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Thursday, November 22, 2007

What's The Story Of These Two Stories? Part II

by capper

As I pointed out in my previous post, there are two stories in this morning's paper that piqued my interest. In the other post, I spoke of some seeming inconsistencies in the articles. Now, I would like to point out the ramifications of the articles.

I have already commented on then three, now four, correctional officers that have been targeted by Scott Walker as scapegoats for an escaped inmate who killed someone. The officers that have been charged have defended themselves by stating that there was no incompetence or lack of discipline, but they were following established protocol and are working under severe conditions due to the extreme understaffing at HOC and CCC. It should also be noted that the union has also raised concerns about the conditions at CCC, but these concerns were always ignored. Walker dismissed these reasons and the officers are suspended without pay until they go before a panel of Walker appointees, who will most likely fire them arbitrarily.

As a disclaimer, I would point out that I personally knew and worked with three of the four officers that have been suspended so far. I believe them to be honest and dedicated officers.

Now for the two articles from today's paper.

One deals with another inmate that escaped from CCC and was arrested by a sheriff's deputy. Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke criticized CCC and HOC for allowing this inmate to have work release privileges in the first place, given his felony record. For the record, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with Clarke.

It would make sense that the officers that are remaining at HOC and CCC are going to be busting their butts to toe the line while they know that the public and Walker is going to be scrutinizing them more closely for a while. This is just human nature. (Oh, I know, some on the right will automatically figure it's just another case of inept county workers, but those same people tend to not to want to show a lot of thought before opening their mouths anyway.) What this would indicate is that there is something systematically wrong with the program to have these many escapes.

The second article discusses the fact that inmates are allowed to stay up until 3:30 a.m. on holidays and weekends. It was this way when I worked there years ago, and that is when many fights would happen. I thought it was the norm across the state, until I read the article. The article points out that the state norm is much earlier, at either 10 or 11 p.m.

The article also points out that the union tried to fight this late night policy and it was rebuffed:

(President of the correctional officers union Kevin) Schoofs filed a grievance last summer over the practice, saying House of Correction and work-release inmates should have mandatory bedtimes of no later than 10 p.m. The complaint was dismissed by the department managers, who called the late weekend and holiday hours a useful motivational tool.

The same as with the situation at CCC. But there's more:

Assistant Superintendent Willie Brisco said the late weekend hours practice goes back many years and probably has its roots in the days of the old county workhouse.
County officials apparently feel that workers are not supposed to follow established practice, but they can use it for their own defense. This makes them almost hypocritical enough for Jay's Thanksgiving Parade.

And as far as the leadership of these facilities, well, here is what the articles say about Superintendent Ron Malone, in the article about the escaped convict:

Ron Malone, superintendent of the work-release center, couldn’t be reached.

and in the late nights article:

Ron Malone, superintendent of the House of Correction and the work-release center at 1004 N. 10th St., declined to comment, saying he wasn't familiar with inmate hours.
So the superintendent is either missing in action or doesn't know what is going on in his own facilities? And yet they blame the workers, who are trying to do the best that they can, with what they have to work with, which isn't much.

I would hope that Scott Walker, who has been silent during these new events, will now stop doing the politically convenient, but dishonest thing. After all, even the internal investigator couldn't state that she comprehensively investigated the matter due to the arbitrary deadline put forth by Walker. I would hope that he recognizes the systematic flaws created by poor administration and understaffing, and address those issues in a responsible manner, and reinstate the fired officers that he has scapegoated, with back pay and an apology.

But I won't hold my breath for him to do it.

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