New jail administrator is Nicolet College grad

October 21, 2013

From “Marathon County names new jail administrator” — WAUSAU — After months of sharp criticism and controversy surrounding operations at the Marathon County Jail, officials have named a new leader to complement changes already in motion at the facility.

Sandra La Du-Ives, who currently serves as jail administrator at the Oneida County Jail, will begin her new role Dec. 8; she was chosen from a pool of nearly 30 applicants from across the country. Marathon County Sheriff Scott Parks said the change in leadership is part of an overall transformation at the facility, which has undergone intense scrutiny since a March 27 attack on two corrections officers.

“We laid out our expectations for each applicant, and Sandra stood out among the rest,” Parks said. “She understands there is a great deal of work to be done and wants to be a part of that process.”

La Du-Ives was named jail administrator in Oneida County in April after the death of 19-year veteran Kaye Juel. She is a graduate of Nicolet Area Technical College and served as the assistant jail administrator for four years prior to her promotion. La Du-Ives also worked as a corrections officer for Oneida County for nine years. Efforts to reach La Du-Ives were not successful Friday.

A report issued in July by a panel of five community leaders outlined a host of deep-rooted problems at the jail — many which have already been addressed — and recommended massive changes to jail procedures and training. A five-member citizen review panel tasked with identifying the jail’s failings and recommending solutions issued the report; the panel found dozens of issues that need to be corrected and suggested changes that could lead to the termination of employees who do not rise to meet new performance expectations.

Major changes underway

Chief Deputy Chad Billeb said officials have embraced the panel’s recommendations and made immediate changes to procedures at the jail. The jail intercom system, once broken, is now back online and working properly; the central housing control unit, which once stood empty after a major communications system failure, is staffed 24 hours a day after the system was repaired. More than 10 cameras have been added to eliminate blind spots, and many of the more than 100 existing cameras were upgraded, Billeb said.

Officials also have addressed concerns by the panel and repeated concerns by jail inspectors about unacceptably low staffing levels at the facility. Two new corrections officers have been hired since the report was released, and two more will be named in the coming weeks, Billeb said, bringing the number of jail staff members up to the recommended level of 48. That number includes a jail administrator, six lieutenants and 41 corrections officers.

“The report gave us a road map of where we need to go,” Billeb said. “We shared that road map with our job candidates, including Sandra, so she knows exactly what our expectations will be.”

Not every applicant was quite so interested in a job that will entail fighting overcrowding and other infrastructure issues; three candidates dropped out after receiving the same information, Parks said.

Sheriff’s officials are enthusiastic about two programs they believe will significantly reduce the population in a facility that is consistently filled beyond its intended capacity of 279. On Friday morning, the jail housed 297 inmates; an additional 47 inmates were housed at jails in Lincoln and Shawano counties, according to jail reports.

The Marathon County Board on Tuesday passed a resolution that will allow nonviolent offenders to earn one day of early release for every 12 hours worked in community service at a variety of local agencies. The county’s five circuit court judges signed off on the program Thursday, Billeb said. That program will begin Nov. 1.

The second proposal, which mimics programs in Dane and Walworth counties, would allow inmates who qualify for Huber release to avoid sitting in jail altogether. Instead, inmates would do their time in their homes while monitored electronically. Only nonviolent offenders and people who live and work in areas with cellphone reception would qualify for the program, Billeb said.

For both programs, only inmates already eligible for Huber will be considered to participate. The Huber law allows inmates who have been sentenced to leave the jail to work or search for work, attend school and care for their children for up to 12 hours each day; Huber inmates pay a fee of $17 per day to participate in the program.

An ongoing process

Officials say they are committed to making the changes they know are necessary to create an environment at the jail that is safe for workers and for inmates. Hiring a new administrator from outside the county will allow for a fresh perspective during the rebuilding process.

“Sometimes when you look in the mirror, you don’t always have the clearest view of yourself,” Parks said. “This will provide us the opportunity to look at ourselves clearly and without bias.”

Both Parks and Billeb praised the efforts of Paul Mergendahl, the superintendent at the Marathon County juvenile detention facility, who has served as interim administrator since the April 17 resignation of former administrator Bob Dickman. Mergandahl will continue in his role as interim administrator until La Du-Ives assumes her new position.

“Paul set the groundwork for these changes to be made,” Billeb said.

La Du-Ives was interviewed by a group of six people who reviewed each applicant’s educational background, skills and history. Mount View Care Center Administrator Lori Koeppel, Marathon County Deputy Administrator Deb Hager, jail inspector Denise Ellis and Marathon County Board member Matt Hildebrandt assisted Billeb and Parks in choosing their top candidate.

The brutal assault that sparked the controversy surrounding jail procedures left officer Julie Christensen, 36, critically injured. She last was reported in the intensive care unit at Aspirus Wausau Hospital in April, and her family has requested no further updates be given about her condition. Officer Denney Woodward also was injured in the attack.

Fredrick Morris, 20, of Wausau has been charged in connection with the incident.

Koeppel, along with Rothschild Police Chief Bill Schremp, Intercity State Bank President Randy Balk, LandArt owner Paul Jones and Daily Herald Media General Manager Michael Beck all serve on the panel. Members plan to meet with Billeb, Parks and Du-Ives for a progress review in December.


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