David Clarke just can’t leave well enough alone

Thwarted in his effort to unilaterally overhaul a county program that helps inmates make the transition from jail to job, Sheriff David A. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr., who was given control of the Milwaukee County House of Corrections earlier this year, wants to take over the Community Justice Resource Center, a decade-old program that provides help to about 400 inmates a year in applying for jobs, taking high school equivalency classes and doing community service projects. A few weeks ago, Sheriff Clarke tried to take over the program and move it to the House of Corrections in Franklin, ostensibly to improve safety and lower costs, but judges warned him that his change might lead to a contempt citation. So he first provided secure buses to make daily runs to the resource center, then agreed to reinstate the bus passes and house program participants at night in the county jail.

Sheriff Clarke’s problems with the program stem from the fact that it now includes dangerous felons, contrary to the program’s original intent. However, Chief Judge Jeffrey Kremers has defended the program as “extremely successful” and an important tool for helping inmates turn into responsible citizens on the outside, and he noted judges do sentence felons to the program, but only if they are considered good safety risks. Sheriff Clarke dismissed the community justice center’s focus on phased-in community access as “nonsense,” but as Chief Judge Kremers noted, the program serves a very necessary purpose. “All of these people under the sheriff’s control are going to be back in the community some day soon,” he said. “The question is what do we do with these people until they get out?”

As further justification for pulling the program under his control, Sheriff Clarke cited “high” recidivism rates as a reason he program should be under his control and altered. Using samples of 100 people who completed the program each year, Clarke found 21% from 2008 had been convicted of new crimes, 18% from 2007 and 33% from 2006. However, as someone who works in the criminal justice field in Milwaukee County, I can attest to the fact that recidivism rates typically hover at or above 50%, so if the Community Justice Resource Center actually reduces the recidivism rate to only 30%, that shows the program has actually been successful.

Ultimately, the issue here isn’t whether the Community Justice Resource Center has been successful, because it has been – the issue is really Sheriff David Clarke seeking to expand his little fiefdom.


Related Articles

1 thought on “David Clarke just can’t leave well enough alone

  1. I am not sure that I agree with the last sentence. He has the responsibility already but he does not appear to have control over it. The courts do and that is as it should be.
    I am unsure that law enforcers are the right ones to determine the offender’s road to rehabilitation and return to society. Will the cat ever let the mouse roam free in the house again? Unlikely.

Comments are closed.