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Sheriffs want to relax new rules regarding strip searches of inmates that require waiting 12 hours

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MILWAUKEE -- Pot, pills, and heroin -- that's what sheriffs say is getting into jails because of a mistake that Wisconsin lawmakers made. Now, the sheriffs want to relax the rules when it comes to strip searching inmates.

Committee meeting on Assembly Bill 340, relating to strip searches, in Madison

Committee meeting on Assembly Bill 340, relating to strip searches, in Madison

Civil rights and public safety clashed in Madison on Thursday, January 14th.

"It's not to violate any rights. It's to protect the inmates," said Ozaukee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.

Sheriffs told lawmakers that they aren't happy with a recent change in state law. It allows them to disrobe and search more people -- but only after waiting 12 hours.

These sheriffs said their holding areas are filling up. One sheriff said he's sending inmates into the general population without searching them.

"Unfortunately we are finding contraband that comes into the jail," said St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts.

In Ozaukee County, the sheriff said inmates got a hold of heroin last year, after an inmate brought it in.

The waiting period for strip searching inmates was a compromise. Those who were going to be booked and released within the 12 hours wouldn't be subject to the search.

What happened in Milwaukee is a concern for some lawmakers. The city just paid $5 million to settle a strip search lawsuit.

"We saw what happened in Milwaukee in District 5, so anytime this conversation arises, there's going to be a lot of pause. It would be a compromise to a compromise. Don't know what that looks like, know know how we get there," said Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee).

Ozuakee County's sheriff said this isn't about an abuse of power, and he won't be searching every last person who gets arrested.

"It's needless. If we're not going to move them to general population where they'll be exposed to someone else, there's no need to strip search them," the Ozaukee County sheriff said.

The bill's biggest supporter tells FOX6 News he expects to get a vote in committee within a couple weeks.

CLICK HERE to read Assembly Bill 340.

2015 Assembly Bill 340

2015 Assembly Bill 340

1 Comment

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