Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board Approves Jail Probe, Opposes Brewers Subsidy

Plus: Board sends abortion proposal to attorney's for additional review

By - May 25th, 2023 08:17 pm
Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

After four inmates died in less than a year at the Milwaukee County Jail, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors is rolling up its sleeves and requesting a significant amount of information from the Milwaukee County Sheriff‘s Office (MCSO) about the facility.

The board formally requested a series of reports and records from the MCSO related to the department’s organizational structure, policies within the jail, suicide prevention efforts in the facility, transparency and more.

The resolution was sponsored by supervisors Felesia Martin and Ryan Clancy.

“One death is too many; four deaths is egregious and immoral,” Martin said. “And we cannot continue to operate this way.”

The reports will are scheduled to be returned to the board in July, and Martin urged her colleagues to treat the coming work with respect and not to use the lives of people that died, or their families as a to score political points. “Those were actual beings that are no longer here to share a smile, or even a tear with their families,” she said.

“And each of us will continue to press and work with the sheriff’s department to be more transparent, and to make certain that our employees are doing their jobs and doing it at full capacity, and they’re doing it well,” Martin said. “But we also want to help them to recruit so that we can potentially eliminate these types of incidences.”

Martin said MCSO is “grossly understaffed” and that she wasn’t “making any excuses” for the department. “But we also want to give a clear and accurate picture of what is happening in our in our facilities.”

The conditions in the jail are “horrific” and “shameful” said Clancy. “And all of this resolution does, is ask nicely for the sheriff to give us information which should already be publicly available.”

“We’ve had four deaths in a nine-month span in Milwaukee County Jail. It is unacceptable,” Clancy said. “I hope that you are upset. And I hope that you will channel that emotion into actually doing something today and then when that report comes back, asking actual questions about it and demanding actual change so that we do not have another death in custody at the jail.”

The family of Cilivea Thyrion attended the board meeting Thursday. Clancy noted that Thyrion’s mother provided emotional testimony on the resolution while it was in committee, “I hope that it felt like a punch in the gut. I hope that you felt the shame and the guilt that I did when I heard it.”

Read Urban Milwaukee’s past coverage for more information.

County Attorney’s Will Review Abortion Fund Proposal

Milwaukee County’s Office of Corporation Counsel has been asked to review a proposal to create a $30,000 travel fund for abortion procedures. If approved, county employees that have to travel out of state to seek an abortion could seek reimbursement for travel costs up to $1,849.

The proposal was rejected by supervisors at the committee level after the county’s attorneys said the resolution was likely illegal and unlikely to withstand a challenge in court. Additionally, some supervisors pointed to ongoing negotiations regarding additional funding for Milwaukee County occurring with the Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature and urged their colleagues not to support something that would jeopardize the county’s negotiating position.

Those same arguments were made at the full board, and after the proposal failed to secure enough votes even to be sent back to committee, Clancy, its sponsor, moved to have it sent to corporation counsel for review.

That motion only required a minority of the board and succeeded on an 8-9 vote, keeping the resolution alive. Supervisors Deanna Alexander, Willie Johnson, Jr., Patti Logsdon, Martin, Steven Shea, Tony Staskunas, Liz Sumner, Steve Taylor and Kathleen Vincent voted against sending it to the Office of Corporation Counsel. Sup. Juan Miguel Martinez, a co-sponsor of the resolution was not at the meeting.

Read Urban Milwaukee’s past coverage for more information.

Board Unanimously Rejects Using County Funds for American Family Field

The board unanimously approved a resolution, sponsored by Taylor, opposing the use of county funds for any future renovations at American Family Field.

Taylor said the legislation is responding to state-level discussions about a public subsidy to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee. Gov. Tony Evers proposed using $290 million from the state’s $7 billion budget surplus for stadium improvements in exchange for keeping the Brewers in Milwaukee through 2043. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Republican-controlled legislature will not support Evers’ proposal and suggested a deal like the one that subsidized the Milwaukee Bucks‘ arena, Fiserv Forum, be struck. That deal has cost Milwaukee County $4 million a year since 2016, and will continue to do so until 2036.

Taylor pointed to Marc Lasry‘s recent sale of his share in the Bucks, noting that he has been enriched by a deal that required significant taxpayer funding to get off the ground.  Taylor noted the $4 million in money the county loses every year to the deal would be better spent on “essential services such as parks, public safety, senior services, transit, and improving our roadways.”

Read Urban Milwaukee’s past coverage.

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2 thoughts on “MKE County: Board Approves Jail Probe, Opposes Brewers Subsidy”

  1. tornado75 says:

    i volunteer at the jail and there is programming happening at the jail that is not “horrific’ and ‘shameful’. some of those programs are G.E.D preparation, literacy classes, library services (books and magazines provided and kept up), A.A meetings and not my favorite programming but wanted by occupants—an array of religious groups providing religious services. voter services—both voter registration and helping occupants to get access to absentee ballots are also provided by volunteers. there is a shortage of staff at the jail as our news outlets have told us and this probably contributed to the terrible loss of life. however, do not say everything at the jail is ‘horrific and shameful’.

  2. sharonmurphy says:

    Since every baseball player that plays at American Family Field (brewers and visitors) pay Wisconsin state income tax on the money earned while playing in Milwaukee, the state should use that money to pay for the renovations that need to be done since the Brewers aren’t going to pay for them. What does the state use that state income tax money for?

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