Faith based group joins effort to close GBCI

ALLOUEZ, Wis. (WBAY) -- On Thursday, the greater Green Bay community had an opportunity to hear from one organization joining in the efforts to close Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI).

Community members gather to have conversation about GBCI and it's role in criminal justice reform.

JOSHUA, a faith based group focused on criminal justice reform, hosted a community conversation with state and local legislative leaders.

Action 2 news has reported for years about the push from the Village of Allouez and local lawmakers to close the 121-year-old facility, use the land for mixed-use development, or repair the building.

This year's state budget did not include funding to replace the aging facility.

A crowd at Saint Matthew Parish heard stories from those who experienced incarceration, and their struggle with the criminal justice system.

There was also testimony from other groups including WISDOM Prison Prevention Task Force and EXPO (Ex-incarcerated People Organizing.)

The need for criminal justice reform in Wisconsin and what that could look like was at the center of the discussion.

“We need to look at good practices that are being initiated in other states like Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina; they're all closing prisons and they're not seeing an increase in crime,” said Reverend Marian Boyle Rohloff, an active member of JOSHUA.

Thursday’s meeting was the kickoff to a campaign to close GBCI and a call to action for attendees.

“On Monday, November 25 we’re inviting those who are here to participate in a call-in day. So, based on what they’ve heard, to call their local legislators and the governor’s office,” said Rohloff.

“It's neat to have a third party organization looking at it from a holistic perspective and giving their perspective,” said Jim Rafter, Allouez Village President.

He says while there has been a number of discussions on the village level, and most recently with Governor Tony Evers and Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Kevin Carr.

Rafter says he learned 55 percent of inmates at GBCI need mental health support after the Governor’s visit.

“This is something that people of all interests, all areas of interest around GBCI can come and learn, share their opinions and share their opinions with their state legislators,” said Rafter.

Those in the community who did attend the meeting say Thursday’s discussion helped them better form an opinion on what options there are for GBCI and its inmates.

“I wasn't really sure what I would think when I came, but I would support closing the prison and taking that money and plugging it into preventative programs,” said Julie Harder of Green Bay.