Following Assault, Panel To Review Conditions In Marathon County Jail


The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department is calling for an independent study of conditions at the county jail, following an inmate assault that injured two correction officers, and left one of them hospitalized.

Thirty-six-year-old correction officer Julie Christiansen is still in the intensive care unit six days after she was attacked by a 20-year-old inmate, Frederick Morris of Wausau. At a news conference this morning, Chief Deputy Scott Parks said the incident occurred after several inmates refused to return their meal trays, leading to a suspension of telephone and television privileges.

“Morris immediately struck Officer Christiansen to the facial area with his closed fists, which rendered her incapacitated and caused Christiansen to collapse unconscious to the cell block floor.”

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A second officer, Denny Woodward, was also injured in the attack. Morris now faces aggravated battery charges, in addition to cocaine possession and possession of a firearm by a felon. Chief Deputy Parks called for an independent investigation of conditions at the jail: “I will ask that an independent panel of community leaders be assembled to review jail security concerns.”

The concerns Parks refers to are highlighted in published reports showing that the jail is overcrowded and understaffed compared to similar facilities in other counties. Marathon County administrator Brad Karger said if improvements are needed, the county will find the money.

“It’s all a matter of priority. We have a number of programs and a $150 million budget. If there are improvements that are needed to improve safety in the jail, we’ll have to reprioritize. So the answer is yes, but there’s not just a pot of money sitting there unallocated.”

Chief Deputy Parks said he did not believe staffing levels were a factor in the attack on Officer Christiansen.