I also pointed out that the jail has long been understaffed and overcrowded, even though Marathon County Administrator Bradley Karger has been trying to deny it.
It's not surprising that Karger is downplaying the role that the understaffing and the overcrowding has played, since it was his austerity measures that has led to this unnecessary and completely avoidable tragedy. Of course, Karger's demand for austerity ends when it comes to his own benefits and pay.
Today, there was a press conference held by Karger and Chief Deputy Scott Parks:
As you can see, they are still in denial regarding the impact of the drastically low staffing levels. But on my previous post, there was a comment that confirms this to be false:
There is no incentive for potential new employees to want to work or apply to the Marathon County Jail. When act 10 was passed, Brad Karger and the County Board felt everyone had too many luxuries, and decided to strip a majority of them. One including overtime. In Corrections, Officers work a 4 day on, 2 day off rotation- 8 hour shifts. With the reduction of staff, Some days we are required to work 12-16 hours for coverage then return 8 hours later to work our normal scheduled hours. Typically these are mandatory. In order to get overtime we must work over a certain number of hours in a 28 day period, however you don't get the additional 1/2 pay until the following pay period. Many of us are used to working long hours but the price we pay is fatigue, stress, and the sense of being overwhelmed. The only reward we have for our hard work is our own sense of dedication. Someone has to do this job!Another comment that just came in as I am writing this post is even more telling:
Brad Karger now shows such concern for our safety, however not long ago he was heard saying our job was "easy!" in fact "A monkey could do that job!" Brad, have you ever been in the jail and seen what we do or deal with?? That would be NO!
Everyday we go to work, kiss our families and tell them we love them because that could be the day we don't come home.... So yes Brad, each and everyone one of us think of our mortality when we put on the uniform.
For one thing, the Marathon County Jail does not have 47 Full time employees. It has 33. The inflated numbers are including officers who work at the Juvenile Detention facility, which is approximately sevenI have also been informed that the jail administrator has decided to "fix things" by changing the scheduling pattern. Last Friday, he informed the correction officers that they would start working twelve hour shifts, effective Saturday. No extra staff to address the dangerous conditions, just longer hours, which all but guarantees that there will be more burn out, more mistakes and more assaults.
miles away from the jail, officers who have been deployed to war and a few on light duty. We have been running the jail with an average of seven officers on the floor at a given time. Seven officers for 280 inmates! It is insane to say staffing levels did not contribute to last Wednesdays attack and the really sad part is there is no foreseeable solution in the next year. No one wants to work at Marathon County. Corrections officers haven't had a pay raise in at least four years. They make less now than ten years ago. There is no one on the waiting list to be hired. No union. You have to work over 171 hours in a 28 day period to earn time and one half. Any time off you take during that period counts against your total hours.
We had to beg Administration to let us carry Pepper spray. Only supervisors were allowed to carry a taser until three days ago when officers threatened to walk out. Inmates are targeting certain CO's and many were thrilled when Officer Christensen was assaulted.
The blame lies with the County Board, Karger and the Jail Administrator and I pray to God there isn't another incident.
To add to this, it was confirmed that the intercom system in that area was not working.
They again denied that this had anything to do with the incident because they also had portable radios. Common sense tells you this is so much bullshit.
If you have officers in a dangerous situation, they could end up wasting valuable time trying to call for help on a system that is not working. When you have officers in an already perilous situation, there is no excuse why every piece of equipment is not available and functioning.
So, let's recap this situation.
The marathon jail was severely overcrowded, holding about a third more inmates than it was designed to hold. Furthermore, the inmates don't have any incentive to be on good behavior because Scott Walker took away any reason to with his Act 28. To add to this, the inmate who attacked the officers has a history of mental health issues and it is questionable if he was receiving proper care, including medication.
Besides the jail being severely overcrowded, there was a dangerously low staffing level of officers, which were not properly equipped and what equipment they did have did not function properly.
The reason for the overcrowding, understaffing and other unforgivable lapses was due to County Administrator Bradley Karger's adherence to the Teapublican ideal of austerity.
And because of Karger's love of austerity, there is a woman lying in the hospital, "clinging to life." Because of Karger's love of austerity, there are dozens of other officers that are at great risk as well.
So what are they going to do to fix this?
Nothing that will help the situation immediately:
Now, six days after the attack, sheriff's officials are talking about preventing this from happening again.Given the fact that the guards were overpowered not because they were unarmed but because they did not have sufficient staffing, adding tasers to the situation could compound the situation and only make things worse. Imagine the same situation but with a taser. Now you have an out of control inmate with a taser. Brilliant, it's not.
"All of our officers have been trained on using tasers and now all of them are equipped with one and will be immediately in effect," Parks said.
But what about staffing levels? A 2007 report to Marathon County showed the jail was dangerously understaffed then, and it hasn't improved. The chief deputy says staffing had nothing to do with this attack, but the county does plan to appoint a panel of community members to study security conditions at the jail.
"Sometimes we can easily look in the mirror and think that all is clear and all is well so by opening this up to other portions of the community to take a look at us and be transparent it provides us an opportunity for a fresh perspective and insight into actions we need to take," Parks said.
Right now, officials say, it is unclear when that panel will be appointed and when they will get to work.
And while the citizen panel is a good idea, I would question how it will be decided who will be part of that panel.
If Karger is in charge of it, forget it. He's the idiot that caused this mess and he's already trying to escape accountability for his malfeasance.
The most responsible way to handle this would be to have the County Board appoint the panel, but there should be some voice given to the union, either in selecting some of the panel members or being on the panel itself.
The immediate issue is still not being address however. The guards are in imminent peril and a citizen panel that won't even be formed for weeks is not going to address this threat.
Since Karger is appointed by the Board, they should be demanding that he start doing the right thing by getting sufficient staffing in place as quickly as possible. And if he balks, he should be removed immediately and a responsible adult should be appointed in his place.
Even if Karger does do the right thing now, it should be seriously considered
whether he should remain in his position.
If you wish to help Correction Officer Julie Christensen, there has been a trust fund established in her name at Integrity First Bank, 101 Grand Avenue, Wausau, WI 54403. Their phone number is (715) 845-0900.