Due to Walker's inability to budget his way out of brown paper bag, the House of Correction suffered from many problems. Most of these problems stemmed from the fact that Walker refused to adequately staff the facility. This chronic understaffing led to many problems including a large number of escapes, higher worker turnover rates, an increase in injuries to correction officers and inmates alike, and despite Walker's insistence that he was saving money, excessively high overtime expenses. Needless to say, morale was at an all time low:
So now you have officers that are working 12 to 16 hours a day, six to seven days a week, week in and week out. Officers are getting so burnt out that they are purposely disrespecting superior officers, or violating other policies, just so they can get suspended and have a day off. (This also adds to the shortage of officers, and causes even more forced overtime for the others.)
When you have people working these many hours, without a day off or even enough time to do more than catch five hours a sleep before going back to work on a daily basis, mistakes are going to happen. People aren't as alert or as careful as they should be, especially in a prison setting.
The chronic fatigue, the inability for officers to see their families, and the increasing risk of injury has caused an all time low in morale. This is exasperated when they have people threatening their job security with talk of privatization.
Things got so bad that the facility got very low marks from a federal audit looking at all of the problems Walker had created. Things were so far gone that the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisor felt compelled to take the HOC away from Walker and put it under the oversight of the Sheriff's Office.
Fast forward five years and it quickly becomes apparent that Walker has learned absolutely nothing from his previous mistakes. In less than a year, he is making a shambles of the state's correctional system.
On top of that, Walker's push to repeal the early release program has only made things worse. Recently, four officers at the Dodge Correctional Institute were injured. The inmates no longer have a reason to be on good behavior and are taking out their frustration on anger on the only people available to them, the correction officers:
“With changes in sentence structure due to Truth in Sentencing laws and the recent repeal of Act 28 (a provision that allows for the early release of some inmates), many inmates feel they have no options,” said Phil Briski, union president at DCI. “The inmate that left one of our officers with serious injuries said he had no hope of getting out of prison and was going to assault a staff member no matter where he was (incarcerated). They’re stuck in here for longer periods of time, and we’re the ones who are going to pay for it.”
Briski thinks the low incidence of uprisings in Wisconsin correctional institutions over the years has been due to a highly trained, experienced staff.
“With the contempt that’s been shown to us, people don’t care as much. They figure there’s no benefit to being above average,” Briski said. “Things are going to slip, and there’s going to be mistakes made due to the turnover in staff, overcrowding of prisons and the legislature’s failure to deal with the issues.”
But just when it appeared that morale among the correction officers couldn't get any worse, Walker adds insult to the injuries they've already suffered.
Through his Secretary of Corrections, Gary H. Hamblin, Walker has released a new set of rules over the work place. All of them are aimed at further breaking the unions and, apparently, the spirits of the correction officers.
Some of the new rules were to be expected, such as limiting the ability of the unions to defend it's members against frivolous complaints or ensuring work place safety is being enforced.
But others are nothing more than the punitive actions of an insecure bully. One of the more ridiculous changes is the removal of the union bulletin boards:
All union material on bulletin boards should be removed and returned to union representatives.Keys to the bulletin boards should be returned to management (Regional Chief, Superintendent,Warden, etc.), however, I am requiring each DOC work site to have at least one Employee Services Board. The current union bulletin boards may be repurposed as Employee Services Boards (if one does not exist) or used as general use boards.Despite this statement, correction officers are having to take down ALL union related materials. Per an email I received from a correction officer, these threatening things include plaques and certificates from the community, groups such as the Boys and Girls Club, thanking the union local for their support. Another thing that Walker's administration is frightened of is a sign saying "Correctional Staff Support Workers Rights."
o Material posted on the bulletin boards will be reviewed by management, but most information will be permitted, including notices of union meetings outside of DOC work spaces. Material deemed inappropriate will be removed. Individual work sites may determine their review or approval process for posting material
I have news for Walker and Secretary Hamblin - if you're scared of such innocuous items, you've already lost the battle and are now only fomenting the resistance of more and more people.
Another peculiar rule they decided to enforce is the abolishing of "paid professional days or training days." It is curious how they expect the correction officers to maintain required standards of ongoing training and certification if they do not allow time for such trainings to take place.
Earlier in this piece, I said that it appeared that Walker learned nothing from his mistakes as county executive. I may have to retract that statement. Given these course of events, plus the impending doom when the current budget implodes, Walker apparently did learn something from his previous mistakes.
He has shown a marked improvement in efficiency, as evidenced by the fact that he is making even bigger mistakes at an even faster pace than he did as county executive.