at one point in time. And it's been, since, it's a whole lot whiter now."
I felt a small brain aneurysm threatening when I first read that quote has this guy bothered to do any historical research? Thankfully, others were quick to point out what he so thoroughly missed: Greenland was likely so named by one of the first Viking settlers, Erik the Red, in a plot to get more people to settle there. It was not some verdant paradise, as Johnson seems to imagine.
Modern and paleoclimatology are complicated things, to be sure, but if you want to be given the privilege of making decisions that affect us all (by, say, running for office), please do even a little bit of homework.
Johnson is just one guy, though, so why get bunched up over his views on the world? Because he's not alone in holding them his views are very much in line with what a lot of other conservative Republicans believe. And because, as a public figure, he holds a little extra sway over hearts and minds than us regular folk. And the drivel he spouts about climate change is dangerous.
Wisconsin can't afford to elect a Ron Johnson (especially when we already have one of the best Senators in the country representing us in Feingold), and neither can the country. So while it might be immediately fun and/or cathartic to make fun of his sunspot and Greenland statements, it'd be far more productive to counter them with serious, well-researched facts. People are more likely to appreciate what you have to say if it's not done in a mocking tone.