Report from MOSES

MOSES (Madison Organizing in Strength, Equity, and Solidarity for Criminal Legal System Reform) is part of WISDOM, a statewide social justice organization, and with Gamaliel, a national social justice network. Gamaliel’s Annual Report for 2023 talks about its support for building a focus on racial equity, immigration justice, integrated voter engagement, transformational justice, and more.

MOSES Supporting Quality Literacy Curricula

The Racial Justice for All Children task force in MOSES is advocating for policies to ensure that all children learn to read and address severe racial disparities in literacy. Children who do not learn to read tend to have behavioral problems at school and end up in the “school to prison pipeline.” Recent advocacy has called for the state to adopt literacy curricula based on the Science of Reading. Members have been asked to advocate with the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee by March 5 to support high-quality literacy curricula.

Background: In the fall of 2023, by bipartisan vote, the legislature passed and Governor Evers signed Act 20, which supports statewide literacy curricula based on the Science of Reading. MOSES supported Act 20. This Act created the Early Literacy Curricula Council (ELCC) which was charged to develop curriculum recommendations based on the Science of Reading. Recommended curricula would be eligible for grants to support their purchase. Districts could still purchase other curricula, except for those that rely on a specific intervention (cueing) that has been discredited, but they would not eligible for grants. ELCC recommended four quality curricula options. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) submitted a much longer list which did not conform to the ELCC’s recommendations and includes curricula that only minimally meet the requirements of the law. According to the law, a Joint Finance Committee vote on March 8 determines which curricula will be eligible for grants. MOSES asked its members to advocate by March 5 with the Joint Finance Committee to support the ELCC’s recommended list.  

Prison Lockdowns

MOSES and WISDOM members continue to advocate for releasing low-risk incarcerated individuals to address the lockdowns in Wisconsin prisons due to staff shortages. During a lockdown, incarcerated people spend 23 hours a day in their cells. People have been denied visitors and access to medical appointments and treatment services. WISDOM transformational justice coordinator Mark Rice was recently approached by a reporter from Wisconsin Eye, who interviewed him for an edition of a podcast called “Capitol Chats”.  The interview centered on Prison Lockdowns.  You can listen to this 14-minute, information-packed interview here:  Capitol Chats with WISDOM re Prison Lockdowns.

Treatment Alternatives to Imprisonment – A disappointing legislative outcome

MOSES members are active in WISDOM’s Treatment Alternatives and Diversions (TAD) task force, which seeks to divert people from jail or prison into treatment programs. The current law only allows the diversion of people with Substance Use Disorder, but people across the political spectrum agree that people with other mental health issues should also be eligible for diversion into treatment. This is one important way to reduce crowding in prisons and jails as the underlying issue for many incarceration people is an untreated mental illness. The bill passed the State Senate 29-3!  It had broad bipartisan support and would have passed the Assembly by a similar margin if Speaker Vos had allowed a vote, which unfortunately he did not. Mark Rice, WISDOM’s Transformational Justice Campaign Coordinator, sent a letter to all State Senators thanking them for their overwhelming bipartisan support for this measure and urging them to make this a priority in 2025.

Please contact Pam Oliver or Barbie Jackson if you would like to learn more about MOSES.