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Inhumane Dane Episode 1: Where is the justice?

The lasting impacts of Jimmie Joshua’s ordeal inside the Dane County Jail.
The text "Inhumane Dane: The future of justice in Dane County" is set against a background of gently swirling brushstrokes of pink, red, and orange. Logos for Tone Madison and the Madison DSA chapter are shown in the lower corners of the image.
Art by Ally Bates.

The lasting impacts of Jimmie Joshua’s ordeal inside the Dane County Jail.

In December of 2020, deputies in the Dane County jail broke Jimmie Joshua’s hip and left him in an isolation cell without medical care for 15 hours. The assault sparked protests and support from the community. In 2022, Joshua filed a lawsuit naming Dane County, County jail health care provider Wellpath, three deputies, Sergeant Travis McPherson, and a Wellpath nurse for excessive force and deliberate indifference. A trial has been scheduled for June 2023. 

In the first episode of Inhumane Dane, Joshua and his sister Tiona Barker speak about their experience of his incarceration and assault, and its lasting impacts. Joshua also talks about Dane County’s ongoing push to build a new jail, and incarceration as a barrier to care and rehabilitation. The Dane County Board of Supervisors recently approved an additional $10 million in borrowing to build a new jail, bringing the total anticipated cost to $179 million. We’ll look more closely at those plans in the next episodes.

To contribute to a GoFundMe for Jimmie Joshua’s legal and medical bills and to stay up to date on the Dane County jail, visit linktr.ee/dsamadison.

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Listen to the first episode of Inhumane Dane, or read the full transcript below.

Inhumane Dane Episode 1: Where is the justice?

This is a complete transcription of the podcast episode. The episode includes Jimmie Joshua and Tiona Barker, with narration by Bonnie Willison and Dan Fitch. You’ll also hear from Dane County Supervisors Heidi Wegleitner and Dana Pellebon in the introduction to the podcast below.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Jimmie Joshua (left) and Tiona Barker. Images provided by Allie Davidson, Tiona Barker.


Jimmie Joshua: Building a new jail is not gonna prevent crimes. 

Dana Pellebon: We are running a debtor’s prison in a city that proclaims all of these progressive values.

Heidi Wegleitner: This is a deficit in imagination.

Dana Pellebon: Who is it that we are okay leaving behind?

Bonnie Willison: This is Inhumane Dane, a mini-series about the future of justice in Dane County.

Caught in an inhumane situation

BW: The most expensive infrastructure project in Dane County’s history will not be housing. It won’t be transportation or healthcare. It won’t be green space. It will be a jail.

The Dane County Jail consolidation project is a proposal to build a six-story jail tower in downtown Madison, blocks away from Wisconsin’s capitol building.

The slow march toward building this new jail started more than 10 years ago, in 2012. Since then, costs have risen. At the time of this recording, the Dane County Board of Supervisors has budgeted $179 million for the new jail.

I’m Bonnie, and I’m part of a team of hosts that you’ll hear from in this series. On this podcast, you’ll hear how we got here. You’ll hear the story of the grassroots backlash against the new jail. You’ll hear from people who have experienced the jail and we’ll imagine together what care—not cages—could look like here in Dane County, Wisconsin. For this first preview episode, we wanted to share the story of Jimmie Joshua.

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Before we continue, we want to let you know that this episode contains frank descriptions of the violence of incarceration, including descriptions of Jimmie Joshua’s assault. 

Dan Fitch: What gives you hope?

JJ: Being able to see myself walk again. Seeing those people outside saying “free Jimmie,” protesting on behalf of me. That gives me hope. That gives me trust that people I don’t even know that’s reaching out, that’s saying “Hey, we gonna support this guy. No matter what. Because what’s wrong is wrong and what is right is right.” 

BW: You may or may not be familiar with Jimmie Joshua’s name. In December of 2020, deputies in the Dane County jail broke Jimmie’s hip and didn’t get him the medical attention he needed. The assault sparked protests and support from people in the community.

DF: What do you think needs to change?

JJ: Profiling, being judgmental. You know what, what needs to change is those who are in power. New policy, new procedures, new measures, because the measure of a man is what he does with his power. That’s what needs to change, man. You don’t need to beat somebody’s head in to tell them to stop resisting when they’re not resisting. If I’m not a threat to you, why do you need to beat somebody head in or shoot somebody?

You know, you release somebody on a $500 bond for shooting an unarmed man, but you, you turn around and send an unarmed man to prison for 15, 20 years. Like what, what, what, where is the justice? So it’s not only about me and I don’t, I don’t just want this podcast only to be about me, but I want it to be, I want it to be about those who are powerless, who feel that they don’t have a voice in a community where they reside or stay at. I want this interview to, you know, go across the spectrum of Madison and, and across the United States, man. Cause I’m just one individual that got caught up in the mix of a situation that was inhumane, you know?

An assault by Dane County jail deputies leaves Jimmie Joshua with permanent injuries

JJ: My name is Jimmie Joshua. I’m here in Jackson Correctional Institution. I’m 31 years old. I have no kids. This is my third incarceration. I’ve been in and out of jail my whole life. From childhood to now. I dealt with a lot of trauma in my upbringing. I have five sisters. I’m the only boy out of those sisters. My parents were drug addicts. I was raised by my father as well and my grandmother. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I moved to Madison in 2017 to get out of the poverty situation that I was in. 

I’m a great guy. You know, I’m not a bad person. I made mistakes. But I’m fair and I understand the situation of [being] in jail and being incarcerated and dealing with lack of support.

DF: So for folks who don’t know, I don’t know if you can talk a little bit about the injury that happened to you while you were in the Dane County Jail?

JJ: So basically I got my hip broke by the sheriff deputies in Dane County Jail. I was a pretrial detainee and I had a PO hold at the same time. Not only that they broke my hip and dislocated it, but they fractured my pelvis. I’m gonna have this injury for the rest of my life. 

DF: I’m Dan. I’ve talked with Jimmie many times now over the past few years and gotten to know him. I’ve also talked with his sister Tiona and his lawyer, Paul Kinne.

Tiona Barker: Well, my brother was in Dane County Jail. He was supposed to be doing a, a Zoom with his past fiance at that time.

Paul Kinne: Jimmie was allowed out of his cell for a telephone call. One of the guards at the Dane County Jail told him to go back into his cell, and was disrespectful in the way he told Jimmie to do that because Jimmie had seen that, that other inmates had gotten more time than he did outside the cell. And because he didn’t like the way the guard had addressed him, he argued with him about why he had to go back in his cell so quickly. And about the tone that, that he used. 

JJ: I was asked to go to my cell, I went. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was asked to lock down. I did. And upon me doing that, I put my hands in the air because I believed that my life was in danger. 

TB: Clearly in the video you see his hands up. He’s not being, uh, he’s not attacking anybody. He’s not known as a threat or anything. He just wants a better understanding.

So I, it was about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 deputies that came out. One was dressed in the black and white, which that’s the one that was clearly showing him like “Hey, go to your room, blah blah.” So you see them on the video calling him in his room, which he was clearly stepping back with his hands up like, “Hey, I’m going to my room. You don’t have to use force. I’m not shown as a threat. Hey, give me a minute to, you know, back in my room.”

PK: The officer then attempted to grab Jimmie as Jimmie was trying to go back into his cell. In other words, Jimmie was obeying the order and instead of letting Jimmie obey the order, he grabbed Jimmie and pulled him back out of his cell.

There was a, a physical altercation. And ultimately other guards arrived and they tackled Jimmie to the ground and broke his hip.

TB: Clearly they pushed him in the cell just to pull him out the cell. Just to hold one leg and fall on his hip like that is, it’s, it’s, [Child: excuse me, mommy] just thinking about it. 

[To child] Yeah. I’m okay baby. I’m okay. 

[To Dan] Just thinking about it puts me back at that same time when I seen it all over social media and it, it, it does something to me because like, that’s my baby boy brother. I’ve never seen him have to go through anything like that, not even with his parents. 

Yeah, but it’s, it’s sickening. It really is sickening to me. Like I cried and cried and cried. I still cry to this day about the situation, but I know that there’s not too much I can do, but spread the word on how it hurts me, how it hurts my boys, how I have to prepare my boys to make sure this does not happen to them. 

JJ: After my hip and pelvis was broke, I was left there 16 hours without medical attention or food on suicide watch. And I was told that I had to stay in that isolation cell due to the fact that it was a medical cell. 

TB: And then on transporting him, you guys leave him there for 15 fucking hours. 15 hours. He can’t get up to feed himself. He can’t get up to pee or to poop, so he gotta urinate on himself. You see what I’m saying? Them knowing that, and they left him, just left him unattended. “Oh, okay. Well, he’ll be alright, he can, he can, he can crawl over there to get his food.” 

Clearly somewhere down the line, they, they, they don’t care. They don’t care. They don’t care about how no one feels. They don’t care if somebody sees it. All they care about is the money portion of it. Aw, well, we’ll just pay them off to keep their mouth shut. No, it doesn’t work like that.

JJ: What happened to me was negligent, deliberate indifference and careless activity towards me. I did not receive any type of physical therapy for about 90 days. I was isolated for two months inside of a small cell where there’s a door, and then after that, after the door is, is bars.

Those officers should be held accountable for their actions, just as well as I’ve been held accountable for getting injured by them.

It’s not something that, it’s not a, it’s not a mosquito bite where [a] mosquito just bites you and then the next day it goes away. This is something that’s permanent.

PK: Jimmie suffered a, a, a broken hip that took a long time to heal, and in fact his healthcare providers will testify, if it comes to it, that the injuries he suffered as a result of that use of force by these guards in the Dane County Jail has caused him permanent injuries.

JJ: I have a hard time putting on my socks. I have a hard time putting on my underwear. I have a hard time, you know, walking around. I have a hard time standing at times. I can’t stand for periods of time. I can’t lift more than 50 pounds.

Being injured for 16 hours without medical attention caused me so much trauma and pain that when I try to lay down and go to sleep, I have to sleep in a position that’s very uncomfortable for me, and I just want the folks to know that’s listening—this is no game or no gimmick. This is my life and I, I have to, I have to be rehabilitated from this, from being incarcerated— 

[automated phone message] Calls other than properly placed attorney calls may be monitored and recorded.

from being incarcerated, to me getting out, and to just being introduced back in society again. 

These jails and these prisons, they don’t care. They only care about their pockets. They don’t care about corrections of inmates that get out and back out in the community and they don’t care about none of that. Because if they did, they won’t treat people like me the way they did.

That’s why, you know, it’s good that that you doing this, this podcast because it, it, it, it shows not only, hey, this dude is complaining, but hey, this dude is, is going through something serious. So I can just imagine how many other people in this situation is, is going through it as well.

What’s next? 

TB: Hold on one second. These kids are playing with my, with they tools from Christmas. Hold on one second. 

[In the background, to children] No, y’all is not gonna, these are real tools. Y’all can’t be in here messing with stuff,  [inaudible]. Yeah, I understand that. But now it’s going up in the top of the closet. I know you know how to work with tools and build stuff, but your brother’s only two. And then after we, I get done with this call, y’all back to y’all work, honey. 

[To Dan] I homeschool them so. Oh honey. Sorry about that. 

Well, I’m 34. My name is Patricia Barker, but everybody calls me Tiona by my middle name, TT, which Jimmie Joshua calls me TT. I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana—not from Indianapolis—I’m from Chicago, Illinois, but I’ve been here for about 15 years, so I guess I am from here. Um, I have, uh, had three boys, one passed away September the 27. And I’m left with a two-year-old and my four-year-old.

[To child] Go sit down baby. 

[To Dan] My boys haven’t been around their uncle. My 19-year-old, which everybody knows that he passed of Fentanyl with a close friend and it, it’s been, it’s impacted me a lot because he hasn’t met my two little ones and it, it kind of puts me in a dark spot cause I’m like, damn, like, I’m, I’m hoping he keeps his mind right to the point he can get out, he can meet them for the first time. He’s, he’s seen ’em on Zoom a couple times cuz they were approved for the Zoom meetings in Dane County and over here. But it’s certain stuff. It puts me in a bad spot.

So I want him to be able to, you know, talk amongst them to let them know what they can do to prevent that type of stuff from happening. And it, it’s crazy because it scares me as a mom, as a sister it scared me hearing that it happened to him. What’s next? You see what I’m saying? My kids can be driving down the street and get pulled over on some BS and there we are. You see what I’m saying? 

I have to find ways to protect them. Yeah. If you put your hands up, that’s still not good enough for them. You say you don’t wanna let your window down. They bust your windows and try to drag you out. You see what I’m saying? So I don’t even know as a mother what I can do. It scares the shit outta me.

So I homeschool my kids cause I don’t want them to be on somebody’s bus and that happens to them. You see what I’m saying? Anything nowadays, anything, anything can happen nowadays. I don’t feel like my kids’ll be protected, even though I’m teaching them and showing them. And even if my brother was in their life, it still wouldn’t prevent that type of stuff from happening, unfortunately.

[In background, child] Candy. [To child] Okay. Well you’re gonna have to wait till I get off the phone, okay. And no candy this early in the morning. You just break your fast. Okay?

Recovering while incarcerated

DF: What haven’t we talked about that you wish I had asked you about? 

TB: How he’s doing, how he’s, how he’s doing since he left the, the jail. Well, he’s at a medical resource center. It’s still a, it’s still a jail. It’s through, uh, Wisconsin DOC. So he’s, he’s been doing fairly good. 

JJ: I’m hanging in there. You know, I’m dealing with a lot of ongoing issues, but, you know, there’s nothing I can’t bear, you know. 

I’ve been getting treated very unfair since I’ve been incarcerated. You know, I’ve been getting, like I said, I’ve been getting denied medical care. I’ve been getting denied, you know, treatment to the outside hospitals. Since I’ve been incarcerated, I gained diabetes. The food is very unhealthy. Due, due to the fact I have diabetes, I don’t have select trays. I only have to eat the food that’s in front of me. 

DF: Jimmie has even had difficulties getting things like Tylenol. 

JJ: Since I’ve been incarcerated at Columbia Correctional Institution I’ve been getting charged medical fees, ongoing medical fees, $7.50 for miscellaneous things, like me getting overcharged for Tylenol, $7.50 for Tylenol. So that’s been ongoing for two years. So you can just imagine how much money that is stacked up upon me for me not getting the proper medical treatment I should be getting.

TB: I know he explained to me at the other jail, they weren’t giving him the medicines he needed. He could have entered a diabetic coma, the whole nine yards, blurry vision, over pissing on himself, the whole nine yards. So I went and called up there and spoke to a nurse and she had stated that they’re, they’re trying to work with him and stuff like that. And I guess you have to get weaned off a lot of meds.

[To child] Gimme that [indecipherable] let me see that. How’d you end up getting that? I’m confused. Oh, thank you. Those are needle nose pliers. Don’t wanna hurt yourself with them. Oh. Um,

[To Dan] They’re putting him on insulin in the next couple of weeks, so I’m, I’m, I’m lucky to have them. He did, he did fall down the stairs. Uh, he was supposed to be doing PT at this new one. He fell down the stairs, a couple stairs. But they have him on a unit different than they were supposed to have him on because of what happened at Dane County. So he can’t be on the unit and you know, recreation be out longer than, uh, he’s supposed to be out at the other unit because he has to be able to navigate stairs. And unfortunately he can’t do that because of what Dane County caused on him. So it’s been taking a little bit longer than typical. 

I have been reaching out to the warden. The warden sounds like a nice woman, but it’s still a lot of stuff that needs to be taken care of far as his health goes, and I know that takes time. It doesn’t happen right away cuz they have to put special forms in and get them approved and so on and so forth. But it still bothers me because it’s like he should have been [Child: Mommy] up and walking at least, you know, by himself, you know, so he can go to the other unit and still have that little bit of more freedom than he has. [To child] Hold on baby. 

DF:The falling—I was actually on the line, I was on the phone with his roommate, Randall, when he fell down the stairs towards the, the phone room. Uh, and Randall had to hang up and be like, I’ll, I’ll let you know what happened later. But it was really scary to know that he had fallen again and not know how he was.

TB: Yes. And he went through it. He went through it. And that was what, around the time that they had that police brutality that they had out there in Memphis, Tennessee. Um, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the, uh, another police brutality that happened in Memphis, Tennessee, probably here like about three, three weeks ago.

DF: On January 7, Tyre Nichols was beaten to death by police officers following a traffic stop. Medical responders did not provide care to Nichols for 19 minutes after arriving on the scene. 

TB: And he called me crying like, “man, so what do you think about it? And, and it’s, everything is still going on the same way it happened to me.” And I told him, I said “it’s sad. That’s, it’s sad that we have to watch our loved ones go through that. But you need not to worry about that right now. You need to worry about your health getting yourself back so when you get out and I come pick you up, you can walk up to your nephews and give them the biggest hugs that you have not gave them in years.”

You know, he hasn’t met my, my younger two kids. No one would tell me where he was at. I didn’t even know that my baby boy brother was locked up until his fiance and a sweet lady, uh, Anika let me know what was going on with him.

You see what I’m saying? If it would’ve been to the point where my brother had ended up getting killed or anything like that, I wouldn’t know which way to go. You see what I’m saying? Because I dealt with that with my own son. You see what I’m saying? My son was 19-years-old and, and, and killed by a close friend with fentanyl in his own hotel room.

It frustrates me. It makes me upset. It makes me sad. You know? It, it makes me wanna go out here and do this right here. Let the world know like, what’s going on, and we need to stop this shit. It’s nonsense. 

[Background noise, to child] Stop [indecipherable]. 

But all in all, he’s, he’s doing good. He’s recovering all right. He’s not satisfied with how slow it’s taking for him to recover. But everything gets better with time. That’s the only thing I can tell him. Look, everything gets better with time. You got a couple more, you got whatuntil August the eighth, he’ll be getting out. Amen Honey. August the eighth is coming around, right around the corner.

So I said just take your time. Read, read about the laws, get a law book if they’ll allow you to have a law book and read things you can do to make a change in there. And knowledge is key. You know, knowledge is key. Some people that don’t know, they don’t, if they don’t know, they don’t do good. 

What are we building? 

TB: I want justice to be served. It’s, it’s, it’s painful. And every morning I gotta wake up I’m like, dang, my baby brother, he in there. But they’re taking care of him a little bit better in this one.

All these jails and all these funds that they have, they can build other buildings. They’re too busy focused on building other jails to put people in. You see what I’m saying? They’re not worried about having places that’ll help them recover. They wanna just throw ’em in jail. No. Give them options to be able to recover their body, their mind, their mental, because you never know what somebody’s background is. 

JJ: The new jail is a platform for the overplay of saying that, Hey, we need a new jail because this jail is inhumane. If you know the jail isn’t—is inhumane, when I was there, the floors was cracking, the water had lead in it, the bars was old, the jail was built in the fifties and sixties. 

If they gonna build a new jail, why not, where’s the rehabilitation? I didn’t, haven’t heard nothing about rehabilitation. All I heard was about oh, we gonna build a new jail and this new jail is going to help. What? I don’t believe in building a new jail.

If they really cared about the jail being rebuilt, they will try to release inmates to pre-release programming such as AODA, anger management, rent assistance programs, housing authority programs, stuff like that. They will open doors for that instead of locking people up left and right to the point where if people like me, they get injured, don’t have no bed space. “Oh, well, we can’t put you in the medical cell, Mr. Joshua, because we feel that there’s no room and there’s people that got more chronic issues than you. So we, it’s only two cells.”

Building a new jail is not gonna prevent crimes. Building the new jail is not gonna prevent officers turning a blind eye due to the fact of the leadership. It’s all about the leadership and the management. If the management and the leadership is not there, then who’s, who’s to follow.

TB: Justice has to be served. Somewhere down the line. Like it shouldn’t be, uh, “well I’m gonna pay off officers” and stuff like that and they go and do the same BS again. They should be held accountable for their actions, cause and effect.

JJ: Madison is a, is a diverse community for a reason. It’s not a diverse community for police brutality. It’s a diverse community for people that wants to come there and go to school and open up businesses for others to shop in, for it to be a safe community. 

Who’s to blame?

TB: My brother had been injured because of, you know, a simple phone call, which everybody else was allowed for it. But me personally, I think it was because of the color of his skin. He could not do that. You see what I’m saying? So it it, it, it goes hand in hand. When it comes to discipline, there’s other ways that you can discipline. You see what I’m saying? 

Like, being out here in this world, watching the TV, watching people get harmed by police brutality because of the color of their skin. Hell, we all bleed the same. Right? And the first thing that they wanna do is shoot to kill instead of, you know what I’m saying? Shoot below the waist or something like the pellets that they have, they’re, they’re not using that.

They’re not going to that, they’re going to that as a last resort. And it, it kind of pisses me off. Excuse me, but it kind of pisses me off because my brother had to be victimized through the, the, the system.

DF: What are you hoping comes out of, like this interview, the, getting this out to the wider audience? What are you hoping for?

JJ: I would like to have the people that injured me be held accountable for their actions. And further, you know, I just want people to know who I am and where I come from.

DF: Given the, the experiences you’ve had and the responses you’ve seen, how do you feel right now?

JJ: I feel supported, I feel supported by the community. I feel relieved that I have a voice. You know, as a, as an African American, as a young Black man, we don’t have voices. We don’t. Especially coming from my background, we don’t. We always being judged or misrepresented. You know, under the new Jim Crow and, and, and, and, and, and I’m not pointing fingers and I’m not blaming anybody for my actions. But me being injured and, and going through trials and tribulations of, of ups and downs of dealing with the system and, and trying to get fair medical care and being incarcerated, it caused me so much trauma and so much pain and so much rage. That I feel that I have to let go and give more than I have been given.

I have, I have to fight. I can’t give up. I have to say, you know what? I can’t blame nobody but myself. But if I do that, then what about the system that I’m in? So, who’s to blame?

Up next: How we got here

BW: Dane County deputies broke Jimmie Joshua’s hip and left him without medical care for more than 15 hours. That was over three years ago. And none of the deputies or medical personnel have been held accountable.

In January of 2022, Jimmie Joshua filed a lawsuit against the deputies who assaulted him as well as the County and Wellpath Mental and Medical Healthcare. To support Jimmie, who’s paying for medical and legal bills, find the link to his GoFundMe in the description below.

At the time of this recording, the Dane County Board recently increased the budget for a new jail by $10 million, making the current price tag $179 million for construction costs alone. There’s nothing to say those costs won’t continue to rise. Get involved and stay up to date at derailthejail.com. Your voice can make a difference.

On the next episode:

Dana Pellebon: There’s a lot of things to talk about, especially kind of where we are at now.

BW: We’ll talk about how we got to where we are now. One of the people you’ll hear from is County Board Member Dana Pellebon.

DP: Why are we spending all of this money on this building? When we know that there are gaps and holes in our system. And we know that there’s not enough housing. We know that there’s not enough social services. We know that there is not enough mental health supports. Why are we investing the money to keep people in the state where they are perpetually in poverty and perpetually being placed in positions that are harmful and then cause harm to the community?

BW: Inhumane Dane is supported by Tone Madison, and Madison Area Democratic Socialists of America. Thanks to our guests on this episode, Jimmie Joshua, Tiona Barker, and Paul Kinne. This episode was produced by Oona Mackesey-Green, Dan Fitch, Bonnie Willison and Ally Bates. Please share this podcast with a Dane County friend.

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