WEST ALLIS -- A teenage girl says she was harassed on Monday, August 7th by a group of inmates cleaning up overnight at the Wisconsin State Fair. The girl was in at 3:00 a.m. to set up for her agriculture competition when it happened.
The girl, who is 17 years old, was at the fair early with her family to set up their stall for the Junior Beef show. When she went over to the Coliseum to use the bathroom, she went from being stressed out to scared.
For Kim Jones, early mornings spent setting up at State Fair Park have long been part of her life.
"My husband and I have shown here at the Wisconsin State Fair since we were little kids too," said Jones.
Now with six kids of her own, the Lafayette County family arrived early Monday morning, like so many other Junior Beef families. It's what you have to do in order to get a spot and be ready for when the barn opens at 7:00 a.m.
"We would prefer to not have to come in the middle of the night, just because not only safety concerns, but then you're tired the entire week," said Jones.
Jones said she doesn't know the family involved in the incident early Monday morning.
The teen and her father talked to FOX6 but asked not to be recorded. The teen, a 17-year-old from the south central part of the state, said around 5:00 a.m., she went over to use the bathroom at the Coliseum. On the way, she saw a cleaning crew and the men began harassing her, asking her for her name and what she was doing.
She said a State Fair police officer saw what was going on, went into the bathroom and escorted her back to the barn. State Fair officials confirmed 26 Milwaukee County inmates were cleaning the Coliseum at the time.
A statement was released from the Wisconsin State Fair on the incident:
"A 17-year-old female was walking past the Milwaukee County House of Correction (HOC) inmates who were on a work assignment at the west end of the coliseum. One or two of the inmates asked her what her name was and where she was going. Two inmates walked a short distance behind her as she went to the women’s restroom inside the west side of the Coliseum. The female said she felt uncomfortable, but none of the inmates made physical contact with her.
A State Fair Park Public Safety Officer (PSO) saw the female walking from the barn and saw the inmates walking toward her, but could not hear what they were saying. The PSO went into the restroom and escorted the girl back to the barn. The PSO said no comments were made by the inmates as they walked back to the barn.
Two HOC guards were assigned to that area for overnight cleaning and were in the Coliseum at the time. A group of 26 inmates were assigned to clean the Coliseum from east to west, and the guards were following the inmates as they cleaned. All inmates present were aware of the two guards.
The inmates are low-risk Huber inmates who can be released into the community in civilian clothes to work. The inmates who work at the fair are not in civilian clothing due to the dirty job assignment – they are issued HOC clothing for this job. The HOC transports the inmates back and forth and assigns guards to ensure supervision during the inmate work assignments. The HOC is looking into which inmate(s) asked the girl the questions as to her name and where she was going, because this is a violation of their work assignment rules. The police department investigated this incident and found no violation of any criminal law or administrative code. It is our understanding that this inmate program has been instituted for a number of years at other locations, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo and Summerfest, but you would need to contact those facilities directly to confirm whether or not they currently use this program."
Jones said the incident is upsetting -- but it won't stop them from coming back.
"This is our opportunity to showcase what we do and our love for agriculture," said Jones.
The Milwaukee County Executive's Office oversees the Milwaukee County House of Correction. In the past, we've been told people in the program are low-level offenders who also clean up at events like Summerfest and different weekend festivals.
FOX6 News reached out to the county executive's office for a comment on this incident but have yet to hear back.