Friday, January 16, 2009

David Clarke: Bad Sheriff, Worse Warden

In November, over at folkbum's, I wrote about the life and death of Alexander Orlowski, an inmate that died while at the House of Correction. I also wrote about some of the aftermath that came from Alexander's death. In that post, I noted that County Board Supervisor Mark Borkowski had some concerns about what kind of job Sheriff David Clarke would do as he took over the House of Correction:
Borkowski told me that while he has no confidence in the current administration, he is not so sure that Clarke will actually improve things. He described the switch as being a panacea to the HOC's woes, but thinks it could turn out to be more of a placebo.

Borkowski goes on to point out that there might be some strife at the HOC between the COs and the Sheriff. One must concur when they think of all the lawsuits that were filed by the deputies' union. Clarke lost almost every one of them to boot.
Supervisor Borkowski was absolutely correct to have reservations about adding HOC to Clarke's fiefdom.

After all, Clarke has shown himself to be a rather poor example of a law enforcement officer, what with him helping drunk drivers out of snowbanks, and not even realizing they were drunk, despite the open intoxicants in the car. Furthermore, Clarke proved himself unable to properly run the Milwaukee County Jail.

We also had a pretty good indicator a couple of weeks ago, when the story broke that Clarke was willing to sacrifice safety and security to preserve a couple of bucks. More on this later.

I heard a story yesterday of problems already coming to dangerous levels at HOC. I called Kevin Schoofs, president of Local 567, the union local for correction officers, to see if the stories I had heard were real.

Schoofs told me that Clarke started out on the right foot at the HOC. He immediately issued orders for an increase in security as soon as the County Board gave him control of the HOC. One of the orders was that all inmates had to be escorted anytime they left the dorm. Previously, some inmates were allowed to go to various places, like to the health center or to work in the kitchens without an escort. This gave inmates too much leeway and allowed them the opportunity to cause all sorts of mischief.

The second order from Clarke was to have all non-security staff enter through the front of the building and go through a screening. This cut down greatly on the amount of contraband that was finding its way into the HOC.

But then as soon as the new year started, Clarke went crazy on a power trip, like he did with the deputies.

Anyone that works in correction has to be certified in jailer's training. To be a deputy, you have to go through the same type of training, but to a higher degree of intensity and knowledge. Clarke apparently forgot the most basic tenets of the training. Those tenets are basically you can do almost anything you want, but the things that you never, ever do is mess with the inmate's food, recreation, visits and mail. If you deprive the inmates any one or combination of these things, without a good cause, you are only setting yourself up to have to deal with a riot.

Inmates sit around most of the day, bored out of their skulls. The only things they really have to look forward to, besides their release dates, are meals, chances for contact with the outside world and a chance to work of some energy.

It didn't take Clarke to screw all of these things up.

This past Saturday, there were two near riots, both surrounding the food. In an effort to save money, Clarke told Aramark, the private company that Walker sold the food services to, to cut back on the servings and to trim corners wherever possible.

Saturday morning, the inmates were given a cold breakfast which consists of one carton of milk, one bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit. The milk they served on Saturday was several days past the expiration date. The inmates became understandably upset and started to pour the milk all over the floor of the dining hall. To make matters worse, it was also reported that the hard boiled eggs were anything but. The officer that was working said that the whites of some of the eggs were still translucent.

Saturday night led to more problems.

Most lunches and suppers at HOC consist of the same cold meal, a sandwich made with generic meat, a piece of fruit and watered down iced tea of some sort of Kool Aid. Once every three days or so, the inmates were treated to a warm lunch that consisted of usually a slice of turkey, mashed potatoes, a vegetable and even sometimes a small piece of cake. Clarke ordered the portions reduced to save money.

The resulting mayhem was so severe that the CO that was monitoring the dining hall, felt it necessary to leave the room and lock the inmates in until enough help arrived. The CO that did this is a well-seasoned officer who had been working there before I started there in 2001. This officer knew his job very well. If he felt that the situation was so dangerous that he had to leave the room, you can safely bet that things were really, really bad.

The staffing cuts mentioned earlier are also making things more dangerous. Sometimes, there are not enough officers available to deal with the incident. One such time was just last week when three separate fights broke out at the same time in one dorm. The officer working that dorm called for assistance on the radio, but when the officers finally were able to respond, there wasn't enough officers to deal with that many combatants. The officers were forced to wait several minutes until enough security showed up. (In the end they ended up putting 11 people in isolation and one was taken to the health center to have his wounds attended to before putting him in isolation.

On another occasion there was only one sergeant to deal with all 30 dorms.

Furthermore, in an effort to save money, if an officer is on vacation or calls in sick, Clarke will not allow someone else to come in to fill that spot. He pulls other officers off of their posts to cover the empty assignment. Due to this policy, the inmates are no longer getting recreation to burn off their energy. The mail is delivered only sporadically. Visitations with their families or with their lawyers are often delayed or postponed altogether because there is no officer to escort them.

Schoofs found out that Clarke's reasoning for cutting back on over time isn't necessarily to save money. It is because the officers' union won a complaint that was filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. The management of HOC, under Ron Malone, the previous superintendent, would frequently deny officers a chance to take their CTO (compensatory time off - or accrued overtime). They did this to try to save on overtime, but the U.S. Department of Labor pointed out that this was illegal. The federal law clearly states that the officers are to be allowed to take there CTO, even if it means overtime is generated. I'm sure it's purely coincidental, but Clarke's new rules came out almost immediately after the ruling came down.

By cutting staff, Clarke is trying to avoid this ruling, despite the fact that he is jeopardizing security and safety.

Schoofs said that he knows that they will have a long way to go to deal with Clarke. By having the sergeants fill in for COs, Clarke is violating civil service codes and the labor contract. Furthermore, as the union goes through the long process of grievance hearing after grievance hearing, Clarke will continue to issues orders like this, regardless of the consequences.

As we have seen with his interactions with the Sheriff Deputies Association, Clarke will not pay attention until he finds himself in court. And of course, all this dinking around and the court proceedings are not free. And this doesn't go into all the costs related to workman's comp, and the inevitable lawsuits as inmates and officers are hurt, due to Clarke's short-sightedness and overinflated ego.

In other words, to save a little money here and there, it is going to cost the County tax payers a lot more later. Meanwhile, more officers are going to get hurt and more money will be spent after all on the overtime that Clarke is trying to avoid.

And then there is the money that will have to be spent hiring a new superintendent and other administrative staff personnel when the County Board takes the HOC away from Clarke due to his incompetence.

I still believe that the merger of HOC and the Sheriff's Office is a good idea. It should save money and streamline the whole justice system. Unfortunately, the timing of it just doesn't make it work while we have someone like Clarke trying to run the show. This is simply because he just doesn't have a clue on what he is doing.


  1. The widdle prisoners are unhappy with milk?

    They can't play nice together?

    They don't get to play outside?

    Jeez, that's tough.

  2. Listen to the whiner who has to do his job. It is exactly this type of BS that costs taxpayers more than it should. So we have this DOC person who plans time off every week he works extra hours to sit his lazy butt at home and collect overtime. Isnt that the real issue here. And we as a taxpayer are supposed to care. R.Reagan was the only leader to do the right thing, fire the entire union and start all over. I think this would work here, and control costs, and rid the system of lazy whiners.

  3. Yes, it is tough when the widdle prisoners are unhappy with their expired milk. You as a society along with the law makers have imposed standards to the treatment of prisoners. I have to abide by that or you will fund the lawsuits.
    DOC 309.23 Food. (1) The department shall provide nutritious
    and quality food for all inmates. Menus shall satisfy generally
    accepted nutritional standards. The sanitation requirements
    set by the warden at each institution shall be in writing and shall
    also be satisfied.
    DOC 306.03 Security policy. Primary security objectives
    of the department are to protect the public, staff, and inmates
    and to afford inmates the opportunity to participate in correctional
    activities in a safe setting.
    DOC 306.04 Responsibility of employees. Every employee
    of the department is responsible for the safe custody of the
    inmates confined in the institutions.
    Yes, it is tough when they can't play outside or get along. Again you will fund the lawsuits because by law I am required to see to their safety and access to activities. Rules that again society has put forth.

  4. You know even if you are in jail or Huber or Prison you still deserve to be treated like a human being it is your given right by your founding fathers. The way the HOC is being run is ridicules c/o's have a power trip you don't get the medical you need all they want to do is shove pills down your throat and they mess with you lively hood. In proper training for a c/o you are a teacher a councilor a listener and rehabilitation. Not every one is a murder or child molester, But just because you have a plastic badge does not give you the authority to make someone fail. Read all the statues you want Inmates do get rec.and should be served decent food and how about you drink that spoiled milk.Don't ever act like you know how it is or how bad until you have worked as a correctional officer and also been a Huber inmate. Not all are hardened criminals just had some bad decisions and NO one deserves to be treated like David Clarke is doing things. This is my freedom of speech if you don't like it not my problem. DON'T TREAD ON ME!!!

  5. Just so everyone understands..most of the inmates at hoc are not felons and are there on PO holds..these are not hardened criminals, and are there because if misdemenors. They deserve to be fed the correct number of calories a day, and to receive programs for rehabilitation. The main injustice is that the serious offenders in prison get treated workds better..with better food, actual visit with lived ones, and better programs. tje inmates at hic see no sunlight, lose tons of weight, have to see their families on a video screen, and share a dorm with seventy people...many don't belong there and are waiting for revocation hearings because the probation officer doesn't like them or barely knows them. Clarke is a tyrant, who needs to be ousted. That place must be addressed immediately.