Update: Wiccan Chaplain Accused in Bizarre Hostage Scheme

Back in September, newswires and blogs reported on the case of Jamyi J. Witch, a Wiccan chaplain at Oshkosh Correctional Institution who is accused of sexually assaulting an inmate, illegally transporting drugs, and hatching a fake hostage scheme to procure a transfer for her and an inmate. The twist? Jamyi Witch is Wisconsin’s first Pagan prison chaplain.

Jamyi Witch

“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.

Since that initial report, which was sensationalized by outlets like Gawker and the Daily Mail, the case has slowly progressed.  A judge declared in late September that the trial could move forward, and the inmate involved in the incident gave his initial testimony.

“This is all her plan,” explained the inmate. “Only thing I know is that I knew Ms. Witch eight to ten years. Throughout that time, I gained a lot of respect and a lot of trust for her, so when she told me, you know what I’m saying, that I was not going to get into any trouble and that this would not be a hostage situation, you know what I mean? I took her word for it and that’s why I went up there.”

Then, this past Friday, Ms. Witch officially entered a plea of not guilty. In addition, supporters of the chaplain are now starting to speak up. Lady of the Lake Church, of which Witch is a clergyperson, issued a statement defending their colleague.

“Jamyi Witch was held hostage by a inmate “John Washington” in her office and she was raped by this inmate. She gave the inmate some of her prescription pills to make him sleepy and weak allowing the officers to enter her office and give her aid. […] The inmate later sent his mother a letter, knowing full well that after his actions his mail would be monitored, telling his mother that Jamyi Witch helped him come up with the plan to take her hostage. NOTE: This inmate 20 years earlier, was arrested and charged with rape and sentenced to prison which he is now serving. (Same crime)  Two weeks earlier he attempted the same attack on another female staff member at the correctional facility. (Not in the story.) The facility read the inmates mail and charged Jamyi Witch with the crime of suppling drugs to the inmate, raping the inmate and suppling the inmate with illegal materials. Jamyi Witch has been in the correction system as a wiccan chaplin for 11 years and never had any violations. The police who interviewed her told her and her boyfriend that they worked for god and thought she was lying. We need to stand with her and help tell her story and raise funds for her legal defense which is now racking up. We need to call our congressman and state officials and protest the treatment of a rape victim (Jamyi) .”

In addition, someone who claims to have attended the preliminary hearing posted the following:

“Ok, here’s the TRUTH of the whole matter: At the preliminary hearing, the inmate admitted after finding out he could recieve another 25 years in prison for rape, lied about the chaplain’s involvement in the whole situation. Jaymi Witch is a very accomplished woman, speaks 9 languages, and has counselled hundreds of victims of child abuse, etc. Amazing how quick everyone is to take the word of a convicted criminal over an innocent victim of a violent crime. Scott Walker got her out of Waupun and now he’ll get her out of Oshkosh.”

Are police and prison officials working against Witch as her church alleges? Are these charges being trumped up due to anti-Pagan hostility? Prominent Pagan prison chaplains like Patrick McCollum have shared stories of hostility, threats, and obstruction of their efforts, allegations backed up by prominent Pagan figures like Starhawk.

“But our visit to CCWF did not go well.  Again, they had ‘lost’ our paperwork—this time, five separate copies of our event package which Sister Mary Ann had personally delivered to five separate officials.  The warden was not on site on a Saturday—nor were other personnel who could have okayed the event.  The Watch Commander, who could have authorized it, said “No way.”  We were allowed in as visitors—which meant a much more exhaustive process of listing every single thing we were wearing or carrying.  Tiki’s underwire bra would not go through the metal detector, and she had to go out, change into a bathing suit, and put up with snide comments about her breasts.  But, we got in, though Patrick was quietly fuming while being ever so polite to everyone.”

In 2008, McCollum gave testimony to the US Commission on Civil Rights that Pagan prisoners faced “endemic” discrimination from prison officials. Considering the battles Jamyi J. Witch faced simply to work at the job she was hired for, it isn’t inconceivable that officials are now obstructing the course of justice now. If these charges are indeed bogus, we can only hope that Witch’s lawyer can navigate her trial successfully and bring the truth to light. Further, if Witch is cleared of the charges against her, what will that mean for the staff at Oshkosh Correctional Institution? Won’t that implicate them in helping to orchestrate this anti-Pagan incident?

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  • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

    When are people going to learn that the law really doesn’t have anything to do with Justice? The law is about power, and keeping power in the hands of the powerful, and keeping power out of the hands of the powerless. As long as the political elite are able to push their agenda, stuff like this will happen.

    I find it hilarious that it is Cali, capital of the democratic and progressive movements, the most liberal state in all of America, is the one responsible for what seems like the most anti-Pagan discrimination.

  • kenneth

    California also has a massive prison industry. Their prison guard union is one of the largest and most well-funded lobbying groups in the world.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    Not to mention, California is a huge state, some parts of which are very liberal, some parts are conservative. And, am I reading things wrong or did all of this not happen in Wisconsin?

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Calling California the “Most Liberal State In America” is extreme hyperbole.

  • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

    Kauko, Cali is where the Five Faiths thing is going down and where a lot of this news comes from that we’ve been hearing.

    Bryon, that’s kinda how Cali sells itself. Hyperbole or not, it’s them saying it.

  • Nightfall

    What’s your point? Evangelical Christians sell themselves as concerned citizens who just want the country to prosper, and as people who don’t hate gays (“we don’t hate the sinner, we just hate the sin”). Just because someone paints themselves a certain way doesn’t mean they’re actually that way.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    The entire state of California actively sells itself that way?? Or people like you just throw it in as a strawman in an obvious attempt to portray liberalism as a negative?

  • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

    Not throwing a strawman, that’s how the state sells itself. Or at least, how the “liberal citizens” of the state sell it in the media. ymmv

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    More the entertainment industry based in the state, than the legislators of the state.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenazfilan Kenaz Filan

    Northern California is one of the most liberal areas in America. Southern California, which gave us Reagan and Nixon, is one of the most conservative. I’d argue that California is more like Yugoslavia than a typical American state. It’s a conglomeration of several vastly different and frequently hostile cultures all slammed together by an arbitrarily drawn border.

  • Lahuesera

    I lived in the San Diego area for several years. I learned to my great horror that it is just the farthest notch of the Bible belt. At least one fundamentalist church in every strip mall, tons of Christian broadcasting, attempts to convert me on supermarket lines, and I was more than a little concerned that I’d be burned at the stake when the door to door proselytizers held a confab outside my door over my decorative gargoyle.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    California still has second amendment rights, and property rights. If someone is threatening you, use them.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    You don’t become the state that people say “You know what they say about California…” about by just happening to be friendly, happy, liberal types, sitting there, being all liberal and hugging people.

    You get that way by being incredibly volatile. By being the places where the protests, riots, and really ugly court cases go down. San Francisco, and all it’s famous for, was a big military city.

    The liberal places in this country have a violent, ugly history lurking under them: hundreds of years of disaster, war, violence, abuse, police brutality, racism, social injustice, an an undeniable rift between rich and poor, the list goes on.

    And, as much as things change, it never really goes away. You think politicians are chill hippies? No, they’re corrupt businessmen, just like everywhere else! There is always a WORLD of things to be pissed off about in California.

  • Harmonyfb

    At the preliminary hearing, the inmate admitted after finding out he could recieve another 25 years in prison for rape, lied about the chaplain’s involvement in the whole situation.

    What a shocker. I hope Ms. Witch sues the pants off the media who gleefully assumed her guilt (or at least makes them print a HUGE retraction.)

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Ms. Witch uses a wheelchair. While that doesn’t make it impossible for her to drug and rape an inmate, it makes it darned unlikely.

  • Eric O Scott

    I suppose there isn’t likely to be one, but is there anything to corroborate the bit about the police interview?

    The story is just infuriating. You want a fine example of rape culture at work? Here you go- accuse a convicted rapist of raping you and watch the world accuse you of raping him. Even though he’s an able-bodied man and you are in a wheelchair. Give him pills to sedate him while he’s threatening your life? You evil, drug-peddling witch. And if the part with the police interview holds up, we’ve essentially got a new version of “she was asking for it.” “You can’t be the victim of a crime – you’re an evil heathen!”

    The whole issue makes me want to throw things.

  • Lori F – MN

    If the mundane folks would drop the word “Pagan” from the story and stick to the facts it seems more likely that HE is the guilty. Reporters seem to conveniently forget how long she’s been a chaplan, without incident, not to mention that she’s in a wheelchair.
    But I do have to ask, is it standard procedure to lock the door when in a session with an inmate, especially one who is in on rape charges? Once that door was locked, shouldn’t staff have informed, for the chaplan’s safety? I have to wonder how many sessions she had with the inmate. Is she the only chaplan for the prison?
    Or maybe the press, correctional officials and law enforcement are bias because of her religion, and her last name.
    Her name and religion have NOTHING to do with the charges. But it’s sad that a 20 year inmate is believed over a female chaplan in a wheelchair who has had no other problems in her 11 year employment.

  • AnonGuest

    I don’t think that inmate is safe to let loose as yet if he’s attacking disabled prison chaplains

  • http://sari0009.xanga.com/ Karen A. Scofield

    Let me get this straight?

    The chaplain? She’s in a wheelchair, in her 50s, a well-educated polyglot (9 languages!). But when a convicted rapist inmate reportedly held her hostage and raped her, he gets to blame her and everyone jumps on the bandwagon to agree with him (bandwagon effect/fallacy). Why, because Pagans should think about their legal rights as many paces way behind convicted rapists?

    Oh, and besides his previous rape conviction which he’s presently serving time for (for a long, long time), “Two weeks earlier he attempted the same attack on another female staff member at the correctional facility.”

    Journalists and others are acting as if there’s no “real need” for due process, as far as she’s involved; that’s just a formality. Because sometimes sending women’s rights and religious rights back to the dark ages is okay, now and then.

    After all, her last and chosen name is Witch instead of Christianson.

    How will this case read when all the facts come out? Will this news story vanish from the public eye if, at any point, it cannot serve prejudice, any possible political needs and openly creedist ‘controversy sells’ journalism? Will she be partially guilty on a minor charge or is she “guilty as sin” and they’ll, come hell or high water, make this case work out the way they expect … no conspiracy needed to when nearly everyone’s on the same page?

  • Charles Cosimano

    You are missing a great opportunity here. Imagine the case begins, the prosecutor gets up to make his opening statement and suddenly his head turns around backwards and spews green glop all over the judge.

    Let’s have a little creativity.

  • Kilmrnock

    This whole thing stinks , like something rotten in denmark :::::wondering where that expession came from:::::. Seems to me once it gets to court i’ll all fall apart anyway . then the prosequetor is gonna have some espainin to do . the entire thing is absurd.i’m waiting to see her counter case against the prison system. Kilm

  • Anonymous

    The quote comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The actual quote is “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” but it’s been shortened over the years.

    Just another piece of trivia taking up space in my brain…

  • Obsidia

    I’ve looked around the Internet and this story is overwhelmingly prejudiced against Jamyi. Also, let’s get a better photo of her! The pain in her eyes in this photo is hard to take….was this her arrest photo, taking after she was raped and then accused of rape? How can she get a fair trial?!!!

    The only other photos I’ve seen are when she came to court and pleaded “not guilty.”

    I definitely want to see her with the best lawyer possible! This has all the makings of a travesty of justice.

  • Anon

    I have met and interacted with Chaplain Witch several times. I am not sure where the wheelchair comes into play. I have seen her walk the halls of the prison many times and have been in her office. I never saw a wheelchair there. Where does this information come from?

  • Obsidia

    If you go to this page and look at the pictures, you will see the Chaplain in a wheelchair, talking to the press….


  • Noinden

    To be honest however, having lived in Wisconsin for a number of years (and having interacted with Ms Witch), her need for the wheel chair, does not mean she can not (and does not walk). I’ve said this smells (as a situation from the start), I still wonder how (and why) she had the “drugs” with her however.

  • http://sari0009.xanga.com/ Karen A. Scofield

    Yes. Is the medication (pain medication?) in question often prescribed to be taken every 4 hours, making it likely that it’d be with her at work? Did they do drug tests on the supposed victim after the incident? How much could those tests, if actually conducted and permissible evidence in court, tell or not tell us? As a prison chaplain, would it be required (not to mention wise) for her to lock up any medicines she might need? If locked up, was it locked in her locker or office? Or was it in her purse, on her person? If it was proven to be in the same room as the rape & hostage situation, can it be proven, according to court room legal standards, that she both knowingly and willingly drugged him? If it was locked up in some office, who else could have access to it and would they have the opportunity and motive to frame her somehow, not an unreasonable question considering the depths of “Wisconsin’s Witch Hunt” aimed at the chaplain. If she knowingly and willingly drugged him as a method of self defense, will that be considered a legal form of self defense, considering her condition? Lots of questions. Too many ifs piling up. Not enough information.

  • Kilmrnock

    Ahhh America , home of the Brave , Land of the free. We still have a Loooooong way to go. With this nonsence in wisconsin and California . The religious right nutballs , our insane , broken government. We also have the economic disparity and mess on Wall Street . The only bright spot i see recently is the Occupy Movement protests , letting the Govt and wall street know the people , the 99%ers, are pissed off. I’m just hoping they’ll listen . Kilm