WJI is reposting reporting from the old storyhill.net website and affidavits from County Jail inmates unfortunate enough to be booked during Sheriff David Clarke's tenure to show just what kind of malfeasance the public can expect if President-elect Donald Trump gives Clarke a federal job.
The affidavits were part of a court case alleging thousands of men and women were improperly detained in the jail under excessive lengths of time, in violation of a 2001 consent decree.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Clare Fiorenza eventually found the county in contempt of court for the violations.
County says 16,000 consent decree violations shouldn't count
Sept. 2, 2005 -- The Sheriff's Department substantially complied with a legally-binding consent decree governing jail conditions despite more than 16,000 violations of one of the decree's provisions, lawyers for the county say.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee Inc. said a key apect of the county's effort to control the jail population -- moving pre-trial inmates to the House of Correction -- "is not a solution...in the short run or the long run."
"Of immediate concern is whether jail inmates transferred to the HOC are at risk of being held in overcrowded and unsafe conditions at the House of Correction," attorney Peter Koneazny wrote.
The Sheriff's Department, over a two-year period, held more than 16,000 inmates more than 30 hours in the jail’s booking room in violation of the consent decree. The practice ended in April 2004, shortly after the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. uncovered it.
Legal Aid and the ACLU are seeking to have the Sheriff's Department held in contempt for the violations.
The county argues since it ended the violations, it cannot be ordered to pay damages for the violations that did occur.
"While this Court certainly has inherent contempt powers, the Legislature has reasonably regulated the use of those powers to preclude the imposition of a remedial sanction such as money damages in a situation such as the case at bar, where the allegedly comtemptuous conduct ended at least some 15 months ago," the county said in Circuit Court filings.
The county also said it did not believe the Sheriff's Department was in contempt, as the ACLU and Legal Aid allege.
The Sheriff's Department did what it could to control overall inmate population, the county said. Crowding throughout the jail contributed to the long booking room stays because there was no place available to assign people in booking.
Sheriff David Clarke, for example, tried to control crowding by agreeing in March 2004 to hold at the jail a maximum of 125 state inmates accused of violating probation or parole, the county lawyers say.
Clarke, however, was not required to accept any of those inmates, and the county was silent on why housing 125 inmates at the jail that didn't have to be there helped control the facility's population.
Clarke also agreed, in January 2004, to lease to the state up to 64 beds for state inmates nearing the end of their prison sentences. The county did not even mention that agreement in its response.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Sign up for the free WJI newsletter.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin