Acting Sheriff Schmidt announces major changes to improve Milwaukee County Jail: “A whole different culture”

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- 34,000 people pass through the Milwaukee County Jail each year -- many of them suffering from drug addiction, and others from mental health issues. Milwaukee County Acting Sheriff Richard Schmidt announced Thursday, January 4th major changes he's made to try to make the jail better.

Acting Sheriff Schmidt said he wants the public to know what he is doing to try to curb medical issues and even deaths that have occurred in the jail.

"There's a whole different, I'm going to say culture within our jail right now," said Schmidt.

Schmidt said in the past 4 months, he's tackled the problems in the Milwaukee County Jail after investigations into several inmate deaths. In some cases, jail staff have been cleared, but not all.

Milwaukee County Jail

The acting sheriff said he put in new jail leadership, and as of Wednesday, a captain was assigned to be a wellness officer.

"This individual will go from cell to cell, talking to every inmate in our most vulnerable and fragile units, including the discipline unit, the medical units and the mental health unit," Schmidt said.

On any given day, the jail has more than 900 inmates. The acting sheriff said 200 have mental health issues, another 200 have medical issues, and others come in with opioid addictions. $16 million was spent on inmate healthcare last year. Schmidt said now every inmate must be medically cleared before entering the jail.

Milwaukee County Jail

"Those who are strong on crime say they are inmates, who cares? I care. I care because I'm the sheriff of Milwaukee County. These are pretrial inmates and everyone is innocent until proven guilty," Schmidt said.

The acting sheriff said the jail was inspected by a court-appointed investigator and in December 2017, there were no violations.

As for several pending deaths still under investigation, the sheriff said he can't comment about those due to legal challenges.