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Well, Mr. Walker, Which Is It?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on April 10, 2010

n an article appearing in the Third Coast Digest, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker was allowed to try to defend his record as county executive.

The article is chock full of inaccuracies, such as when Walker tries to tell us that the transit system is doing just fine.  While not the subject of this post, I would be remiss without pointing out one hilarious line that shows how out of touch Walker really is:

On transit, Walker said he supports MCTS and wants the public to know he has been on a bus. He disputes the idea that he is anti-bus and has raised fares to kill the system.

Oooh, he has been on a bus!  That disproves the fact that without the sales tax bill, the transit system is looking at getting cut by 35%.  But in fairness, I do know of one occasion when Walker was on a bus.  It was when he was trying to get the County Board to buy into his rapid transit bus scheme, but even that turned out to be a fiasco.

But as I said, that is not the point of this article.  The point comes later when Walker said something that I can actually support, at least partially:

He won’t privatize public safety, meaning jail guards and sheriff deputies will remain county employees, but he wants citizens to understand that the county has privatized social services for years.

I was very glad to see that there was something that Walker was willing to leave in the more cost efficient and accountable public sector.  However, I questioned to myself about how much control Walker had over the situation since he gave over control of the House of Corrections to Sheriff David Clarke.

Indeed, my wondering was warranted.  JSOnline reported that the County Board’s Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee could not come to an agreement whether the transportation of inmates, a job done by Sheriff Deputies and jailers, should be privatized:

A Milwaukee County Board panel on Thursday deadlocked on whether to hire a private security company to take over transport of inmates – a job that’s now done by sheriff’s deputies and correctional officers.

The board’s Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee voted 3-3 on hiring G4S Wackenhut Corp. for $5.8 million over three years. That means the latest county privatization issue goes to the full board April 22 to decide.

Safety would be compromised by leaving an important job to personnel not as well trained as officers who now do the job, said Roy Felber, president of the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

“If something happens, God forbid, with one of our inmates being transported by a private company, you know there are going to be a lot of questions asked,” Felber said, raising the specter of an escape.

So the services Walker just said he wasn’t going to privatize are up for privatization.  And both stories appeared on the same day.  This means that Walker was either lying to the reporter at Third Coast Digest, or he does not know what is going on in his own county anymore.  Neither answer makes me feel any better about the future of Milwaukee County under Walker’s administration.

You just don’t know which side of his mouth Walker will speak out of at any given moment.

The privatization of the transportation of inmates is a very bad idea.

I worked at the House of Correction, as a guard, for three and a half years.  At the time of my employment there, Walker had just privatized the food service for HOC and the jail.  It proved to be very unsafe as that the private agency workers not only were not properly trained to supervise the inmates, but would often befriend them and bring in contraband for the inmates.  The same issue would arise if the transportation guards were not properly trained, and given the high turnover rates of employees at private agencies, this could prove to be not only unsafe, but very expensive.

Another concern is that Wackenhut is again the identified agency to take over these duties.  Considering what a poor job Wackenhut has done in providing security on the buses, I would have no confidence in them being able to provide adequate security in the transportation of inmates.

Scott Walker really must stop playing these political games with the public safety, before someone gets hurt or even killed.


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