Former workers, others speak out about mistreatment at Milwaukee Co. Jail: “People are suffering”

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MILWAUKEE -- Loved ones of inmates and even former jail workers spoke out Monday night, February 27th about mistreatment in the Milwaukee County Jail. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the jail and push for change for inmates suffering from mental illness.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office oversee the Milwaukee County Jail.

Martina Gollin-Graves

Martina Gollin-Graves

"The environment over this time has changed," Martina Gollin-Graves said.

Inmates' loved ones, community members and former jail employees said they want answers and change.

"The bottom line is that people are suffering," Gollin-Graves said.

The Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force and the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin organized this listening session.

Listening session on Milwaukee County Jail

"We get calls from the community -- either people themselves or family or loved ones telling us that their loved ones are experiencing difficulty accessing mental health treatment while they're in the care of the jails, and so that's concerning to us," Gollin-Graves said.

Terrill Thomas, jailed in connection with an April 2016 shooting inside Potawatomi Hotel & Casino was found dead in his cell on April 24th, 2016. This death was ruled homicide by dehydration. He suffered from bipolar disorder and was awaiting psychiatric help at the time of his death.

Terrill Thomas

Terrill Thomas

Four deaths at Milwaukee County Jail in six months in 2016

He was one of four, including a newborn, who died in the jail in 2016 -- within a six-month period.

"Someone you know, you love, they go to jail and you may not see them no more," a resident said.

Milwaukee County Jail

Milwaukee County Jail

When asked for comment on the meeting, the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office released this statement:

"The sheriff said that medical is not run by him but by County Executive Abele, and that it is time you start directing these questions to Abele. The sheriff also said he knows it’s not as sexy to hold Abele’s feet to the fire, and that FOX6 has a political vendetta against him (the sheriff), but that integrity in the media should matter. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #MakeAmericaSafeAgain."

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele issued this statement:

"As the sheriff has said repeatedly, he is in charge of the County Jail. That means he's responsible for the care of inmates at the jail. When it comes to functions the county executive does control, we're making significant progress in implementing trauma-informed, evidence-based, patient-centered care. That means better care for the people we serve."

Milwaukee County Jail

Milwaukee County Jail

"It's not about blame. It's about how do we come together as a community? This is a complicated issue," Gollin-Graves said.

FOX6 News asked members of the task force whether Sheriff Clarke was invited to Monday night's meeting. They said he was not, but they said he has been invited to past events.

7 comments

  • Opinion8d

    Unless the jails are going to be given the resources needed to deal with mental health issues, what can they do?!?!? The family doesn’t want to or can’t deal with them, they can’t be ‘committed’, so the police/sheriff/jail end up dealing with them. They are just as much a danger to the jail staff as they are to the public or themselves. This is NOT a role for law enforcement to deal with -treatment needs to be from mental health professionals.

  • jenny S.

    It all starts with the Jail staff Members. Even when you call down there, they are very rude. I have heard stories, and yes these workers treat the inmates like crap. I think they need to clean up the employees and start fresh.

    • GHOST OF CHIEF BRIER

      Probably depends on how they left…..I left a job for a better job and considered myself a former worker. However, at another job I was so bad the boss said leave, now. It left me feeling disgruntled.

  • Seenthisfrombothsides

    This doesn’t just take place in Milwaukee. I worked for Wisconsin Department of Corrections and saw abuse of inmates by correctional officers and other staff who had absolute power over the inmates. They all cover for each other, and if you don’t go along with the DOC’s version of what happened then you are ostracized. I ended up leaving after 14 months because I knew that alone I couldn’t do anything. In the past few years I have had to deal with the Oneida County WI Sheriff’s Department on behalf of my brother. Incidents very similar to this one are taking place in that facility. It continues because the cops will cover each other and the Sheriff will cover for his deputies. Of course, an eyewitness who is also an inmate is “not credible” so getting someone to back up an inmate’s mistreatment is virtually impossible. Unfortunately, it takes people dying before any attention is brought to the matter.

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