Frank Davis and MOSES Seek Changes to Revocation Policies
“I hadn’t heard of MOSES or WISDOM when I was locked up,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘Why would I get involved with organizations I haven’t heard of in prison. If I
hadn’t heard of them in there, they weren’t trying to do anything.’ I was sort of jaded. I was real pessimistic about certain things. But he kept pushing me, pushing me
and pushing me. I finally went there. The first thing I noticed was how welcoming people were. I liked that. I wound up going and three of the people I ended up
meeting and talking to literally I am friends with them today. They’ve been mentors and confidants. One of them is a godmother to me. Her husband who was a
mentor and a godfather to me just passed about a month ago. That was rough. The reason it was rough was because it was the first time anyone close to me had
ever died in my life. My grandmother passed. My grandfather passed, but I was locked up. So when you have a distance, there is a certain unreality to it. It was
surreal almost. But he was up close and personal. I wound up getting connected to MOSES and I liked what they were doing. I started coming. I ended up being their
first hire as their administrative assistant.”
It was through attending a press conference for MOSES that Davis met his future wife. But he left after six months to get a technical degree and worked for a tool
and die manufacturer. But Davis’ heart wasn’t in it. When an organizer position opened up at MOSES, Davis jumped at the chance and was hired.
MOSES works on several social justice issues including those of formerly incarcerated individuals. Revocation is at the top of the list.
“They don’t have to lock people up,” Davis said about revocations. “That’s one of the things that we’ve really been pushing. If you have an individual out here and
he’s working — or even she — taking care of their kids, has a place, out here acclimating to society and they break a rule, how beneficial is it for their recovery,
how beneficial is it for their mental stability, for their relationships to send them back to prison. We have been pushing that there needs to be other options as
opposed to sending them back to prison. Don’t send people back to prison if they have an alcohol or drug problem. Send them to treatment. We’ve really been
pushing, saying that there needs to be other options other than revocations. In other states, they don’t lock a person up when they are investigating a rule violation.
They allow them to stay out. We’re really pushing to say, ‘This needs to change.’ In 2016, $150 million was spent on revocations, which includes the cost of
incarceration. The average per year is about 3,000 people who were getting locked up for crimeless revocation. On average, they get locked up for 18 months.
These are all averages. So if you have this many people whom you have constantly going back into the system, getting locked up, sitting in the county jail to where
they are suddenly transporting them to other locations where they are at 123 percent of capacity in the prison system, why are we sending people back to prison off
of a rule violation, especially if it isn’t conducive to anything that is healthy.”
It’s a system where you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. If someone’s probation or parole is going to be revoked, they are entitled to a hearing where the
cause of the revocation has to be proven. But in the meantime, the individual is locked up.
“Even during the investigation, you lose your job,” Davis emphasized. “Last month, I had to help pack up this guy’s stuff because he was sitting in the county jail
and he lost his apartment. Back in 2008, I lost my apartment. I would have lost all of my property if it weren’t for my family coming from eight hours away to come
here for a day to pack up my stuff, put it in storage and then drive back home. If I didn’t have family who did that, I would have lost everything. People lose
everything. If you beat your revocation, which is rare, then what? If you lose all of your property, then you literally have to start over fresh. It seems like the Division
of Community Corrections don’t care about individuals losing their property and starting over. That whole process is insensitive. It’s mean. It’s inhuman to sit up
there and say, ‘I don’t care if you lose all of your clothes, furniture and everything else.’ It’s a condition of the system. It’s crazy.”
Davis and MOSES are pushing for a complete overhaul of the revocation system.
“For us, with revocation, we’re pushing for a total change in how we not lock people up or how we lock people up when there is an investigation going on,” Davis
said. “We’re looking for that type of overhaul. We’re looking for an overhaul in the amount of time that they are actually locking people up. We are also asking that
people don’t go back to prison for rule violations. There is no reason for people needing to go back for rule violations. They aren’t violations of the criminal code in
any way. If it is a violation of the criminal code, then that is something totally different because that’s when it means a new crime has been committed. But we are
asking for non-revocation when there is a rule violation.”
Instead of locking people up for 18 months, on average, Davis and MOSES feel that there are other ways to punish people — to send a message — without
destroying the semblance of a life and support system they may have developed with their children and families. They want the system to support their rehabilitation
and new life and not reset things at zero.
“You can do ATRs, which is Alternative to Revocation,” Davis said. “That can be anything from reducing your privileges to increasing your curfew hours. If you aren’
t on a bracelet, you can do that. There are all kinds of different sanctions that could be used as opposed to revocation. Let’s say you want to go somewhere. You’re
looking for permission to go to a party on the weekend. So then you aren’t allowed to go there. They also have some forms of cognitive treatment such as CGIP.
There is community service. That is a tool that they can use. And there are plenty of ways that you can do community service around here. Oakhill inmates come to
Madison to do yard work. They could be plugged into that type of program. They could do clean up at certain locations. You could have someone doing community
service as opposed to sitting in the county jail, as opposed to going back to prison. They are paying taxes because they are still working if they have a job. They still
have their apartment. And if they have children, you’re not disrupting that dynamic as well.”
MOSES is also looking for a change to the length of probation that people serve.
“In a study on supervision, they found anything longer than two years is not even beneficial,” Davis revealed. “Normally, the benefit is within the first two years. In
Wisconsin, they give people double-digit years of supervision. The report states that anything longer than that is literally a way to trip people up down the road,
especially when you have people who have 40-60 rules that they have to follow. These are rules that have Senators and Congressmen sitting up there saying,
‘Wow, I couldn’t follow all of these without getting locked up.’”
Davis and MOSES just want the system to support formerly incarcerated individuals in becoming self-sufficient, tax-paying members of society instead of becoming
dependent, tax-absorbing individuals in Wisconsin’s overcrowded prisons. Sounds like something that needs to be looked at.
Frank Davis spent 23 of his first 43 years locked up in
prison and was revoked several times during his
probationary period. He is now an organizer for MOSES.
By Jonathan Gramling
Frank Davis, an organizer with MOSES, Madison Organizing Strength, Equality and Solidarity, regrets
and wishes he could take back the pain he caused when he broke into a home at the goading of some
older African American men in Milwaukee and ended up sexually assaulting the occupant back when he
was in high school.
Davis ended up spending 23 of his first 43 years in this life locked up behind bars. The first 19 of those
years being locked up were for the crimes that he committed. The last four years of lock-up were for
rules violations — not criminal violations — for which his parole was revoked. One time, it was
because he owned a phone and computer without the permission of his P&P agent.
Davis wishes he could take away the pain. But as a formerly incarcerated individual, Davis is in a
unique position to help change revocation policies that end up setting many people back on their path to
rehabilitation while costing the state of Wisconsin approximately $150 million per year as well.
When Davis was released for the last time in 2013 on parole, he was hooked into MOSES through his
friend James Morgan.