Marathon Co. Sheriff's officials: Jail system a failure - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Marathon Co. Sheriff's officials: Jail system a failure

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Marathon County Sheriff's Department leaders are offering a blunt assessment about conditions at the jail.

The jail has been under a microscope ever since an attack there two months ago.

The state jail inspector says problems at the Marathon County Jail come from a lack of communication and cooperation.

Sheriff's department officials admit the current system is a failure, and that there has been a lack of leadership from the top.

"We are working very hard to regain credibility and trust from our staff," said Chief Deputy Sheriff Chad Billeb.

That's been a tough task. Former Sheriff Randy Hoenisch retired in March after coming under criticism for his work habits and his wife's pending sentence on drug charges.

Billeb says problems surrounding Hoenisch resulted in a lack of leadership that's directly related to several problems, including at the jail.

"When leadership is not present, it's very hard for a system to function," said Billeb.

Now, the department has a new sheriff, Scott Parks. Officials are also in the process of hiring a new jail administrator after the last one resigned suddenly in April.

In the meantime, Billeb is working with a panel of community members to make the jail safer. They brought in a state jail inspector, Denise Ellis, to outline problems she's observed during the last few years.

"Holding inmates accountable, holding staff accountable, staffing levels," said Ellis. She also told members she rarely saw former Sheriff Randy Hoenisch.

"The previous sheriff in this jurisdiction was not present often," said Ellis.

Two corrections officers also spoke out at a meeting Tuesday, saying staff morale is low, and at times they feel unsafe.

Chief Deputy Billeb says the department is listening, trying to improve conditions everyone admits are lacking.

"There are problems and we've been working very hard to address those concerns," he said.

Newsline 9 tried contacting former Sheriff Randy Hoenisch for comment on his involvement with the jail. He did not return our calls.

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