Friday, April 5, 2013

Was Marathon County Meltdown Preventable?

Earlier this week, I reported about a horrific incident which occurred in the Marathon County Jail.  Correction Officer Julie Christensen was brutally attacked and knocked unconscious by an inmate.

It was reported that county officials, namely Marathon County Administrator Brad
Karger, had a report in their hands which warned them that the jail was severely overcrowded and dangerously understaffed.

The next day, we learned that the intercom system was broken.

Karger and jail authorities are denying that any of these issues were factors in the incident, even though it's obvious that they were very much factors.

And all of these factors stem from the fact that Karger is an acolyte of austerity and puts money before the safety of his employees.

Karger admitted as such when he confessed that they did have the money at hand for increasing the staffing levels at the jail:
Reports were released six years ago that the jail was understaffed.

The sheriff’s department says they have some money to re-staff their faculty.

"If there are improvements that are needed, for safety in the jail, we’ll have to reprioritize," said Marathon County Administrator, Brad Karger.

"They do less on the lower priority items. So the answer is yes, but there’s not just a pot of money sitting there unallocated."
As equally outrageous is the way that the authorities were trying to spin the facts to make themselves look better, such as when they claimed that they were training the COs to use tasers:
But what if inmates get their hands on a taser? That was a concern, but Marathon County officials say officers are being trained on what to do if that happens and how to prevent it.

"We need to take this very seriously working in the correctional facility," Chief Deputy Parks said.

Sheriff's officials hope this step will improve safety and keep attacks, like the one last week, from ever happening.
What they aren't telling the public is that the officers were already trained to use the tasers and had been asking for them for a long time before the incident happened.

Again, it leads straight back to Karger's love of austerity and not giving two damns about the safety of his own people.

And it's not just the corrections officers that Karger is willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Almighty Dollars.

Cog Dis has learned that there are only two security officers to cover five court rooms, all of which could be having hearings at any given time. And as the incident shows, these inmates are not being held for jaywalking or throwing candy wrappers on the ground. These are violent people with nothing to gain by behaving themselves, thanks to Scott Walker's Act 28, which removes any chance for early release for good behavior. Any requests to increase staffing was consistently met with denial on the excuse that it was "too much spending."

Karger has created the perfect conditions for tragedy to happen and that is exactly what has occurred.

Sadly, Karger will probably not be held accountable for his role in this tragedy, with the possible exception of a lawsuit by the injured officer and her family.

However, I hope that the public is paying attention and realizing that it's their safety as much as that of the corrections officers which are being put at risk and that both will start holding Karger's feet to the fire until the situation is rectified.

I would remind the gentle reader that a trust fund in the name of Correction Officer Julie Christensen has been set up in her name at Integrity First Bank, 101 Grand Avenue, Wausau, WI 54403. Their phone number is (715) 845-0900.


  1. And what's the answer? Appoint a panel composed of individuals who have absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what goes on inside a secure facility. See the article at:

    1. I saw that Mark, and just shook my head. It would be interesting to have access to the Wausau Tea Party membership list, to see how many of those "selected" individuals fall under that line.

  2. Here's the list of the five people chosen for the study. I have no idea why they were picked or if it's a good idea, but I will keep an open mind.

    One other solution Marathon County should look at is closing the Juvenile Detention Facility and bringing the corrections officers from there to the jail. We are all trained for both facilities. There is no reason to have a Juvenile Detention Administrator, a Supervisor and ten officers over there to watch five kids. Someone needs to investigate why we need to spend over 100,000 on a Juvenile Administrator and Supervisor along with paying CO's to watch so few juveniles?? Some days they have no kids in the facility.

    It will take a year to train and hire more corrections officers. We need more staff now and closing the Juvenile Detention Faculty would help immediately.

    Former Rothschild Police Chief Bill Schremp, Mount View Care Center administrator Lori Koeppel, Intercity State Bank president Randy Balk, LandArt owner Paul Jones and Daily Herald Media general manager Michael Beck have all been selected to perform the review, Marathon County Chief Deputy Scott Parks said Thursday.

    Jones said he believes each member of the panel will bring fresh perspective to the issues faced by jail staff members.

    "This is a group of objective minds, and I think we all bring something different to the table," Jones said. "Ultimately, I think we all want to see the facility reach a much higher level of safety."

  3. On the topic of court room security, there are only two deputies assigned to cover SIX court rooms. The Jail has One court officer to take inmates to their various hearings. What happens when four inmates have hearings in four different courtrooms at the same time? If you guessed that correction officers are pulled from their assigned duties in the jail to escort inmates and sit in their hearings, you would be right. These actions further deplete Jail staff which is already at dangerously low levels.

    Brad Karger has done nothing to address this issue either and attacks on innocent citizens are apparently not his concern.