Fox 6 investigator brian polson tonight shows you how selling products to prisoners has become a 7 million a year business. In the badger state, and why the state is planning to give it all to a single company which is headquartered in california all right. Thank you, sir. If someone you love, is locked up in a hot wisconsin prison cell, you can send them an electric fan, but not just anything. There is no place to put any kind of contraband because you know you can see through it pretty much from top to bottom. It has to be pre approved by the wisconsin department of corrections. There is a list of items and rules of items that they can and cant have see through. Electronics are among the long list of items prisoners and their loved ones can buy from a short list of vendors. This business is vital to wisconsins prison population thats about to get even shorter. We need competition. We need an actual choice. Ramaya whiteside is a spokesman for ex incarcerated people, organizing or expo, which is sounding the alarm about the docs plan to move from multiple vendors of personal property to just one. People in this community right now are unaware that this is going to happen. Theres, a huge cost to removing choice. Jody weber is president of jl marcus, an urban milwaukee retailer in business more than 60 years that employs 75 people, mostly women and people of color, a business founded by her father jack marcus.

He just had a passion for this community for this neighborhood that he grew up in. She says it was her father who first realized there was demand for a store that could ship products to prisoners on behalf of loved ones. He thought hey. I can do this on a grander scale. Today. Weber says: correctional sales are roughly 30 percent of the stores total business, but theyre about to lose it all. Thanks to docs change in policy. Please dont do this to us 78 year old spriggy hensley is not a criminal, but his son has been in prison since 1987.. Youre concerned about how hes dressed is he cold? Is he hot? Does he have a fan? Hensley is one among thousands of family members who spend 7.2 million dollars every year on personal property for inmates and hes concerned about docs decision to funnel that business to california based union supply. They constantly are out of stock, its just one nightmare after another, trying to deal with them just before the pandemic. The department of corrections said it wanted to streamline the product approval process, so it put a single contract out for bids. Weve been doing this for 30 years. We know what were doing union supply, narrowly outscored, j.l marcus. Why in the world are you taking and sending the money out of state founded in california? In 1991, union supply opened a menominee falls warehouse in the summer of 2019 and doc says that warehouse qualifies the company as a wisconsin based business.

Just like jl, marcus, j.l, marcus is homegrown, theyve stepped up to the plate and theyve always had a presence in you know, in communities of color, with the contract set to take effect october. 1St state senator latonya johnson is stepping in these are vendors that that you know our wisconsin families, trust bolstered by an online petition, with more than 5 000 signatures, senator johnson plans to introduce legislation this month. That would require doc to continue using multiple vendors. This is a genuine problem that doc needs to back up and rethink. The department of corrections declined our request for an interview, but a spokesperson writes that a fair and open process led to the winning bid and that jl marcus only began to raise concerns about a single vendor system after losing its bid. But weber provided us with records that show jl marcus, did question the wisdom of using one contractor before their bid was even submitted. Competition is needed right. Competition naturally brings the prices lower webber insists her concern lies with prisoners and their families were out here. Theres, a bunch of us who worry the state will reap the benefits of a streamlined system. The solution to efficiency is not monopoly, while they pay a clear price. Brian polson fox 6 investigators union supplies executive. Vice president j.d haye declined our request for an on camera interview. He called it and were quoting now a little disheartening that j.l marcus is going to the media after losing a competitive bid.

Well, on tuesday, the fox 6 investigator submitted a list of 10 specific questions to union supply that haye promised to answer.