A guard tower at the Green Bay Correctional Institution looms over a house at 328 Coolidge St. in Allouez.(Photo: Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
ALLOUEZ - Calls for police help at a state prison in Allouez more than doubled in 2016, reaching their highest level in at least six years.
Brown County Sheriff's officers were called to the Green Bay Correctional Institution for 39 or 40 "significant incidents" during 2016, said Chief Deputy Todd Delain. The 2016 figure is more than the total recorded in the two previous years combined, he said.
From 2011 through 2015, the department averaged 11 such calls per year to the prison, according to department statistics that date back to 2011.
The increased volume of calls, particularly those involving assaults and disturbances, has some local officials concerned about the strain being placed on officers whose focus is supposed to be on village residents. That's especially true in a quiet village where, except for the robbery of a Libal Street bank in December, the most common activities for deputies in 2016 involved writing traffic tickets and checking residents' welfare.
Overall, deputies were called to the prison more than 80 times in 2016. Dozens of those calls — from the year's first, on Jan. 4, to its last, 29 minutes into Christmas morning — involved medical issues for which deputies weren't needed.
"We have to respond out there and it ties up the system — not only us but the district attorney's office," Delain said of calls to the prison.
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Delain said calls to the prison haven't left the village unpatrolled. Still, he said, sheriff's officials are working to find ways to reduce the number of times they are summoned to the prison for calls that don't involve serious issues. They hope some recent changes in protocols will reduce the number of times deputies must go to the prison.
Ther situation prompted Sheriff John Gossage to take the unusual step late last year of meeting with corrections officials in an effort to reduce the number of calls for incidents at which deputies aren't needed.Resources taxed
Allouez Village Board members had a number of questions about the increase in calls when sheriff's officials met with them earlier this year. Trustee Bob Dennis said earlier this month he was satisfied with the department's answers, and believes other board members are, as well.
The sheriff's office patrols Allouez under contract with the municipality, which does not have its own police.
Green Bay Correctional Institution, a 119-year-old complex between Riverside Drive and Webster Avenue, is a maximum-security prison housing about 1,085 inmates in a facility built for 749, according to its annual report. It has about 380 staff.
Reports of sexual offenses at the prison also are up, slightly, from 2014 and 2015 figures. While those don't always require an immediate response from deputies, detectives must investigate. An assistant district attorney must determine whether a crime was committed, and then prosecute the offender.
While sheriff's officials acknowledge that responding to assaults and other serious incidents at the prison is part of the job, they say confusion over some incidents has wasted time and resources.
Deputies have sometimes been called to the prison but then refused admission or forced the deputies to wait because staff inside the facility hadn't communicated with colleagues at the main gate, Gossage said. In other cases, deputies have been dispatched when they were not needed.
That prompted Gossage to arrange a meeting with Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher and GBCI Warden Scott Eckstein. The meeting prompted what DOC called "minor changes" in how incidents are communicated to deputies.
"The meeting was very productive, and DOC was able to implement some minor changes to ensure that appropriate resources are dispatched to emergency incidents, for example having GBCI staff note whether law enforcement are needed," DOC spokesman Tristan Cook said. "Warden Eckstein will continue meeting with Sheriff Gossage on a regular basis to identify ways that the Sheriff’s Office and GBCI can continue to work together."Inmate attacks
Still, it's not always easy for sheriff's dispatchers to determine what sort of response is needed. Records from a mid-July assault offer an illustration.
Originally reported as a medical call, the incident turned out to have involved an attack on a corrections officer by an inmate armed with a pot of boiling water.
While the immediate need was for Green Bay Metro Fire Department paramedics to stabilize the victim and rush him to a hospital for treatment of serious burns, deputies had to take reports, and investigators had to conduct follow-up interviews to determine what charges would be filed.
The Green Bay Correctional Institution. (Photo: File/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
In that month alone, sheriff's records show, deputies responded to the prison nine times. Three other times, the calls were for medical issues, and no deputy responded.
A month earlier, two prison workers were stabbed and beaten by an inmate, and a third was injured while trying to break up the fight. That incident also required a police response — one of four times deputies responded to the prison during the month.
Because of the rising number of calls, Gossage met with Department of Corrections officials. Though it's early to tell if the meeting made a difference, Delain said he is optimistic.
"We know that they're getting more specific information to the dispatch center so that (dispatchers) can make a better decision about whether the sheriff's department needs to respond," Delain said. "Now, we aren't going to send a squad car there if it's not necessary."
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Here are the numbers and types of calls that brought Brown County sheriff's deputies to Green Bay Correctional Institution in 2016, according to a call log from the department.
All but minor incidents resulted in an officer generating a report. No reports were generated for minor incidents, those where the call was canceled, or some medical/EMS calls.
Each call is classified into one of several categories: "Batteries" and "disturbances" are the most common type of calls that prompted deputies to write reports. "Medical/EMS" also is common.
December: Seven calls. Six, including three disturbances, generated reports.
November: Eight calls, including two disturbances and a drug call. Five required reports.
October: 10 calls, including two batteries and a weapons call. Six required reports.
September: 11 calls. Nine required reports, including three disturbances and two batteries. The department's busiest day of the year at the prison was Sept. 20, which featured two disturbances and a sex offense.
August: Four calls, including a disturbance and a sex offense. Three of which required reports.
July: 11 calls, including two drug calls and a sex offense. Eight required reports, including an attack that left a corrections officer seriously burned by boiling water thrown on him by an inmate.
June: Seven calls, including three batteries and two sex offenses. Five required reports.
May: Four calls, include a battery and two disturbances. All required reports.
April: Two calls: a battery and a disturbance, making this the year's quietest month. Both required reports.
March: Seven calls, including three disturbances and a drug call. Five required reports.
February: Three calls, including a battery. Two required reports.
January: Eight calls, including a battery and three disturbances. Seven required reports.
Motorist assists and traffic-hazard calls were not included in the numbers because they did not involve incidents inside the prison.
— Doug SchneiderYear by year
Numbers of times that Brown County sheriff's deputies were called to Green Bay Correctional Institution, by year, for what the sheriff's office classifies as "serious incidents."
Source: Brown County Sheriff's Office