Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Selects Auditor For Jail Death Inquiry

Texas-based Creative Corrections will handle inquiry, pending board approval of a contract.

By - May 29th, 2024 04:36 pm
Milwaukee County Jail. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County officials have selected a private firm to audit the Milwaukee County Jail, focusing in particular on in-custody deaths.

Creative Corrections, LLC, based in Beaumont, Texas, will conduct the audit, if a contract is approved by the Milwaukee County Board in June.

The audit is being driven by the county board, which has called for answers and policy solutions after a series of deaths in the Milwaukee County Jail. Between 2022 and 2023, six people died in custody at the jail or in sheriff’s custody at a local hospital.

In 2023, the Milwaukee County Sheriff‘s Office (MCSO) produced a report that identified understaffing as the primary challenge to safe operation of the jail. Supervisors increased pay for corrections officers in the 2024 budget to improve recruitment and staff retention. But many on the board still wanted an investigation of the deaths that have occurred in the jail.

The 2024 budget set aside $250,000 for a third-party audit of the facility. Early this year, the board gave the Audit Division in the Office of the Comptroller the go-ahead to sketch out the audit and select a contractor.

Creative Corrections, a management consultancy, came in with the lowest bid on the project, according to a report by Jennifer Folliard, Director of Audits. The organization also has extensive experience investigating in-custody deaths and evaluating mental health and suicide prevention policies.

Creative Corrections was founded by Percy Pitzer, a former warden with experience working for the federal Bureau of Prisons. The company’s CEO, Stephen Spaulding, is a former Assistant Surgeon General and has more than 20 years of experience in correctional health care and mental health care, according to the firm’s website. He retired from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps having attained the title of Assistant Surgeon General and the rank of Rear Admiral.

Pitzer also started the Pitzer Family Education Foundation, providing scholarships for children of incarcerated people, or those recently released, for higher education. The foundation’s scholarship program, called the Creative Corrections Educational Scholarship, has even provided scholarships for people incarcerated in Milwaukee.

Creative Corrections has conducted more than 100 in-custody death investigations looking at institutional lapses and identifying solutions, according to the Audit Division report, which added, “These investigations often emphasize mental health and suicide prevention.”

Suicide prevention and mental health policies in the jail were of particular interest to county supervisors, and were given special attention in the county’s parameters for the audit.

“As the sheriff of Milwaukee County, whose agency operates the county’s primary pre-trial detention facility, it has always been my position that one death in custody is one too many,” Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball said after the board advanced the idea of a third-party audit. Ball also said the MCSO would cooperate with the audit.

The audit is expected to take less than a year to complete. It will involve “extensive records review, multiple interviews with various individuals involved with jail operations, including county employees and vendors performing work in the jail, justice system leaders and of course conversations with occupants of the facility,” as Folliard has previously explained.

The board will vote on the audit contract in late June.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us