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.

ORUCC Joins MOSES: A Brief Introduction

The Racial Justice Mission Team is happy to announce that ORUCC has become a member congregation of MOSES, as recommended by the Ministry of Christian Witness and Service and approved by the Leadership Team.  RJMT will coordinate our engagement and communications.  As RJMT chair, Pam Oliver will be our representative on the MOSES Leadership Board, which serves as its board of directors. We are hoping that other members of ORUCC will want to get involved.

MOSES, which stands for Madison Organizing in Strength, Equity, and Solidarity, is a grassroots, interfaith, nonpartisan, racially-mixed, non-profit organization working for transformative justice in Dane County and Wisconsin. Most of our members belong to faith communities, but others are unaffiliated individuals committed to social justice. MOSES is part of the statewide WISDOM network which has chapters around the state. Joining MOSES puts us into contact with other faith-based activists in the rest of Wisconsin.

The MOSES mission is to build collective power to dismantle the systems of mass incarceration and mass supervision and to eradicate the racial disparities in our community that contribute to them.  MOSES has three task forces actively working to achieve this mission:

  • The Justice System Reform Initiative (JSRI) task force, established in 2015.  It supports safety and operational improvements of the Dane County Jail that will make it more humane and advocates for Dane County criminal justice system reforms that will divert more people from the jail and reduce involvement with the criminal justice system.
  • The Racial Justice for All Children (RJAC) task force, established in 2020 with a mission to eradicate the childhood to school to prison pipeline.  It envisions a reduction in the generational deprivation experienced by children of color and children in poverty; the elimination of systemic racism in our community; and a community that supports steadily increasing opportunities for all children to thrive.
  • The Public Safety Task Force (PSTF), established in 2020 with a purpose to improve public safety in Dane County.  Preliminary goals include:  reduce the overall reliance on armed law enforcement officers for maintaining public safety; reduce racial disparities in rates of law enforcement surveillance and arrest; and increase responsiveness of public safety organizations and programs to the priorities and needs of lower income and Black and other people of color residing in Dane County.

General meetings on the first Sunday afternoon of the month provide opportunities for members to meet each other learn more about local issues. Each general meeting also includes a presentation by the racial equity team and an opportunity to discuss a racial equity issue in a small group and an opportunity to hear the story of an individual who has been impacted by the system and has found ways to make positive contributions to society.

In addition to the issue-focused task forces, individuals can volunteer to work with functional teams, including the racial equity team, the communications team, the fundraising team, and others.

Please check the literature provided on a table in the Crossroads for more information.  You can also download a copy of the most recent MOSES newsletter. You might also consider attending one of the following MOSES events to learn more:

  • MOSES Transformation Celebration Gala, November 5, 2022, 5:30-9PM, Registration
  • MOSES next general meeting November 6 2:30-4:30 (with a social time 2-2:30). The meeting will be in person with a Zoom option.
  • New Member Orientation by Zoom, November 12, 10-11:30 a.m. This is open to all, is intended for people who want to know more before deciding whether to get involved, and will provide a broad overview of MOSES including its history, its connections with broader networks, what it does, and how people can get involved. You can register by clicking this link

We will regularly share information about MOSES in this newsletter.  Please contact Pam Oliver or Barbie Jackson, if you would like to explore engagement with MOSES. Email [email protected] to get on the mailing list and be notified of meetings.