Milwaukee County jail officials cut off inmates’ water, even after dehydration death
The Milwaukee County Jail cut off the water supply for two inmates in 2016, even after an inmate died from dehydration just weeks before.
Terrill Thomas, 38, had gone without water and a mattress for seven straight days before he died in April 2016, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His death was officially listed as a result of “profound dehydration” and ruled a homicide.
Deputy Medical Examiner Wieslawa Tlomak testified that people can survive without water for three to four days while Thomas went an entire week.
“This order to shut off Mr. Thomas’ water was highly irregular and contrary to standard operating procedure in the jail,” Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley told ABC 12.
Benkley went on to say that Thomas’ water supply was cut off because he destroyed his mattress and flooded his cell.
Multiple jail employees took the stand during a trial over Thomas’ death. Many of them claimed they had no idea he wasn’t getting water at the time. They also testified that some suggested that he be transported to a psychiatric ward given his behavior and a history of mental illness. However, jail supervisors allegedly didn’t think doing so would be a good idea, given his stature and mental state.
“I’m saying he shouldn’t have ever been there in the first place. He should have been out at the mental complex getting treatment,” his father, T.J. Thomas, said.
Following a six-day inquest, a jury recommended criminal charges against seven members of the jail’s staff in connection to Thomas’ death. The jury found probable cause for “abuse of a resident of a penal facility.” However, what comes next in regards to an charges comes down to whatever prosecutors decide to do, according to The Chicago Tribune.
While the fallout over Thomas’ death comes down just over a year later, many are shocked to find that the Milwaukee County Jail repeated the same practices soon after with two more inmates.
In late April and mid-May of 2016, Joseph J. Benson and Jamie J. McGee each had their water cut off after they covered their cell windows. In both instances, the lieutenants who were responsible for the actions are denying any role.
In the case of McGee, the jail log states that Lt. Crystalina Montano ordered his water to be shut off. She testified that she was unaware of anything after that. McGee was reportedly on suicide watch and coughing up blood during the time his water was cut off.
The log also states that Lt. Brandy Solomon ordered Benson’s water to be shut off, but she claimed the entry must have been incorrect. However, lieutenants are supposed to check the logs daily for errors. A mistake was clearly made somewhere.
It’s worth pointing out that Milwaukee County Jail is run by Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. You may recognize Clarke as a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump who regularly criticizes the Black Lives Matter movement and wants to put his deputies on the front lines against immigration. There were also three other deaths in Milwaukee County Jail under his watch last year; one of which was a newborn baby.