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Mar 17, 201409:24 AMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Dane County’s Rick Raemisch does solitary confinement in a Colorado prison

(page 1 of 2)

I’ve known Rick Raemisch for a good 30 years — not intimately, but as a friendly acquaintance and colleague. First met when he was prosecuting drug cases as an assistant U.S. attorney in Madison when I covered the federal courts for The Capital Times, then as sheriff of Dane County when I served on the County Board. Later, of course, he became Jim Doyle’s second secretary of corrections. Ironically, he was replaced by another former Dane County sheriff, Gary Hamblin, when Scott Walker was sworn in.

One word describes both gentlemen: integrity. Public-minded servants of the highest order. Good and decent human beings.

Rick Raemisch was the dean of Madison College’s law enforcement sector when I took its concealed carry class two years ago. Did not realize he had taken over the State of Colorado’s corrections — which he did last March — until Sunday’s New York Times carried an extensive feature on his stewardship there.

Compact and barrel-chested, at home in sports jackets and striped T-shirts, Mr. Raemisch looks more like the cop he once was. … Mr. Raemisch’s staff members have gotten used to his directness, and to his sudden silences. “When he’s quiet, that’s when he’s at his best, because his wheels are turning,” said … his deputy.

The job opened up when his predecessor was shot to death in his own home by an inmate released after hard time in solitary confinement. Rick stunned the establishment by spending 20 hours in solitary at the maximum-security lockup. He wrote an op-ed for The Times of Feb. 20, “My Night in Solitary.” That piqued the newspaper’s interest.

Some good law-and-order conservatives have criticized the man, and the ACLU has praised him. But Rick Raemisch is no liberal; in fact, he ran for Dane County district attorney (unsuccessfully) as a Republican. The man looks for results over ideology. I’m down with that. From the NY Times article:

Mr. Raemisch emphasizes that 97 percent of inmates will eventually be released.

“First and foremost, you have to understand that they’re going back, and it’s our job to get them prepared and determined to be law-abiding citizens when they go back,” he said. “I don’t want any new victims. That’s what drives me.”

He was at his home in Wisconsin last March, preparing to go to work at Madison College, where he had taken a job as a dean after leaving state government, when he heard that [his predecessor] had been killed.

“It made me angry,” he said. “His purpose was really to help inmates, and to be killed by an inmate — it was just insulting to me.”

His predecessor’s violent death continues to shadow him. Having received death threats days after arriving in Colorado, he travels with a security detail and carries a gun on planes.

Rick Raemisch, Mike Blaska, Denise Solie, and Rick Berg at the annual Dane County Republican picnic on Lyman Anderson’s farm, rural Oregon, in 2001 or 2002.


Old to new | New to old
Mar 17, 2014 10:34 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

"The man looks for results over ideology. I’m down with that." Down with, or down on?

Mar 17, 2014 11:22 am
 Posted by  Dan Wood

What kind of dumb-ass comment is that "Anonymous"?
David is making some salient points here and you post a childish comment like that?

Mar 17, 2014 06:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I think David is down with results as long as they benefit those who share his ideology. The evidence is all over this blog. Do you read it?

Mar 19, 2014 06:43 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Wow, the article "My Night in Solitary" was fascinating. Kudus to Mr. Raemisch for actually immersing himself in the experience to better understand the inmates under his care. I hope other prison systems look at this as well.

Mar 19, 2014 12:43 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I think that photo is a bit more than twelve years old!

Mar 19, 2014 12:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I wish RR all the best. Really. But I was a bit surprised that a person selected to lead the prison system (in Colorado) would not already be familiar with solitary confinement. And to say that a voluntary 20-hour visit gives you a view similar to those in for months and years is a bit of a stretch. But there are many who would not have gone even that far to learn.

Mar 21, 2014 10:12 am
 Posted by  David Blaska

I'm inclined to agree that the photo is older than I first thought. I'm going to say sometime between 1994-1997. Raemisch was sheriff then, not in 2001-2.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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