Wisconsin's John Doe law allows inmates to take criminal complaints directly to a judge. It's designed to help protect prisoners, but State Senator Carol Roessler (R-Oshkosh) says it's being abused by inmates who file frivolous claims against corrections officers.
Judges hearing the complaints have only listened to the testimony of the inmate, before deciding whether to file criminal charges against a corrections officer. Gabe Umentum, a guard at the Waupun Correction Institution, is currently facing felony charges after an inmate claims he beat him in the prison's segregation unit. Umentum is defending himself against the allegations by paying for an attorney out of pocket.
Prisoner rights advocate Peggy Swan says John Doe laws are needed, so inmates have a safe way to report abuses.
A legislative proposal from Roessler would send complaints to the local District Attorney, instead of a judge. Swan says that avenue already exists for inmates, but the vast majority of those cases are dismissed without merit.
The bill is currently being considered at the Capitol.