Op-Ed

How Sheriff Clarke Wrecked House of Correction

And how it’s been improved since he lost control.

By - Nov 9th, 2015 10:15 am
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Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Photo by Garrick Jannene.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Photo by Garrick Jannene.

Milwaukee County’s House of Correction (HOC) is going to the dogs — and that’s just one of dozens of ways our County tax dollars work harder than probably anywhere else with virtually no one knowing about it.

It all started in 2013 when County Executive Chris Abele brought in Michael Hafemann as HOC superintendent, as part of the County’s reacquisition of the HOC from Sheriff David Clarke. Under Clarke’s reign virtually all programs at the medium security facility were wiped out except for a DOTS (Discipline, Order, Training, Structure) version of boot camp, which by most evidence doesn’t work and may even be counterproductive.

About the dogs and other ventures. Superintendent Hafemann and Program/Employment Director Jose Hernandez plan to turn unused dormitories into dog kennels to engage inmates in socializing and training strays for adoption and as support and therapy dogs in conjunction with the Wisconsin Humane Society.

As an advocate for fundamental justice reform, I have been immersed in systems change in Milwaukee for 28 years.  Never have I seen justice so decimated as it was under Sheriff David Clarke at the HOC.  Nor have I ever experienced the incredible rapid-fire development of all-encompassing  programs and operations benefitting inmates, corrections workers and the community as Hafemann and crew have wrought.

The vast majority of men and women at the HOC lead troubled lives, often complicated by trauma, insufficient education, poverty, addiction and serious mental health disorders. For them, crime is not a chosen profession. Today nearly 80 percent of the 1000 men and women currently serving sentences of one year or less for lower level offenses are actively engaged in programs that contribute to real life changing experiences, new perspectives and confidence, along with constructive, markable skills.

There is so much positive action at the HOC, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board will soon open an official American Job Center there. Through a combination of programs, inmates who never finished school work to achieve a  a GED and benefit from pre-college testing by Milwaukee Area Technical College. From there a huge array of constructive work-related programs span out. Some happen onsite and some involve transporting inmates to training facilities, including 45 bused at company expense to work at the Ralston Purina plant in Fort Atkinson.

Then there’s Vermiculture, informally known as the worm farm. Created in an unused portion of an old housing building, the farm provides worm casings (organic fertilizer) to the parks, local gardens, and the Hunger Task Force farm, as well as actual worms to feed reptiles at the Zoo. Worms are even shipped free by the crate-load to support a fishing camp up North serving veterans and their families.

The decades-old Huber program that enabled nonviolent offenders to be released for work every day was virtually shuttered by the Sheriff, along with electronic monitoring. Now inmates stretch tax dollars providing services to citizens throughout Milwaukee County, working under supervision cleaning up County Parks, the Zoo, highways, and festival grounds. They assist UW-Extension with garden upkeep and aid in county projects, including clean-out of foreclosed homes scheduled for renovation.

More than 15 programs, often operated in collaboration with community and faith organizations, provide mental, emotional and physical enrichment to inmates, including pre-release planning, along with community support and followup. Hafemann has even overcome red tape to prepare inmates to enroll for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act — they sign their applications on the bus to release.

Notably, all this is happening with no requests for additional funding. Grants and partnerships significantly expand the reach of our tax investment. Inmate work saves nearly $250,000 operational dollars. And at the Recycling Center inmates collect and sort recyclables, including all electronics from Milwaukee County government agencies, resulting in revenue of more than $10,000.

The end result: at the entrepreneurial HOC troubled individuals are refocusing their lives and all Milwaukee is a safer, more prosperous community.

Kit Murphy McNally, a writer and justice advocate, served for 27 years as executive director of the Benedict Center

Categories: Crime, Op-Ed, Politics

26 thoughts on “Op-Ed: How Sheriff Clarke Wrecked House of Correction”

  1. Kevin Baas says:

    “More than 15 programs, often operated in collaboration with community and faith organizations, provide mental, emotional and physical enrichment to inmates, including pre-release planning, along with community support and followup.”

    I fail to see how a “faith organization” can provide “mental enrichment”. An organization that discourages people from demanding reason and evidence does precisely the opposite of mental enrichment.

    That’s a serious problem with the program. They should be using exactly the opposite: a critical thinking, skepticism, reason and science organization to do actual mental enrichment. Get the people to think things through more rationally and that’s going to decrease crime.

    We know scientifically that religion does NOT make you more moral http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/23/it-s-official-religion-doesn-t-make-you-more-moral.html and in fact can have a deleterious effect http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/11/religious_children_are_more_selfish_in_a_sticker_study.html

    But reason and evidence-based thinking _has_ been shown to increase compassion and ethical behavior: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/just-thinking-about-science-triggers-moral-behavior/

    They really need to replace the religion part of the program with its antithesis: _encouraging_ the use of reason and evidence.

    (However, this strategy would probably be ineffective on psychopaths: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/26/health/brain-moral-judgments/ )

  2. AG says:

    Keven Baas, all your post does is show how little you know about faith based services. Do you think they just pull people into a room and tell them god wants them to stop using heroin and get a job?

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    “The power of Christ compels you to get with Jesus and off the smack!” That’s accurate right? I’m an atheist and no fan of forcing religion on people, but if they seek out faith-based services, if that helps them during a time of need, what’s the problem?

  4. Kevin Baas says:

    I explained what the problem is and provided sources to back it up.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    You have explained why you believe science and reason trump faith and religion, and in general I totally agree with you. But if an inmate will be transitioning back to the real world, and seeking out faith-based services is something they choose because they believe it will help ease their transition, where’s the harm in that?

  6. Kevin Baas says:

    No i have not explained how science and reason trump faith and religion. What I explained is what the harm, both mentally and socially, of faith-based services is, and what, in contrast, the benefit of their antithesis is. What you though I answered, I did not. What you thought I did not answer, I did.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    So the inmates are more likely to return to a life of crime if they seek out faith-based services?

  8. Kevin Baas says:

    I feel I made myself clear. If you are unclear, I recommend re-reading what I wrote carefully.

  9. Vincent Hanna says:

    Well I feel you are wrong Kevin, or I wouldn’t ask. I am not aware of any EVIDENCE showing that transitioning inmates are more likely to return to a life of crime if they receive faith-based services. Please share your EVIDENCE. Thank you.

  10. Kevin Baas says:

    Please do not make straw man arguments. Thank you.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Your refusal to answer direct questions makes it seem as if you lack confidence in your beliefs. You have in no way proved that faith-based services are harmful. You have shared stories claiming that religion does not make people more moral. That is not proof of the danger of faith-based services for inmates.

  12. Kevin Baas says:

    Please do not make straw man arguments. Thank you.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    “Get the people to think things through more rationally and that’s going to decrease crime.”

    How do you know this? Is there evidence?

  14. Kevin Baas says:

    Because crime is often (though not always) the result of irrational choices. You prevent those choices and you prevent the crime. The logic is pretty simple.

  15. Vincent Hanna says:

    That’s exactly what I suspected you’d say. Thanks for answering.

  16. AG says:

    Kevin Baas,

    In what way do you actually believe you’ve proven your point that religious based services make people worse off? You cite two flawed studies that don’t even align with what you’re trying to present. For example, Decety, who wrote the sticker study, is admittedly anti-religion (did he fit the data to his pre-study beliefs?) who failed to account for the various groups by using a single independent variable t-test instead of ANOVA which falsely groups all religious people from all cultures into one pot. To further exacerbate the false premise, he does not account for the various cultural norms and the affects they have on the different religions, does not account for family wealth (affect of wealth on altruism), nor does he explore other effects such as family size (varying family sizes may affect how “giving” a child may be) which takes us to the old “correlation does not show causation” issue.

    Besides those issues, even with those flaws, his study shows that even if they’re willing to give away less stickers, religious children (ignoring how they grouped them) view “meanness” and immoral behavior in a more pronounced way. But really, what does this study have to tell us about religion in general? Not much…

    In the other study you posted, which we will ignore the fact that it does not align with your premise (you say religion is harmful, this study does nothing of the sort, it is trying to say you’re not more moral, which is quite different), they use a self reporting study based upon the participants own ideas of morality. Thus, it shows that people are no more or less likely to follow their own morals but does not explore how those morals may vary. For example, we might both believe murder is bad, but maybe I believe that it’s ok to put someone to death for murder but you believe it’s never ok to kill. Our morals are different, but our adherence to our morals can still be in line to our own standards. Also, similar to the sticker study, religious participants felt their morality “more intensely” than non-religious. And again, the authors are pretty open about being anti-religion which should be disclosed and taken into consideration when understanding their work.

    All that being said, you have not made a good argument for how faith based services are bad. Quite contrary, many studies show quite the opposite. Worse of all, your complete lack of understanding of how faith based organizations operate using outcome based programs with a mix of accepted industry practices along with a spiritual foundation can create very positive results.

    It appears your position is more based on a lack of understanding and a fear of anything related to religion… which is a pretty bold and broad generalization to make.

  17. Kevin Baas says:

    You are attacking a straw man.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is there an echo in here? Why are you even posting here Kevin if you don’t want to discuss anything?

  19. AG says:

    No, I’m attacking the two premises of your original post.

    1. That religious based services are bad because they do not provide mental enrichment. Specifically, your false belief that they don’t use standard industry strategies that include “a critical thinking, skepticism, reason and science” right along with their faith based support.

    2. That those studies you linked have any value regarding your position.

    In addition, I’m saying your belief is based on a fear of organizations and programs simply because they’re run by religious organizations. That in itself is irrational and illogical.

  20. Kevin Baas says:

    okay well you got basically everything wrong right there. Even manage to pile in some extra wrongness on top of the original. So yeah, you just proved that you were making a straw man argument and then some.

  21. Vincent Hanna says:

    I love this method of argument. You simply tell the other person they are wrong. And that’s it. Brilliant!

  22. Kevin Baas says:

    “1. That religious based services are bad because they do not provide mental enrichment.”

    That is not a premise of my post. They do not provide mental enrichment, yes, but that does not imply that they are bad.

    “Specifically, your false belief that they don’t use standard industry strategies that include “a critical thinking, skepticism, reason and science” right along with their faith based support.”

    two things here, 1 : “a critical thinking, skepticism, reason and science” is DEFINITELY not “standard industry strategy”, and 2, they DEFINITELY do not do that. critical thinking especially isn’t taught ANYWHERE except for some dedicated college courses. Same with skepticism.

    “2. That those studies you linked have any value regarding your position.”

    That’s not even a premise. That’s just you being snide and not realizing that you are making a straw man argument and thats why the articles don’t fit in with your straw man’s position.

    “In addition, I’m saying your belief is based on a fear of organizations and programs simply because they’re run by religious organizations. That in itself is irrational and illogical..”

    Okay so now you are manufacturing motivations and attacking the argument based on that. Now in addition to straw man you’re piled in a coulpe difference fallacies into that, simultaneiously, such as appeal to motive and ad hominem, to name just two.

  23. AG says:

    If your premise is not that they are bad, why would you promote the idea of cutting those services?? And I completely disagree that they do not provide mental enrichment.

    Regarding your statement, “they DEFINITELY do not do that. critical thinking especially isn’t taught ANYWHERE except for some dedicated college ” that is patently false. While I’m not familiar with specific programs at the HOC, almost all programs have standard practices that include those aspects. For example, for drug treatment you may find a number of strategies that will vary depend on the persons situation, but theoretical rationale strategies and the causative factors strategies both use aspects of critical thinking. Unless there’s some sort of new age “critical thinking” specific strategy that I’m not aware of… critical thinking as a concept comes into play often.

    Regarding your response to point 2… no. Just no. You have not shown how those studies support your position at all. They have nothing to do with faith based community services and their outcomes what so ever.

    Finally, regarding my last point that you appear to judge programs merely due to their faith based foundation… it is indeed only my impression. However you’ve given zero reason to suspect otherwise.

  24. Kevin Baas says:

    I don’t have time for this nonsense. You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about or how to make good, sound arguments. I recommend you take your ego down a few notches and maybe take a few course on critical thinking. Here’s a good place to start: http://criticalthinkeracademy.com/

    Now I’m going to watch a movie.

  25. AG says:

    Vincent Hanna, he’s too good… you were correct in his argument strategy.

    Flawless.

  26. Rudley says:

    This is beautiful. An atheist who can’t handle other peoples’ refusal to take on FAITH his increasingly bizarre assertions. I said this is beautiful because most of the challenges to his rants do NOT appear to come from religious people. He kind of reminds me of what they used to say about Bob Dole – “even his friends don’t like him.”I really hope he continues to spread the bad news of atheism. He may do more good for the gospel than10 evangelists. Unfortunately the cognitive dissonance he might experience as a result could lead to unfortunate emotional consequences. The energy some people expend denying the existence of God fascinates me. There is no comparable movement seeking to disprove the existence of the Easter Bunny.

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