Sheriff’s History Of Inmate Mistreatment
Problems at county jail just the latest incidents of mistreatment under Sheriff Clarke.
Problems at Milwaukee County Jail have once again been in the news, but as Gretchen Schuldt reports at Wisconsin Justice Initiative, the management problems go back more than a decade on Sheriff David Clarke’s watch.
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story reported this on Oct 29: “The private contractor responsible for medical care at Milwaukee County’s jails has failed to meet basic standards of care and staffing mandates, putting inmates’ health at risk, newly obtained documents and interviews with former employees show.”
The problem was blamed on the private company hired to staff the jail: “Inadequate staffing by Armor Correctional Health Services and poor record-keeping by employees have led to a failure to deliver timely medical treatment, according to the records and former employees.” The story added that the problems “mirror some found recently at two jails staffed by Armor in New York.”
Clarke hired the company in 2013, arguing it would save the county money and provide better service. He refused to discuss the latest problems with the newspaper.
Then there was the case in July of a female inmate who gave birth to a child that died. “A lawyer for Shadé Swayzer, 30, has filed a notice of claim against the Milwaukee County Sheriff‘s Office, alleging that jail staff are responsible for the death of her child,” the JS reported. “Swayzer told a corrections officer her water broke and she was going into labor, but the officer laughed and ignored her. Her child was pronounced dead later that day.”
Schuldt cites a case she reported back in 2005: “Thousands of men and women were improperly detained for more than 30 hours each in a crowded county jail booking room because a sheriff’s deputy never moved his computer scroll bar, court records show.
“‘I think that -if I may impose on court and counsel’s experience, sometimes when the information presented is wider than the screen, there’s a little slide bar at the bottom of the computer,’ Assistant Corporation Counsel John Schapekahm told Circuit Judge Clare Fiorenza. “He never pushed the slide bar apparently.”
While that sounds like a case of negligence, the problem of improper detention of inmates, “which violated a 2001 consent decree, occurred over a 1 1/2-year period of Clarke’s tenure,” Schuldt writes. “There were more than 13,000 such violations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. and Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc.”
Clarke was first appointed Sheriff in 2002. The county board ended Clarke’s oversight of the House of Correction in 2013, which led to improvements there, former Benedict Center director Kit Murphy McNally argued. Clarke is now under consideration for a position in the administration of incoming President Donald Trump.