PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Because You Can’t Get Sued Enough

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on December 10, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

Milwaukee County, like many government bodies, gets it’s fair share of lawsuits.  If you watch the schedule for the judiciary committee, there is often recommendations from Corporation Counsel to pay off  a number of claims stemming from things like accidents involving county vehicles, injuries from falls in a county building, etc.

Sometimes, though, the County gets hit with class-action law suits that can have big impacts on the county budget.  Such lawsuits in recent years include the one that caused the state to take over the Income Maintenance Program for failing to meet the needs of citizens, due to staffing cuts by Scott Walker.  Lawsuits are expected regarding the collapse of a facade at the O’Donnell Parking Structure and the horde of problems at the mental health complex.

Apparently, Sheriff David Clarke doesn’t feel that Milwaukee County is facing enough of these lawsuits and is proceeding to start with his boot camp plan for inmates.

Keep in mind that Clarke’s plan eliminated many of the programs that were helping inmates before their release back into the community, includingthings like alcohol and drug counseling, work-training programs, Bible study groups and recreation periods.

Clarke claims that his boot camp will be voluntary, but it seems like it will be so only at first.  He wants to start small but eventually wants to expand it to the entire House of Corrections.  He also claims that there will be physical discipline, but does not specify what the punishment would be for non-compliance by an inmate.

We are not alone in our concern.  Supervisor Gerry Broderick raises similar concerns, according to the article:

Inmates picked for the 90-day training will be low-level offenders who are in decent physical shape and don’t present serious behavior problems, Schmidt said.

Participation by inmates will be voluntary – at least for now, Briggs said. That answer concerned Supervisor Gerry Broderick, who said the county could be financially liable for injuries or other problems if participation is coerced.

“I don’t want to find the county in the position of having to remedy (mistaken) judgments by others,” Broderick said.

That’s not the only area of concern:

Using deputies and correctional officers with little background in counseling could lead to trouble, said Kit McNally, executive director of the Benedict Center, a nonprofit criminal justice agency. The DOTS program envisions small-group counseling sessions that could tap into deep-seated emotional trauma and do more harm than good, McNally said.

“I’m extremely uncomfortable with that,” she said. “You can get at some things that are pretty horrendous” if mishandled by the nonprofessional counseling.

Besides the human concerns of security guards untrained in counseling not being able to handle some of the emotions that will rise from these sessions, there is concern whether it is even legal since one needs to be either licensed or under the supervision of someone who is licensed.

This plan appears to be so poorly thought out, there is a number of possible law suits that could be filed against the County.  Even if the County wins most of these lawsuits, it will cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to defend against them.

The worst part is that, because he is a constitutionally elected official, there is no way to stop Sheriff Clarke from putting tax payers in harm’s way again.


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