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Sheriff Lucas Talks About Milwaukee County Jail Deaths, Health Care Achievement

 Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas
Chuck Quirmbach
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas speaks at Monday's news conference outside the county's Criminal Justice Facility.

During a Monday news conference, Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas spoke about two recent deaths at the county jail, while also highlighting the jail's new achievement in health care.

The deaths occurred in March and April. The sheriff's department has listed them as suspected suicides, as other law enforcement jurisdictions review what happened.

Lucas said that the deaths are troubling.

"We're no different than hospitals and other institutions where people make choices, whether it's to inflict self-harm or to do harm to others. It's very unfortunate when things happen here inside our jail because not only does it affect the individual and his or her loved ones, but it also affects all of us as well," he said.

Lucas said by at least one measurement, the Milwaukee County Jail exceeds state standards. That's for doing welfare checks on inmates.

"The state requirement is an hour. We do our rounds every 30 minutes. Can we do even more? If we, I'm sure, get up to full staff and can maybe reduce, maybe, some of the population," he said.

Lucas said during COVID-19, it's been tough to keep up staffing. He said he's also trying to raise employees' pay and he hopes to "severely reduce or eliminate" jail deaths and injuries while he's in office.

Several jail staff members joined Sheriff Lucas at Monday's news conference.
Chuck Quirmbach
Several jail staff members joined Sheriff Lucas at Monday's news conference.

Lucas called the news conference to announce that for the first time, the jail has earned accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. The sheriff said the commission has the most respected national standards for correctional facilities.

He credited the health care provider that started at the jail two years ago. Lucas also thanked his predecessor as sheriff, Richard Schmidt, for installing Aaron Dobson as jail commander.

Lucas referred to the deaths and other problems at the jail under Schmidt's predecessor, David Clarke, as a "very unfortunate period in the history of Milwaukee County."

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