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Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

Sex Assault Charges against Wiccan Ex-Prison Chaplain Dismissed

by Joe Watson

A Wiccan former prison chaplain at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution in Wisconsin pledged to sue the Wisconsin Department of Corrections after she was cleared of criminal charges in a bizarre faux hostage scheme that involved allegations of sex with a prisoner behind a barricaded office door. Reverend Jamyi Witch was fired in March 2012 after the charges were filed; she also claimed she was the target of anti-religious rhetoric from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, when Walker was still a state Assemblyman.

The criminal charges against Witch, a 54-year-old Wiccan who changed her last name from Welch to reflect her religion, were dismissed in August 2013 because the prisoner involved in the incident changed his story and prosecutors were not confident they could convict her, according to Winnebago County Deputy District Attorney Scott Ceman.

Witch was hired in 2001 as the state’s first Wiccan prison chaplain. [See: PLN, March 2002, p.32]. She was accused of hatching a plan in which the unidentified prisoner came into her office, barricaded the door with a bookshelf and Witch’s wheelchair, then sexually role-played as if Witch was his mother. The hostage plan, she allegedly told the prisoner, would get them both transferred out of Oshkosh, where the prisoner feared he would be assaulted by other prisoners, and where Witch said she feared attacks by her co-workers. While barricaded in her office, Witch allegedly gave the prisoner 15 sleeping pills and the two performed oral sex on each other.

After the hostage-taking incident, the prisoner was transferred to the Green Bay Correctional Institution where he wrote a letter – intercepted by prison staff – in which he indicated that Witch had concocted the farfetched scheme. Once police investigated, however, Witch contended that she, not the prisoner, was the victim of sexual assault. She told investigators the prisoner had forced her to expose her breasts and perform and receive oral sex. Witch reportedly said she did not tell police all the facts involving the incident earlier because she feared others would make fun of her.

Years before, Witch had been the target of a public harangue by then-state Assemblyman Walker, chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Corrections and the Courts, who mounted a highly-visible campaign in October 2001 to have Witch removed as a prison chaplain based solely on her Wiccan religion. Witch said that although Walker was unsuccessful in having her position terminated – he left the legislature in early 2002 – his efforts did “stir up right wing conservative religious fundamentalists.”

Witch said she received numerous death threats, her tires were slashed, a silver cross was painted on her door and her school-aged children were harassed. She recalled that one state legislative employee issued a press release containing the language “burn the witch.”

As governor, Walker has since denounced “discrimination and violence targeted toward a specific ethnic or religious group” as “contrary to America’s core ideals.”

“By placing it in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” he said, “our founding fathers placed special emphasis on protecting religious freedom for all Americans. We must show constant vigilance in defending our founding principles.”

But when he was campaigning to have Witch removed as a prison chaplain, Walker’s rhetoric was far different. Only days after she was hired as a chaplain at the maximum-security Waupun Correctional Institution, “Walker came out saying he would do whatever it took to have me removed from my position,” Witch recalled in an interview with ThinkProgress, a progressive online news outlet, posted on March 20, 2015.

“I can’t imagine that most of the inmates would feel particularly comfortable going to that individual ... I would think, in some ways from a religious standpoint, it might actually put inmates in a position that talking to [a Wiccan] is contrary to what some of their own religious beliefs might be,” Walker said in 2001, while announcing his committee might investigate.

“Witch’s hiring raises both personal and political concerns,” Walker explained at the time. “Not only does she practice a different religion than most of the inmates, she practices a religion that actually offends people of many other faiths, including Christians, Muslims and Jews. It just seems to be impractical to have someone in that position who admittedly can only provide those sorts of services to roughly 30 people in the entire prison,” he added.

Witch told ThinkProgress that over her 12-year tenure as a prison chaplain, she spent more time converting prisoners to Christian faiths than any others.

“My job is to help them connect with the divine however they see the divine. Most people in this country are raised thinking of deity with the Christian belief system; that’s where they would have [the] best chance of finding connection with the divine,” she stated.

Witch said Governor Walker – who is currently a Republican presidential candidate – never apologized for his actions in 2001, and she urged voters to beware.

“If we get a man in the White House who is okay with actively seeking to have people removed from their positions because they are not of a faith he approves of ... we’ve been down that road before,” she remarked.

Sources: Associated Press,,,