Before Public Safety Committee, Milwaukee County’s chief judge questioned on bail for young offenders

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County's chief judge was in the hot seat Monday, June 27th during a special meeting of the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety meeting -- the fifth such meeting to discuss crime in Milwaukee.

As you might imagine, questions were centered around whether county judges are doing enough to keep dangerous people off the street.

Aldermen took turns asking questions for nearly three hours. Among those -- why isn't there real-time GPS monitoring for people on county supervision, and how does someone awaiting trial for a carjacking post bail with just his signature?

Maxine White

Maxine White

"Come and see us is my message," Maxine White said.

Milwaukee County's chief judge extended the invitation to anyone curious about the county's court system.

"There is a huge concern about just what`s happening with our young people, that they`re not being held accountable for their criminal activity," Alderman Bob Donovan said.

Alderman Bob Donovan

Alderman Bob Donovan

Damonta Goode

Damonta Goode

Aldermen criticized that system Monday -- using 17-year-old Damonta Goode as an example.

Goode was arrested in January for his alleged role in an armed carjacking. In May, he was able to post a signature bond.

On June 12, Goode was one of three teenagers arrested after a police chase led to a crash at 36th and Villard. Police say Goode was riding in a stolen pickup truck with two guns inside.

36th and Villard

36th and Villard

36th and Villard

36th and Villard

36th and Villard

36th and Villard

White declined to comment on individual, ongoing cases, but explained what judges should consider when setting bail.

"Who the person is. Have they been in the system before? Are there any risk factors that we`ve been taught to look for? So -- what`s a good amount to set for a person his age that`s likely to be reasonable," White said.

As for concerns about GPS monitoring, White said there's a gap.

GPS monitoring

GPS monitoring

"The GPS monitoring device is a device that`s monitored by at-work employees during the workday. I would say 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at night," White said.

White said she's willing to work with other officials to help close those gaps and also take a deeper dive into recent bail decisions.

"I would have to look to see if there`s a belief that there`s low bail versus high bail. We need to take a look at the data and see," White said.

Placement concerns

White said, while they do so in serious cases, judges are hesitant to send juvenile offenders to Lincoln Hills in Irma. The state-run facility is currently the subject of an investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect. On top of that, White said judges worry about young offenders not getting the programming that could help them stay out of trouble. She said nearly two-thirds of Milwaukee juveniles come back and re-offend.

"Within three years of the release of those kids back to this county, they will (re-offend) so they have a 63% failure rate," White said, "When I visited that place, we don’t have the Wauwatosa School District teaching kids up there, we don’t have mental health issues being treated up there. If you come back to Milwaukee with one credit of high school, what do we expect we’ve created?"

White noted that the 120-bed juvenile detention center has reached capacity numerous times already this year. Last week, Sheriff Clarke recommended putting some serious offenders in the adult House of Correction, where there are currently five unused dorms totaling 280 vacant beds.

White said it's especially important that juveniles receive an education and, when needed, mental health treatment to make them less likely to re-offend as adults.

Feeling feisty

At one point in the meeting, Alderman Mark Borkowski challenged White, saying the testimony was making him wonder if some judges feel as if they're beyond criticism.

"Judge, you can’t tell me that things are working ‘cause they’re not," Borkowski said, "I’m not going to accept that. We all have to do better."

White responded by saying the handling of such cases is not as simple as some officials may believe. She noted that judges cannot consider previous arrests if charges were never filed against the offender in that case.

"If we started acting as if it was a 'Judge Judy' show and all you had to do was show up and give us a few things and came out in a result, it’s a process," White said.

White did concede that more could be done to improve communication between the county offices and police.

"Maybe our systems aren’t joined well enough so we can’t see what everyone is doing," White said, "Maybe we can do better at that so that the cop on the street can see where Child A has been and whether they’re under supervision now and need to be corrected. It’s a difficult problem. It’s not easy. But it’s solvable if we work together."

MPD spokesman Sgt. Tim Gauerke said police are still working with county juvenile court officials "to improve information sharing and allow MPD to gain access to GPS data."

Up next

The next special meeting before the Public Safety Committee will involve representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. Monday's meeting was the fifth of seven scheduled sessions.

17 comments

    • sad but true

      Agreed she needs to be removed for someone that will do the job and not make lame excuses. Problem is, as soon as you try and remove her, she and the whole inner city will cry racism.

  • unicorns and rainbows

    i had no idea that the county had a Chief Judge but now that I have read Maxine White’s comments it all makes sense.

  • Don't blame me...I just work here

    Judge Judy would be preferable to this ineffective group. If you can’t do the job…you must leave. The hard working people of the greater Milwaukee area deserve a greater quality of life. Instead, we have people on the bench who have whimsical ideas regarding a “community” fix. The bottom line is that there is no punishment for these children and no reason for these kids to stop stealing cars.

  • Sheila Moyet

    These teens are repeat offenders because our society keeps making excuses for these thugs and letting them off easy. These thugs think it’s all a joke. Innocent people are being victimized because leaders like Maxine White wants to keep taking it easy on these dirt bags.

  • Respect

    The whole court system is messed up! I think the judges should know on there computer right in front of them when where and if the felons were arrested and for what also the date’s of the crimes and if they are on a electronic device. There is just no room available in juvie for these gun toting underage felons so they let them go and kill another person, just disgusting!

  • YO

    Time for some gps thermite neck collar devices. Once the felon moves outside the said perimeter, there would be a quick warning beep followed by a decapitating chemical reaction similar to that of lighting a fuse except this would produce temperature that would be unsustainable in terms of pain threshold, in short it would burn off the felons neck. They only drawback would be on the fourth of July it would be hard to distinguish between a waiving sparkler and some felon running down the street momentarily.

  • sparkles

    These judges need to look at the real picture here. This not the first time these scum bags were in court. Let them out on a 10,000.00 signature bond. And while they are out they are committing more crimes. STEALING MORE VEHICALES, CARRYING WEAPONS ECT.. Put the real foot down and do not let them out on bail. Let them sit in jail were they belong until they go to trial. What is even more sick is these offenders are 12,13 14 years old. Where are the parents of these little brats???? Are they also committing the same crimes and teaching their off spring to do the same?

  • speakyourtruth

    So many agencies missed the mark before the court gets involve. The arresting officer, the captain, the DA, the sheriff’s office, maybe a probation officer then the judge. If the officer doesn’t present an iron clad report the case never gets a conviction. If the probation officer doesn’t communicate with the sheriff that the offender is in violation of conditions of parole, like missing court ordered appointments and curfew, then a reoffend is highly probable before the judge can try a yet to be file case. Take a civics course if you’re still confused. Communication between all of the above must be established or improved to close the loop holes.

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