Appeals Court Judge Mark Gundrum, considered a favorite for a State Supreme Court appointment, as a legislator mocked an agreement designed to end inhumane conditions and inmate abuse at the supermax prison in Boscobel.
From the Jan. 5, 2002 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The prison's name should be changed to "something like the `Jon Litscher Kittens and Rainbows Suites,' " if the settlement is approved, said Republican Rep. Mark Gundrum of New Berlin. Litscher is the secretary of the Department of Corrections, which reached the tentative settlement this week with attorneys for inmates who had sued the state over conditions at the ultra-secure prison in western Wisconsin.
"Everyone loves kittens and rainbows, so with that name we should all feel warm and fuzzy toward the worst rapists and murderers in Wisconsin," Gundrum said, adding that the prison could even become a nice site for "our next family vacation."
The settlement's "coddling" provisions called for the appointment of a monitor for two years, and banned the confinement of seriously mentally ill prisoners at the prison. It provided inmates with more time out of their cells, regulated cell temperatures and reduced night-time lighting in the cells. It also called for improved dental and medical care and a significant reduction in the use of restraints and electronic control devices.
The class action lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleged that excessive use of force at the Supermax was a common occurrence and that staff shocked inmates with weapons that often left burn marks on the skin. It also alleged that mentally ill inmates were not given adequate health care. The suit also alleged that inmates' solitary confinement virtually 24 hours a day violated their constitutional rights.
Another person who thought locking mentally inmates in their cells 24 hours a day was being too soft? Gov. Scott Walker, then a state legislator. Walker said the settlement would "coddle hard-core criminals who simply refuse to behave themselves," according to the JS.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Sign up for the free WJI newsletter.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin