This past Wednesday, inmate Martin Williams escaped from the custody of the Milwaukee County House of Corrections after overpowering the lone corrections officer escorting him to a doctor’s appointment at St. Luke’s in Milwaukee. Williams was caught six hours later during a traffic stop, and when he was arrested he was in possession of a loaded gun.
Without knowing the specifics of how Williams was escorted to St. Luke’s, for example was he in handcuffs, or was he wearing leg irons and belly chains, it’s hard to say what went wrong, with one exception. All reports indicate Williams was being escorted by a lone corrections officer, which seems like a curious policy for escorting a felon with a violent armed history. Today’s JSOnline has a story indicating the HOC has changed its policy on escorting certain prisoners, which is certainly good news, but what I’d like to know is what took so long. Now it’s no secret I’m not a fan of Superintendent Ron Malone, primarily because I believe his style of short-sighted leadership is exactly what the House of Corrections doesn’t need if it’s going to enact the meaningful changes that will be necessary to both improve staff safety and morale, but also increase the community’s safety.
This most recent escape just underscores what I’ve been wondering for years: Why is the HOC’s leadership so content to be reactive instead of proactive? Instead of waiting for an inmate to overpower his escort and flee during a doctor’s appointment, why don’t the HOC’s managers sit down, take a comprehensive look at all their security policies, and figure out what works and what doesn’t, and then work to change those policies that need to be fixed? I know that would mean a lot of hard work, but the community deserves nothing less, given all the problems the HOC has had when it comes to inmate escapes and whatnot.
If Ron Malone were really committed to changing the culture of the HOC and improving not only safety, but morale, he’d start by working hard to implement meaningful changes. It’s just disappointing the HOC – and Milwaukee County – don’t have the forward-thinking leadership they need to ensure the continued safety of the community and the staff that work at the HOC.