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'Elephant in the room': Acting Milwaukee sheriff calls for reform after jail deaths

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-04 23:17:44-05

Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt outlined his plans to transform the Milwaukee County Jail Thursday after a number of deaths in the jail.

Since the beginning of 2016 there has been six deaths in the MCJ.

Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke never answered questions about the controversies surrounding the jail, but the new acting sheriff finally spoke about what goes on behind the doors of the jail.

“I’m tired of being silent about this issue, I want the public to know what’s going on at the Milwaukee County Jail,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt has been acting sheriff since September and since then he’s been working on the plan.

“The elephant in the room is coming out and I’m not going to be quiet about it and I want it to be known,” he said.

Recently, the jail has been under the spotlight for controversial reasons.

One of the biggest high profile issues was the death of Terrill Thomas who died of dehydration after going without water for seven days.

“We’re going to be strong on this, we’re going to make a cultural change and we want this to be run with excellence and I want the people to know,” Schmidt said.

The jail has a newly selected leadership staff that trains employees so that there’s more accountability.

All inmates will have mental and health screenings before they enter the jail. Schmidt is also working with community leaders and elected officials regarding the jail.

Also the National Institute of Corrections has been contacted to come out to review the plan and make any new recommendations.

“So what’s the goal, the goal is this plan is to better the Milwaukee County Jail to be a pristine, positive excellent, top of the rate facility. That’s the goal,” he said.

He says one of his priorities is that all inmates are treated fairly and properly. Schmidt added not all deaths in the jail are because of a mistake a correctional officer made.

Some of those death investigations are still pending.