Sheriff's jail under scrutiny after inmate dies of thirst


Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is one of the most outspoken political figures in the criminal justice system.But he's been particularly quiet about a recent inmate death that happened in a jail he oversees.

"The man that just recently died of thirst was essentially tortured," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz of the activist group Voces de la Frontera.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Terrill Thomas died of "profound dehydration" in solitary confinement in 2016. He went seven days without liquid. Jail staff reportedly cut off Thomas' water supply in his cell and didn't turn it back on.

Through a public investigation by the Milwaukee County district attorney, several people have testified about what they know of Thomas' death. Although no criminal charges have been filed, the district attorney can still do that later.

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"They refused to feed this man for seven days," said Marcus Berry, a fellow inmate in Milwaukee County Jail. "He didn't eat. For seven days, he didn't sleep. Seven days, he didn't drink any water."

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Some activists have called for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to remove Clarke from his position. But the governor says he won't do that.

"Ultimately, the decision about the sheriff is left up to the voters; that's a constitutional office," Walker said.

Even though there aren't yet any criminal charges in Thomas' death, his family did file a lawsuit in federal court claiming Thomas was tortured.

Thomas was one of four people to die at the Milwaukee County Jail within a six-month period in 2016.