The Marshall Project - Rarely Seen Images of the Real San Quentin

By: Pete Brook

The pictures, for the most part, are prosaic, like outtakes from a yearbook photo shoot. One shows five members of an amateur rock band. Another depicts uniformed football players gathered for a team photo. In yet another, a man is shown carving an ice sculpture. Occasionally, though, the subject matter is much darker.

One photo comes with caption information: “Martinez Killed in Yard, 1963.” It shows empty bleachers and what appears to be blood spatter in the foreground. The yard is in San Quentin Prison. And once you know that, there is nothing prosaic about any of the photos.

There are at least 10,000 negatives, most of them unprocessed, that date from the late 1940’s to the late 1980’s, stuffed into cardboard boxes and unexamined for decades. The negatives came to the attention of San Quentin’s public information officer, Lt. Sam Robinson, about four years ago. He showed them to Nigel Poor, a professor at California State University, Sacramento, who had been teaching a history of photography course at the prison.



Contact: Marilyn Walczak
205 W. Highland Ave. #201 
Milwaukee, WI 53203 

Milwaukee, WI, April 17, 2015:  Justice Initiatives Institute (JII), a Milwaukee-based nonprofit agency, in collaboration with the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education, completed a review of unpaid municipal fines that resulted in jail time for residents of the City of Milwaukee. The data review covered 5 years, 2008-2013 and only examined cases that had failures to appear in court and failures to pay fines. 

Some of the key findings in the JII report indicate that from 2008-2013:

  • The County jail costs to taxpayers were $10.2 million to detain individuals who failed to pay $5.7 million to the City of Milwaukee for municipal tickets.
  • Some individuals detained for failure to pay City of Milwaukee citations are homeless, have a mental illness, or have a substance abuse problem. They received tickets for spitting in public places, littering, removal of contents from a waste container, and trespassing in a building. 
  • The study sample contained 13,602 traffic cases that resulted in jail time in the City of Milwaukee. 89% of these cases were people charged with driving while under suspension but 82% of the underlying suspensions were for failure to pay forfeitures and not for unsafe driving. 
  • 3,388 marijuana cases had a total of $1.2 million in judgment amounts but only $179,958 was actually paid. In only 36 instances is Community Service as an alternative sanction utilized for these cases.
  • African American males made up 80% of men jailed for failure to appear and pay municipal citations in the City of Milwaukee, and were heavily concentrated between ages 20-39. African American women showed similar demographics making up 79% of women jailed, and were ages 20-39 years. 
  • The 6 ZIP codes with the highest amount of municipal arrests also had the highest percentage of individuals living below 100% of the official poverty line. 

Efforts by jurisdictions to use financial sanctions for defendants who may be homeless, unemployed, or simply too poor to pay have been documented recently by the New York Times, NPR and the ACLU.  

The full report can be viewed at the Justice Initiatives Institute web site:

CONGRATS WISCONSIN: Three States Join the Efforts of the National Institute of Corrections to Improve Public Safety Outcomes

The states of Indiana, Virginia, and Wisconsin have been selected by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to proceed with Phase V of Evidence Based Decision Making (EBDM) in State and Local Criminal Justice Systems.

In partnership with the Center for Effective Public Policy, NIC has developed training and technical assistance plans to provide focused support and the assistance needed to complete the activities of EBDM Phase V, the in-depth analysis and planning necessary for improved public safety outcomes. State teams composed of one state policy team and one criminal justice team from each of seven jurisdictions will be assigned a technical assistance (TA) provider who will be onsite at least once per month through March 2016. The TA provider—a content expert and coach—will facilitate stakeholders through the “EBDM Roadmap,” a step-by-step process for applying the EBDM framework across each state and the selected local jurisdictions.

Read More

PUBLICATION - Cited in Milwaukee: The Cost of Unpaid Municipal Citations

Justice Initiatives Institute's latest report Cited in Milwaukee: The Cost of Unpaid Municipal Citations has been published.  The report presents a quantitative look at nearly six years of data on individuals who were booked into the Milwaukee County jail on municipal warrant or commitments for City of Milwaukee municipal citations.  Published in February 2015, this report will be used by an active Project Advisory Board to establish JII's policy stances and efforts related to the outcomes identified in the report.

This report was made possible through significant data analysis by Dr. John Pawasarat of the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and financial support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.  Justice Initiatives Institute would like to thank the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department, the Milwaukee Municipal Court, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for their data contributions and research guidance.

A Letter from the Staff of Justice Initiatives Institute

Justice Initiatives Institute (JII), a private 501(c)3 non-profit was founded in November of 2012 to promote and support criminal justice reform based on evidence informed planning. JII provides a place for research and analysis of current criminal justice processes, policies and practices, staffed by professionals with a broad knowledge, experience and training in the field of criminal justice and evidenced based decision making. We are organized for the purpose of providing knowledge and technical assistance for interested, reform orientated criminal justice stakeholders in communities throughout the State of Wisconsin and beyond.

JII is the policy partner of JusticePoint, Inc. (JPI), the major provider of a full array of high quality, evidence based pretrial services for Milwaukee County’s Circuit Courts. While JPI concentrates on the development and delivery of direct services through its pretrial service programming, JII seeks policy reforms, based on practices and research that are cost effective and promote public safety. Both organizations bring to the partnership a focused mission based on a keen understanding of the intersection of criminal justice issues with the particular needs of the most impoverished, marginalized populations in Wisconsin. JII’s vision is that local jurisdictions throughout Wisconsin will be able to establish the data capability, knowledge base and decision making framework to implement practices that show the greatest promise for addressing each jurisdiction’s unique needs. This vision includes promoting and expanding the use of pretrial service and diversion programs; utilization of risk and needs assessment at the earliest possible point in the criminal justice process; improved access to community-based resources like treatment for addictions and mental health programs that will mitigate arrest behaviors.

The motivation for establishing JII was fueled by recent disturbing trends in Wisconsin and throughout the nation for stakeholders to increase their reliance on the criminal justice system to address a whole range of social and economic problems. As the ill-conceived “War on Drugs” and “War on Crime” generated an expansion of severely hardened criminal codes across America, prison and jail populations exploded. The private prison industrial complex emerged, commercial bail bonding flourished supplying billions of dollars into affiliated insurance companies and with it, an overwhelming sense of injustice and disparity descended over our central cities. Yet, poll after poll reveals a clear majority of American citizens favor restorative alternatives to incarcerations including supervision and treatment for lower risk individuals,  especially for those with a mental illness and/or addictions. 

In 2008, there were approximately 23,000 people in state prisons in Wisconsin. About one-third of the prison population struggles with mental illness, and estimates are that as many as 80% have serious substance abuse issues. The vast majority of these are people with low incomes or no incomes at all. 47% are African-American – in a state where the overall African-American population is less than 6%. The Council of State Government Justice Center recently concluded that one of the main reasons for Wisconsin’s high rate of incarceration is due to high rates of probation failure resulting in higher rates of revocations and return to prison for a growing number of released inmates.

Between 1999 and 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Correction’s budget increased 71%, from $700 million to $1.2 billion and is projected to consume and additional $2.5 billion by 2019, for new construction and operating costs associated with reducing overcrowding and accommodating growth in the prison population.

The challenge for JII will be to organize stakeholders to focus their efforts on policy and practice shifts that will promote public safety while reducing costs and strengthening communities. A report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute has revealed a growing consensus that “Wisconsin needs to responsibly reduce its reliance on incarceration, reduce recidivism so as to improve public safety, curtail the amount of money taxpayers spend on corrections, and reinvest avoided prison costs in local jurisdictions to support local criminal justice initiatives as well as generate more resources needed for the overall health of the community.”

The staff of JII welcomes the opportunity and looks forward to offering their special skills, knowledge and resources to address these difficult challenges.

Most Sincerely, 
The Staff of Justice Initiatives Institute

VIDEO - Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) Symposium

On August 23, 2013, a symposium on Treatment Alternatives and Diversion - Effective Criminal Justice Reform Through Research Based Practice was held in Madison, WI. Justice initiatives Institute was a member of the planning team hosting this event.

Below are the documents presented at this event and a link to WisEye to view the videotape of the day’s presentations.