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County lawyer: Jail practices don't always mesh with policy

It's not that the St. Croix County Jail doesn't have policies regarding booking and suicide and medical watches, it's that the policies say one thing and another is being done.

So says Corporation Counsel Greg Timmerman.

As an example, he said policy says inmate names on a suicide-watch board are identified with a red magnet if the prisoner is to be constantly observed and with a yellow magnet if he is to be checked every 15 minutes.

But when an assistant corporation counsel visited, jailers were using entirely different colors.

"Nobody could explain why that was," said Timmerman.

Discussion of the policies continued at a Finance Committee meeting Dec. 3 in the wake of increased county liability insurance costs directly related to the costs of two jail lawsuits.

Timmerman said during meetings with jail staff to review policies, other issues have come to light.

He said while policies are in place, procedures related to booking inmates, suicide and medical watches don't always line up with the written policies.

Timmerman said his staff has gotten "hesitant cooperation" from jail staff.

"They don't understand why we're so involved," said Timmerman.

He said his read on the jail staff's reaction is that they can't comprehend why county attorneys are spending so much time in the jailers' operation.

Timmerman said there's been no response to some requests for information.

Public Protection Committee Chairwoman Julie Speer said she's not aware of any noncooperation from jail staff.

Speer reported that Jail Captain Karen Humphrey said Timmerman has had the policies for three years and only three of 38 have been revisited.

"The policies are written," responded Timmerman. "It's not the policies; it's the operation based on those policies."

He said he asked for a copy of the booking form, but the title on the form didn't line up with the policy. In the process of asking for the information again, Timmerman said, he received two more versions of the form.

He asked if jail staff was changing the form.

"The response was, 'We're used to the ones we have,'" said Timmerman. "Our response is, 'But they don't match up to policy."

At one time, said Timmerman, a jail officer questioned the continuing review of policies, saying the Wisconsin Department of Corrections reviewed them and said they were fine.

"But the Department of Corrections doesn't stand there and watch those policies being carried out," said Timmerman.

The DOC was giving the jail good reports just before the strip search lawsuit was filed too, commented Finance Committee member Buck Malick.

"We simply want our departments to run well legally, follow procedures, so we can minimize claims against the county," said Timmerman. "I would much rather prevent those from happening if I can."

Humphrey could not be reached for comment. Her voice mail message said she would be out of the office Dec. 7 and 8.