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Friday, January 25, 2008

Will You Believe Me Now?

by capper

A MUCH OVERDUE UPDATE: Gretchen Schuldt has also posted her views on this matter. It is, as usual, much better written and more concise than my post. (Sorry for the delay, Gretchen.)

Sometimes, I get the feeling that outside of three or four people, as soon as they see my name at the top, they pass over what I write. Other times, not so much.

I know that I've been hitting Walker fast and often, especially in regards to the House of Correction and the myriad of problems that have been occurring there for the past year or so. Maybe I've been overdoing it, but I felt it was a strong concern for the county and the community, so I kept at it. And I am not the only one to have strong concerns about the correctional system in its current condition. Zachary has also been adding his valuable insight to the problems, having had the same work experience there as I did.

Even then, some curmudgeons, like Dad29, would dismiss us as a couple of whiny liberals.

Well, would you believe the feds? In this morning's MSJ, there is an article that outlines a federal report about the conditions of the House of Corrections and the Community Correctional Center. It is, in its entirety, a pretty damning report. Some of the highlights:

Among his key findings:

• Security at the House of Correction "is very bad. The problems are many and they are widespread and deep." However, administrators were oblivious to "glaring security weaknesses." The report excludes specifics to avoid contributing to security breaches at the House, but those details were issued in a confidential side letter to Malone.

• An Aug. 3 inmate escape through a supply closet window was blamed on "chronic failures" and the fault of supervisors rather than correctional officers. The escapee spent over three weeks working to break through a security screen on a window in the closet, creating noise that was ignored. Other inmates tried to warn staff of the impending escape effort, but those warnings were not acted on.

• "Exceptionally deficient" fire safety was listed as the worst problem, and that problem was more pronounced at the work-release center. The aging building at 1004 N. 10th St., with up to 400 inmates on five floors, could quickly go up in flames with stairwells likely engulfed in heat and smoke before upper-floor residents could evacuate. The alarm system there has been broken for years.

• The House lacks tactical capacity to deal with a hostage situation or other crisis.

• The armory at the House was "dirty and badly disorganized." Drawers contained parts as well as years-old unopened equipment still in boxes. The lack of "intermediate force" weapons, such as gas grenades and rubber bullets, leaves the institution without adequate means of dealing with a large inmate disturbance. It has since been cleaned.

The report also throws a harsh light on Walker's ill-advised plan to close the CCC and put the inmates on a GPS monitoring system. The report says that there has been no planning at all for this. Sort of like Bush and his fiasco in Iraq, and we've all seen how well that has worked out for him.

Walker's response to this? He tells HOC Superintendent Ron Malone to fix everything in 90 days or be fired. What a guy. He creates a disaster of epic proportions and tells his underling to clean it up or be fired. That should be the textbook example of poor leadership.

The MSJ article goes on to say that the County Board is finally getting around to do what should have been done months ago, and what Walker still hasn't figured out, or is trying to cover up. They are calling for Malone and Sheriff David Clarke to submit reports with the facts on how all of these things keep happening, comparing our lock ups to those of other similar communities, and how to fix the problems we are having.

To his credit, Malone has expressed a ready willingness to cooperate. Clarke is still trying to figure out if his over-sized ego will let him take a realistic look at his office and its operations.

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