Monday, September 11, 2006

The JS Clarke endorsement

Sheriff David Clarke failed so badly at one of his core responsibilities that a judge found him in contempt of court. A judge said conditions in the booking room "are unacceptable, if not appalling."

The Journal Sentinel, in endorsing Clarke, said only this about that:
Clarke has liabilities. Continued crowding at the County Jail has put the county in contempt of court...Clarke must get a better handle on the crowding problem.

The Journal Sentinel didn't do anywhere near an adequate job describing just how badly Clarke screwed up the jail. It was a nightmare for those held in the booking room for days, not allowed to lay down. Maybe "nightmare" is the wrong word, since that implies people would actually be allowed to sleep.

The ACLU and the Legal Aid Society took Clarke and the county to court when they learned just how bad the situation was.

Judge Clare Fiorenza, in making the contempt finding, noted that testimony in the case included descriptions of "overly crowded conditions, inmates who were forced to sit or sleep on the floor next to urinals, inmates who had to sit up for hours and hours, lack of hygiene, unsanitary conditions, inmates who were not given pillows or blankets to sleep on, cells that were infested with bugs, cold temperatures, bodily fluids on the floor and bad odors."

"The sheer number of violations, 16,662, is staggering," Fiorenza wrote, adding: "Although Milwaukee County contends that it was unaware of the extent of the problem, it is beyond this Court's comprehension how over 16,000 violations of the consent decree could go undetected."

A former inmate testified that
"lab animals get better treatment than inmates in the county jail booking room."

Another said that "the floor was always a mess from urine and toilet paper around the toilet and trash from uneaten sandwiches on the floor. It was disgusting, aggravating, unsanitary, and reminded me of drawings I have seen of slave ships with slave packed as close together as they could be with no room to move."

And another said: "I was shocked that we were expected to stay awake for several days without the ability to shower, brush our teeth or change our undergarments."

Inmates testified that calls for help went unanswered, and that important medications were withheld.

Says the Journal Sentinel: Still, we like Clarke's willingness to try new things.

Well, hell's bells -- the Marquis de Sade liked to try new things, too. Does that mean the JS editorial board would endorse him as a sex therapist?


Anonymous said...

If they don't like the conditions, maybe they should try to stay out of the County Jail...

Are you suggesting you don't like Clarke because the inmates are uncomfortable? Yeah, that will help solve all that ails Milwaukee - oomfortable criminals.

Gretchen Schuldt said...

Most people in the jail generally haven't been covicted of anything, and many, many are never even charged with anything.

Jail overcrowding increases tensions among inmates and staff. That increases danger to both inmates and staff.

Do I think sick people in the jail ought to get their medications? Yes, I do. Do I think people held for several days in the jail should have a place to lie down? Yes, I do. Do I think Clarke should be held accountable for upholding his end of a legally-binding consent decree? Yes, I do.

An incompetent sheriff who refuses to take responsibility and subjects people who have been neither convicted nor charged to dehumanizing and degrading conditions, leading to increased risk to his own staff. Yeah, that will help sove all that ails Milwaukee.