Wisconsin's ACLU wants a court to require the Milwaukee County Jail to hire a medical director and a chief psychiatrist. It says the jail is not living up to a court order to improve health care services for inmates.
A 2001 court settlement required the jail to report to an appointed physician monitor on the status of medical services in the jail. But in 2010 the facility's director resigned. That put the county out of compliance with the court order. ACLU attorney Larry Dupuis says the jail has been without a medical director or a chief psychiatrist for more than a year, "So there's just been this sort of continuous deterioration. They've been doing things to try to stanch the bleeding but things have not gotten better."
Earlier this month Judge William Brash set a deadline of January 16 for the sheriff's department to come up with a plan to fill the vacant positions, and to do a better job of diagnosing and caring for inmates once in they're in custody. The Milwaukee County jail isn't the only one in the state that needs to improve health care services. An investigative report, to be released this weekend by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, found only five county jails are accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
State Rep. Gary Bies chairs the Assembly Corrections Committee. He says he will make it a priority in the next session to assess jail health care programs especially when it comes to housing people who are mentally ill, "I'd like to try to find some efficiencies without jeopardizing safety of the prison guards and also the public see if we can do something better and still maintain what we have to do for people that get incarcerated."
Bies says investing in a good jail health care services plays an important role in helping offenders re-enter society after serving their sentences.