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Amendment designed to ensure unit catches HOC absconders

By: Eric Heisig//November 8, 2013//

Amendment designed to ensure unit catches HOC absconders

By: Eric Heisig//November 8, 2013//

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A budget amendment passed by Milwaukee County’s finance committee Wednesday is designed to ensure that Sheriff David Clarke will follow through with a promise his office made to catch those who abscond from the House of Correction.

Supervisor Pat Jursik’s amendment, which was approved 7-2 Wednesday, withholds three-quarters of the more than $450,000 put in Clarke’s budget to pay for a five-man absconder unit. Under the amendment, Clarke would receive nearly $113,000 to pay for the first quarter of 2014. The rest of the money would be held in an account, and only released to him if the county’s Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee determined that the sheriff is actually catching absconded inmates.

“This is not new that this sheriff, who has clearly stated before that this philosophical approach to the entire idea of electronic monitoring, … are not programs that he philosophically believes in,” Jursik said during Wednesday’s meeting.

Jursik’s amendment comes on the heels of a decision by the finance committee to return the majority of the $12.5 million that County Executive Chris Abele proposed to take away from the sheriff in the next fiscal year. Under Abele’s proposal, the money for that absconder unit was going to go to the District Attorney’s Office, but the money to pay for the unit was returned by a 8-1 vote on Oct. 28.


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Supervisors Peggy Romo West and Russell Stamper were the only ones who opposed Jursik’s amendment Wednesday. Both cited comments sheriff’s Inspector Richard Schmidt made at a previous hearing, where he said deputies would respond to absconder calls from House of Correction staff.

“I don’t appreciate this,” Romo West said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I don’t like being put in a position where we’re second-guessing someone again who sat in front of us numerous times and said, ‘Yes they will do this.’

But Jursik emphasized that “there is very good reason for this board to provide placeguards on this …” She stressed that the sheriff has been less than cooperative with the House of Correction since he relinquished control of the prison in May.

The full County Board is expected to vote on the budget Tuesday morning.

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