Thursday, June 21, 2012

The deal

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The deal
 Canteen Catalog Program Policy
 Marteze  Harris 161543
 Waupun Correctional Institution
PO Box 351
 Waupun , WI 53963

When I was released from Administrative confinement in 2009, I was shocked , flabbergasted and outraged to see that we no longer had the privilege of ordering from any vendor.How could they restrict us the privilege, as well as the opportunity to bargain shop for the best bang for the buck , not to forget our families which usually carry the burden of picking up these tabs. So the Wisconsin DOC , with their Canteen Catalog Program Policy, simply gave a monopoly to four select vendors and excluded all others. No matter the excluded vendors prices were more affordable, the quality of their product was hands down better that any of the four chosen vendors and their customer service was above any others four vendors. .

On January 1 ,2008, John Bett, Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) Administrator, officially implemented the Canteen Catalog Program, In essence ending the privilege that we. and our families had enjoyed for decades as part of the WDOC, the right to shop where we choose. So I recently came across a copy of ( someone. let me see it) the vendors bidding contract ( JL Marcus, Access, Walkenhorst’s and Union Supply CO) . In order to win a bid these four catalog companies had to agree to numerous contractual agreements , or their bid would be rejected. I will not even try to state. all the terms of the agreement ( later I will explain why)but I will state the obvious, and that should (hopefully) get prisoners , as well as their families riled up and get people asking some serious questions about the Department of Corrections policies and procedures.

So let’s take Walkenhorst’s for example.. in Walkenhorst’s regular catalog that is for non – prisoners use or their families, they sell a swintec 2410 clear typewriter for 199.97; however in Walkenhorst’s special catalog for prisoners and their families that same swintec typewriter is 239.99. In this same catalog, a brother nylon typewriter ribbon costs 9.99. However, in the regular catalog is costs 7.97 Why, is that you. may ask?

 Well come to find out that in order to win these four companies had to agree to some things like I said before. Check this out… the company charges the base price +fixed price+ 10% commissions+sales tax on all items sold to prisoners- No matter whether the prisoners purchase the items themselves or their families purchase them. And I don't know how all this works and that is why I need everyone to start asking questions, but what I do know, I will share with you. The Base Price is the actual cost of the item being sold, the fixed Markup is what a company does to make a profit. Now so far all this is fine, no problems, this is where it gets scandalous. The 10 % commission goes to the Department of Corrections.

Every month each of these companies cut each prison in the Department of Corrections a check up to 10%. In order for these companies to do business with the prisons they have to give a kickback to the DOC . Straight bribery.. holding these companies hostage. And , I mean how could you expect these companies to say “no” , they make millions a year from these practices. They only have to compete against these other three companies. So then in the bidding negotiations one of the companies asked about the sales tax issue, because sales tax should only be paid to one company and that is JL Marcus , a Wisconsin based company. However, not wanting to give the other three an unfair disadvantage by not being able to collect the precious sales tax $$$$ , the DOC agree to let them all collect sales tax Somebody got the. Better Business Bureau involved somehow.

Like I said before, I don’t know the whole story. Anyway ,the BBB contacted Mr Dan Walkenhorst, presumed owner of Walkenhorst and asked him about the higher prices charged to prisoners and their families . This is what he said in part: “per Wisconsin sale agreement with Walklenhorst we are required to rebate approximately 5%$ of sales to each facility and freight costs were to be factored into the price of the products rather that shown as a separate items, plus other incidental items that were requested to do in order to do business with the WIDOC. It is because of these policies and requests that our prices are higher. So basically, the a state is forcing these companies to defraud Wisconsin prisoners and their families . The catalogs say that shipping is free, now come to find out that shipping really isn’t free, it is factored into the price of the product(s). and again the companies are not innocent either because they agreed to these shady practices and defrauding tactics. So state as well as these four companies are equally responsible Now the reason why I don’t have more in formation and documentation is due to the fact that I wwas not able to make copies of the paperwork I was allowed to see. I read it and wrote down a few things. I could not get the actual letter from Dan Walkenhorst, nor actual price scales used in the bidding war. I do believe that if we work together that all this shadiness and defraudment can be brought to the light and we can force them to change this policy back. These four companies should not have a monopoly on all our canteen catalog orders .

The excessive charges and the monopolizing of our purchases came close to violating the Antitrust Act.The Antitrust Act is designed to protect consumers against practices such as these. So here are a few things we can do to bring all this to the light: 1) Get a BBB report on all these companies. Also , Contact the BBB and make a complaint against these practices. 2) get copies from the regular catalogs these companies offer to free world consumers and special one they use for prisoners , and compare prices. 3) research the Antitrust Act, but beyond that-is this practice legal under Wisconsin law? 4) How does each institution get a kick back every month form these companies and it not be illegal? I have no clue what will come of this inquiry, maybe nothing but we need for them to know what we know what they are doing. If we stick together and bring pressure to bear on Madison and these companies, then something will give. If we do nothing, then we can expect the same ole some ole. The person that has all this information wishes to keep everything to himself. Why, I have no idea, but I believe that every prisoners and his family has the right to know, because it affects all of us. So we should fight together.

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