29631 Wild Rose Drive Blue River, WI 53518
June 26, 2017
A man should never feel so desolate lest he hack off a few fingers.
If you are familiar with the movie "Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood, you are well aware what a man is capable of if his only means of expressing himself is arbitrarily and maliciously confiscated. My sole form of expression was taken as well.
Here is my story:
I began a lengthy sentence in late 2000 at the Columbia Correctional Institution ("CCI"). My release date is September 13, 2033. Early in my sentence I decided to teach myself to play the guitar. I purchased a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, guitar processor (pedal), drum machine, and the required accessories with money earned working as a maintenance mechanic at a prison industries job. All of the music hobby equipment purchased was allowable per current policies at the time.
On July 20, 2007, the DOC implemented a new music hobby property policy--encompassing all prisons--which limit inmates' purchases of new musical instruments to acoustic guitars, electronic keyboards, and harmonicas. More importantly--and most fortunately--the policy included a Grandfather Clause provision. This Grandfather Clause permits inmates who previously possessed any musical instruments and accessories prior to the effective date (7-20-07) of the new policy to retain possession of the items until the inmate's ultimate release, no matter what prison he may be transferred to. That Grandfather Clause was a lucky break for those of us who had electric guitars and other instruments and accessories. I was still at CCI when the new policy went into effect and everything remained status quo.
In 2008 I was transferred to Stanley Correctional Institution ("SCI"). SCI honored the Grandfather Clause and allowed me to retain all of my music hobby property without issue.
Disastrously, on June 3, 2015, all of my music hobby property, save my guitar, was arbitrarily confiscated after being transferred to Jackson Correctional Institution ("JCI"). I was told by property staff that the property was not allowed at JCI, yet no reason was given. This did not make any sense to me for several reasons. To begin, the property is clearly grandfathered and has been since July 20, 2007; I've possessed the property at two previous facilities; inmates at other institutions are allowed their grandfathered music hobby property (I receive letters from inmates from other prisons and they tell me the Grandfather Clause is still being honored); and even at JCI there were inmates who possessed the same similar music hobby property that I was denied (in the last several months staff at JCI systematically and arbitrarily confiscated all the accessories for electric guitars along with any other instruments allowable under the Grandfather Clause without any Due Process). I was not told why the property was denied, just that it was and that I should file an inmate complaint.
I filed a complaint, which was dismissed (rubber-stamped?) all the way to the Secretary of the DOC. At the time when the Secretary dismissed my complaints and appeals, there were still inmates at JCI who continued to possess the same similar property that was taken from me.
I filed a § 1983 complaint in the Western District of Wisconsin, case no. 17-cv-418-jdp, citing Equal Protection and Due Process violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. Another inmate has joined the lawsuit because he had his music hobby property taken when he transferred to JCI from New Lisbon Correctional Institution ("NLCI"), where the Grandfather Clause was honored as well.
A Grandfather Clause is defined as a clause or provision that exempts anyone who enjoyed rights or privileges prohibited by a new law or regulation. Even an agency such as the DOC should adhere to its own policies and procedures.
Inmates across the state who have been continuously incarcerated since before July 20, 2007, and possess electric guitars, guitar processors, drum machines, and other music hobby equipment not currently allowed need to be aware that although the Grandfather Clause is honored where they are today, it is currently not honored at JCI. If they are transferred to JCI, they will be stripped of their guitar pedal and other accessories, and any other instruments JCI feels they do not need or want them to have. For now the Grandfather Clause is honored everywhere other than JCI, but what about tomorrow? Or next month? Will other prisons follow JCI's lead? Prisoners with this specific hobby and specific equipment need to be protected until their ultimate release from prison--just as the policy makers intended in 2007.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. If you are able to help in any way, please let me know. If there is a way to spread the word of this very important issue, please do what whatever you have to. Also, please, share this letter with others who have interest.
There is no reason any person- / -prisoner or not--should feel so desolate to harm himself. But, take away his only form of expression and his only outlet, and see what a man is capable of.
Sincerely, Chad J Conrad 183250
JCI PO Box 233
Black River Falls, WI 54615