Letter to Editor—The DOC Probation and Parole office on Chase Avenue
June 1, 2016
I would like to let more people know the information I provided at the Bay View community crime meeting May 18 at the South Shore Park Pavilion. It is regarding the new state Department of Corrections (DOC) office on South Chase Avenue, which many people have heard or know about.
Since I kept hearing all sorts of negative reports myself about the new DOC probation and parole office, I decided just to go to the source and get the real story from DOC. I set up a meeting with DOC supervisors, along with Senator Tim Carpenter and staff from the Mayor’s office and the Common Council. The regional DOC chief, Niel Thoreson, responded quickly to set up the meeting, which happened last week. The DOC legislative liaison, Don Friske (a former state representative), also drove over from Madison for the meeting.
As you might expect, I went into the meeting feeling pretty unhappy with DOC’s lack of communication about the new office ahead of time and was not optimistic about the reception we would get. We were all surprised, as it turned out, by how cooperative the DOC staff was in talking over our complaints and requests with us. My first message to them was people around here like to know what is going on, so don’t keep us in the dark!
We also talked over people’s concerns about other tenants in the Rexnord office building. As it turns out, the DOC offices actually have been set up pretty well. The only entrance to the DOC office is right on South Chase Avenue; the office cannot be accessed by going around through the main building. Inside the office, there’s no exit into the main building, not even for washrooms or whatever. We were given a tour while there, and I can tell you the DOC office appears to be completely self-contained. It should be unlikely that probation and parole clients could wander into the rest of the building, but if somehow that does happen, other tenants should just go to the DOC office and complain directly to them.
We also asked exactly who the clientele who use the office will be. We were told that, yes, it’s a probation and parole office, but violent offenders, including sex offenders, will have their appointments elsewhere, at the 2nd District Police Station. So the most serious criminals will not be seen at the South Chase Avenue location.
We also relayed concerns about clients smoking while standing on South Chase by the entrance. Mr. Thoreson volunteered to create a smoking space for them around the corner in the parking lot, off the public sidewalk. That seemed like an adequate solution to that problem, as long as it is used.
We also reported that DOC clients had been going to neighboring businesses asking to use the restrooms, and, we were told that all clients would be directed to stop doing that and only to use the restrooms in the DOC office suite.
Finally, we commented on how many DOC signs there are on the building (five!). They agreed that number seemed like overkill and said they would take down the majority of them after the first few months they are in operation.
We left feeling more optimistic than when we went into the meeting. No one is going to be overjoyed about a probation and parole office in their area. However, as these places go, I think we are on a better track to have its presence make a minimal impact on residents in the neighborhood after working out some of these problems.
The Department of Corrections has pledged to be a good neighbor. Mr. Thoreson said I can call him anytime to relay your comments or complaints, if you get them to me, so please feel welcome to do so!
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