Citizens have demanded an explanation for deaths at the Milwaukee County Jail, where six people have died over the past 14 months as city and county leaders, including the county executive, mayor, and sheriff, have changed, the Wisconsin Examiner reports. The Milwaukee County Sheriff has blamed the deaths on staffing shortages and lack of funding. Critics point out that other facilities with staffing shortages aren’t seeing similar problems. One of the facilities with an improved record is Milwaukee County’s Community Reintegration Center (CRC). The facility, formerly known as the House of Corrections, has established new programs for its residents and avoids overcrowding. An inspection of the center by the Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2022 noted several new programs, the hiring of additional staff, and other operational changes that have fostered a more positive environment. After 21-year-old Brieon Green was found dead in his cell during the summer of 2021, his family joined activists in pushing for transparency from the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Members of the deceased families have joined a growing coalition demanding that something change at the jail.
County Supervisor Ryan Clancy, one of the MCSO’s most vocal critics among elected officials, sees a stark difference between the CRC and the jail. “Every time we propose a change which the data says will make conditions better both for the people in our care ... and which will aid re-entry and reduce crimes in the future, the sheriff’s office opposes it,” Clancy says. “They’ve blocked, or tried to block, free calls, free video calls, resuming visitation, payments for labor, the breaking up of Aramark’s food monopoly, and any suggestion that they advocate for solutions that incarcerate fewer people to begin with... Sheriff Denita Ball deflected responsibility for the lack of free video calling, restrictions on visitation, and other reported problems back to the county board. The sheriff said that if the board wants any of those changes and more, the board would need to fund those initiatives. While funding increases for the agency have been approved in the past, troubling reports from inside the jail haven’t ceased.