Case Against Wisconsin Pagan Prison Chaplain Dismissed

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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.”