Case Against Wisconsin Pagan Prison Chaplain Dismissed

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 28, 2013 — 8 Comments

In September of 2011 Wisconsin-based Pagan prison chaplain Jamyi J. Witch was accused of participating in, and masterminding, a bizarre hostage scheme with the alleged goal of winning a transfer for her and an inmate.

Jamyi Witch

Jamyi Witch

“The charges stem from a police investigation of an Aug. 10 incident in which Witch, a chaplain at the prison, claimed to have been taken hostage by an inmate. [...]  The inmate told Witch about being jumped by three men while he was in his cell on Aug. 7 and said he needed to get out of Oshkosh. She told him she wanted to leave Oshkosh too because of threats from other staff and she had a plan to get them both out of the facility. Witch told the inmate the plan, which involved him coming into her office, blocking the door and acting like Witch was his mother. She also discussed giving him pills to make him sleepy and allow the guards to enter her office. The inmate said he left his cell on Aug. 10 without signing out and went to Witch’s office. He blocked the door with a board from a bookshelf and Witch’s wheelchair before requesting Witch have sex with him. She complied.”

Considering the dramatic nature of the charges, the story soon spread to sensationalist outlets like Gawker and The Daily Mail, however, the lurid case against Witch started falling apart almost from the start. For instance, there was the little matter of the prison cell being under observation the entire time.

“Department of Corrections spokesman Tim Le Monds says it happened about 8:30 a.m. He says prison staff members were able to persuade the inmate to open the door and come out after an hour. He says staff members could see into the room the whole time and could have gotten into it in seconds if necessary.”

Chaplain Jamyi Witch

Chaplain Jamyi Witch

Indeed, as the case progressed, it seemed clear that there wasn’t really a case. As WTAQ noted in their story from last night, “officials learned that she was on a medical leave when the alleged victim claimed that she proposed a false hostage situation during which time the chaplain was accused of molesting and drugging the man. Also, prosecutors said Witch had a prescription for the drug allegedly used – and she could use it as needed.” 

So it doesn’t seem too surprising to learn that all charges were finally dropped against Witch this past Monday, after which she posted a public statement to Facebook.

“The District Attorney Dismissed the Case against me. It is over. People keep asking, how do you feel? I do not have an answer yet. Relieved, angry, frustrated, puzzled, outraged…. I expect many more emotions to creep in. [...] When the Hostage situation was over it was clear the D.O.C. was unwilling to accept is responsibility over their many shortcomings that could have prevented my Rape. The abhorrent and despicable part came when they turned the tables and blamed me for their deficits. [...] People must and will be held accountable. You cannot smear/ruin/torture someone Just because of her faith. I have no doubt that Gov. Scott Walker was involved in this.”

Gov. Scott Walker? Why would he be involved? Well, you see, he’s been opposed to Witch’s hiring from the very beginning.

“In December 2001, Scott Walker, then a Republican member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and chair of the Assembly Committee on Corrections and Courts, learned that theWisconsin Department of Corrections had recently hired Rev. Jamyi Witch as a prison chaplain at the Waupun Correctional Institution in Waupun, Wisconsin. Witch, who had volunteered for two years as a chaplain and had an extensive knowledge of alternative religions, had competed against 9 other candidates for the civil service position and was hired as the most qualified candidate for the $32,500 per year job. The chaplain was a practicing Wiccan and had, in fact, changed her last name to Witch in honor of her chosen religion.“

The story made the national press at the time, was dubbed the “Wisconsin Witch Hunt,” and brought a lot of publicity to the ambitious then-Assemblyman Walker. Considering Walker’s recent history of what seems like vindictive behavior, it isn’t too far-fetched for Rev. Witch to believe she was also being punished for her temerity more than a decade earlier. That said, it’s quite possible Walker wasn’t involved at all considering the many people who seemed to be personally offended by Witch’s 2001 hiring. Barring the discovery of new evidence, the “why” of this latest situation will have to simply remain the delusions and schemes of a desperate prison inmate, a seemingly skewed DOC investigation, and sadly, a media more interested in salacious details than seeing justice done.

“This is great news.  Here’s another case of the system rushing to judgment when a Wiccan is involved.  A negative finding would have not only been terrible for Jamyi, but would also have been devastating for Pagan chaplaincy.  It’s great that the DA decided to drop the charges.”  - Rev. Patrick McCollum

In any event, this dismissal of charges not only clears Witch’s good name, but has also removed a possible mark against the larger cause of Pagan prison chaplaincy in general. In her statement, Witch made clear that she sees her personal struggle as a microcosm for the larger struggles of the Pagan community. Saying that, quote, “the fight for my life is over, the fight for every Pagan persons rights is just beginning.” 

Send to Kindle

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • Crystal Hope Kendrick

    I’m so glad this case is over and had a positive outcome. Now the healing can begin. My best wishes to Jamyi Witch in her future.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Many inmates, with nothing but time on their hands, pass the hours by inventing “cons.” Evidently this was one such.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    I expect to be bowled over by media outlets like Gawker and the Daily Mail rushing to set the record straight in this matter.

  • Zan Fraser

    Wisconsin Witch-Hunt, huh? I wonder if, with Wicca, modern Witchcraft, and Paganism in ascendence, we are not looking at an era of modern “Witch-Hunting.” (The case of the West Memphis Three is the most obvious example, although I remember Jason publishing a story about a Temple somewhere being charged with prostitution. I don’t recall the details, but I remember thinking at the time that it sounded “Witch-Huntish.”) An emerging minority group can be greeted with all sorts of lurid sensationalism (I call this “the Cruising Syndrome,” after the 1980 Al Pacino movie which depicted Gay subcultures in a kind of deranged light). An important thing to remember about Witch-Hunts is that the “Witch” at their center (the Hunt’s victim) is presented in the most debased terms possible, often forming the initial impression of that individual. I agree that no one should be subjected to infamy, shame, ruin, scandal, and psychological torture because of their spirituality or religious beliefs, and certainly not because of an abusive or vindictive government official: that is corruption of the highest order. I hope Ms. Witch is able to recover from her ordeal; I don’t wonder that she is experiencing all sorts of powerful and conflicting emotions; and I hope that some form of restitution is available to her in the future.

    • Faoladh

      The temple charged with prostitution was the Phoenix Goddess Temple.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    I still think there needs to be a criminal investigation of the people that concocted this phony charge and that they need to be tried for their crimes. The damage does not end because the charges have been dropped, the fact is that those that set out to hurt her have not yet been punished for what they did, including criminal and monetary damages. If she decides to go after them, I will happily support her.

  • cernowain greenman

    I wonder now how Jamyi will get back her reputation. Too many people– including Pagans– believed the prosecution’s fantasy that she was the “mastermind” and “consented” to having sex with the offender. The story was carried nationally, but the news of the case being dismissed will not be as widely covered. How does one rebuild her or his life after such a insult to their integrity?

  • Segomâros Widugeni

    Having worked as education staff in a maximum security prison, I am aware of the way inmates will concoct stories and plots. I am also aware, not through my own experience in this case, of the kinds of corruption that are endemic in many state DOCs. The most extravagant paranoia is frequently not paranoid enough for what really goes on. The idea that somebody would be set up and sent to prison on trumped-up charges because they are Pagan, in the present day, is…..entirely plausible.

    I’m glad that Jamyi Witch has been cleared. From the time I first read about the story, it seemed to me like a put-up job. Now, she can get on with her life.