Friday, April 28, 2017

My quick thoughts on a possible Clarke appointment to Homeland Security


Clarke could play loose with the definitions of terrorism, setting a dangerous precedent


I share my thoughts on my Twitter account (through video) about Donald Trump possibly appointing Milwaukee County Sheriff Clarke to a position within Homeland Security. It was announced today that the president is considering this appointment, despite the troubled history Clarke has within his own department.


One more thing I'd like to add: if Clarke, who considers Black Lives Matter to be a terrorist organization, gets any position of power, it's likely he'll play loose with the definition of what "terrorism" actually is...which could set dangerous precedent for Trump to follow as well.

Testimony sheds light on allegedly “deceptive” practices in jails overseen by Sheriff Clarke


A change in leadership is needed in the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department


Testimony in Milwaukee this week seems to suggest that there’s a cover-up going on at the Milwaukee County jail.

The jails are administered under the direction of Sheriff David Clarke. Earlier this week, I suggested that Clarke ought to be removed from his position by Gov. Scott Walker because four individuals had died under his watch at the county jail.

One of those deaths included an infant who was born to a woman who was in the jail. The mother’s pleas for help went unanswered, and the child died before medical attention was given to either.

Another of the deaths, involving 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, came about as a result of dehydration. Thomas was not given a sip of water for seven days while in solitary confinement.

A Milwaukee PD commander testified in court this week that it was “unconscionable” that members of the sheriff’s department had viewed video of Thomas but failed to let the city department know.

What’s more, the video itself was recorded over — meaning that anything that the sheriff’s department said was on the tapes has to be taken at their word.

From the Journal Sentinel:
“It’s unconscionable,” said Eric Donaldson, a homicide lieutenant who helped lead the probe. “It’s like you’re hiding something.”

Donaldson said that top Sheriff’s Office officials failed to tell him that a sheriff’s captain had viewed the video of a key portion of Thomas’ jail stay — video that officials say later was recorded over.



[Donaldson] didn’t find out until 11 months after Thomas died that [corrections Capt. George] Gold had seen the video, he said. Sheriff’s officials hadn’t even mentioned Gold, he said.

Chisholm dwelled on that point, asking Donaldson his reaction.

“To me, that’s deceptive,” Donaldson said.
A member of the Milwaukee police department is calling an action by the Sheriff’s department deceptive. At the very least, it’s indicative of a failure of leadership, which should have righted problems at the county jail long before four people died there.

Sheriff David Clarke ought to show some responsibility for his failed leadership, and offer up ideas on how he’s going to change things. And Gov. Scott Walker, who has already stated he won’t remove Clarke from office, ought to reconsider, in light of this and possibly more testimony detailing problems within the Sheriff’s department.

Failing that, new leadership ought to be selected by the citizenry — at the county level, as well as at the governor’s office — especially if no action is taken by either.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Prisoners have rights — and Sheriff David Clarke needs to be held responsible for violating them


David Clarke should be removed from his position as sheriff


Prisoners have rights.

That statement shouldn’t be so profound. But too often, many in our society tend to forget, purposely or not, that prisoners have legal rights that must be adhered to. Even if prisoners have committed a heinous crime, if these rights are violated an injustice has occurred.

The founders of our nation recognized this fact. They enshrined, within the Eighth Amendment, that “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted” on those serving time behind bars.

So when an injustice is performed upon a member of the prisoner population, who’s to blame? It depends on a variety of factors: who issued the order, and who allowed it to happen; who carried out the action, and who turned a blind eye.

In Milwaukee County’s jail, which is overseen by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s department, a prisoner died because he was not allowed to drink water while in solitary confinement.

From the Journal Sentinel (emphases in bold added):
When [Terrill] Thomas arrived in solitary confinement on April 17, 2016, a corrections officer went to a utility panel and turned off the water in Thomas' cell, surveillance video showed.

"This order to shut off Mr. Thomas' water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail," Benkley said. The cutoff of water was never marked in a jail log or written on a whiteboard used to note significant events on the solitary confinement wing, Benkley said. Surveillance video also showed nobody approached the utility panel to turn Thomas' water back on, Benkley said.

...

Although it likely doesn't factor into his death, prosecutors also noted Thomas was never once taken out of his solitary confinement cell during his seven days there. Inmates are typically given one hour of recreation time per day.
I’ve previously written about the dangers of solitary confinement, and how the practice ought to be curtailed. But this goes beyond problematic policies and ventures into prisoner neglect and abuse.

For Thomas to be deprived of water for that long of a period — even a single day would be outrageous — is demonstrative of a prison system in Milwaukee County jails that is in need of serious attention. Unfortunately, it’s not the only case we have to concern ourselves with.

Three other individuals died under Sheriff David Clarke’s watch in 2016. Two died of heart issues while in jail cells. A third hadn’t committed a crime at all — an infant, born while their mother was imprisoned in the jail, died shortly after birth. Prison guards allegedly “laughed off” the concerns of the mother when she tried to explain she was going into labor.

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I'll repeat myself: Prisoners have rights. This includes the right to defend themselves in court, as well as the right to be given proper and safe living conditions in jail or prison until that time comes.

These inmates weren’t granted those rights. It’s disturbing enough that this happened to one inmate. That four have suffered the consequences of gross negligence in Milwaukee County jail demonstrates that the blame goes to more than one individual.

Harry Truman famously said, “the buck stops here.” The responsibility for problems in his administration rested at his feet, and nowhere else.

Sheriff David Clarke offers a different point of view, one that we should reject. He regularly harasses people at airports and on social media. Four individuals have died while under his watch. And he doesn’t seem to see why some might think he has a role to play in that.

A Wisconsin lawmaker from Milwaukee recently requested that Gov. Scott Walker remove Clarke from his duties, a privilege that governors have if they wish to do so. Walker has said he won’t make that move.

But it would be the right one to make. It won’t provide justice for the victims who died on his watch, but it might prevent the occurrence of future victims of his cruel and unusual style of management.