Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Releases Federal Report On Milwaukee County Jail

Schmidt Says He's Already Acted On Most Of The Recommendations

Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt
Flanked by staff, Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt, center, discusses a federal report on the county jail during a one-hour tour of the facility Thursday, April 5, 2018. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

A federal report on operations of the Milwaukee County Jail has been released, and Acting Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt says he’s already adopted most of the recommendations from the report.

Schmidt asked the National Institute of Corrections to take a look at the jail after taking over for former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke last year following several jail deaths. The report authors conducted a site visit in late February.

During a tour of the jail Thursday, Schmidt said 15 of the 17 recommendations made by the report have been implemented, including more documentation of checks on suicidal inmates and improving the inmate grievance system.

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He said one recommendation still in play is an analysis of jail staffing, including use of overtime to make up for the lack of employees.

After taking the news media and some elected officials on a rare, hour-long jail tour, Schmidt told reporters he’s added staff, but it’s hard to retain employees.

“It’s very difficult to keep correctional staff in our facility. It’s not the highest paying job in the world,” Schmidt said. “You didn’t see a lot of what goes on here today, right? There’s horrific things that take place.”

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said he’d like to boost staffing by about 30 people to hit a target of 300 employees, but there are challenges.

“Hiring right now in corrections is just really difficult. It’s competitive. Unemployment is down,” Abele said. “We only have so much to work with with our budget, and our budget comes from the state. Trust me, I’d love to get more back from the state than we do.”

About 34,000 people are booked into the Milwaukee County Jail each year. The current inmate population is about 900, with a capacity of about 960.

Schmidt said the other response still underway is a complete review of jail policies.

After the jail tour, Schmidt addressed how long he’ll remain as acting sheriff. He took over the post after serving as deputy to Clarke, who left to take a job supporting President Donald Trump.

In the fall, when Gov. Scott Walker began taking applications for interim sheriff, Schmidt applied. Months later, Walker hasn’t announced a decision.

On Thursday, Schmidt suggested he’d be around as acting sheriff for a while yet.

“What it means is I’m here through the end of the year. I do not anticipate being moved, and I do not have a public statement from anyone in Madison,” Schmidt said.

Walker’s office said “the process is ongoing.”

Schmidt also said he’s talking with many advisors about possibly running for sheriff in the fall election, saying he may make an announcement in a few weeks.