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Was Water Shut Off Used as Form of Discipline in Milwaukee County Jail?

Milwaukee -

Probing questions Monday about if shutting off water to Milwaukee County Jail inmates was used a frequent form of discipline.

The line of questioning came during the second week of testimony in the inquest into the death of Terrill Thomas at the Milwaukee County Jail in April of last year.

The medical examiner ruled he died of dehydration.

Earlier testimony was that there was an order given to shut off toilet water when he flooded another cell.

But log entries appear to show that this has been used at other times, with other inmates, for things that had nothing to do with flooding out cells.

"What appears to be happening here is the correctional officers are turning the water off so the inmate suffers thirst until they break to the discipline of the correctional officers," said Assistant District Attorney Kurt Benkley while questioning supervisor Lt. Brandy Solomon. "That appears to be happening. Is it?"   

"There's no reason to turn his water off because he was hanging a blanket," replied Lt. Solomon.

Benkley continued.

"Why is this not torture?"

Lt. Solomon looked puzzled and paused and then answered firmly.

"Again, I didn't order him or anyone to turn off the water. I can't control what an officer puts into the jail log."

"Don't you have any control over the people you supervise in the jail?" the judge then asked.

This lead to a lengthy and uncomfortable exchange between the judge and the witness.

"Do you have ways of ensuring that when they make entries they are correct and the facts are true?"

"Yes, we do," she replied.

The judge countered.

"Although you supervise them, you have no control over what they put down in the log. Because you don't check it."

"We do check it," Solomon insisted. "I do not recall this entry in the log."

The six-person jury will make a recommendation on potential criminal charges.

The District Attorney is not bound by the decision but takes it under consideration.

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