Panel Makes Recommendations Following Investigation Of Marathon County Jail


A citizens’ panel is recommending management changes for the Marathon County jail after an inmate critically injured a corrections officer there.

Thirty-six-year-old corrections officer Julie Christiansen is still hospitalized more than three months after the March 27 disturbance, when she was attacked as she tried to get an inmate back in his cell. Wausau-area businessman Paul Jones chaired the independent panel that looked into conditions at the jail.

Jones: “You remember Lee Iacocca saying, ‘If you really want to understand how to make a car, go down to the assembly line and ask the people who make the car.’ The best revelations came from the inmates and the corrections officers. How can you possibly get closer to what’s going on in a jail than to ask those people?”

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Jones says the panel discovered serious issues that created an unsafe environment.

Jones: “There’s some good people in this organization that just were not able to perform at the level they’re capable of. The system wasn’t working.”

Among the panel’s recommendations: more employee input in decision making, a new staff code of conduct, better handling of inmate grievances, changing policies for work release, and improving jail management. Two changes have already taken place: the resignation of the former sheriff after a newspaper expose showed he was frequently away from work, and the resignation of the jail administrator following the attack. The new sheriff Scott Parks says he will make the recommended changes.

The citizens’ panel will convene twice a year to make sure progress is being made.