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Milwaukee County Sheriff: Inmates Shall Now Be Called ‘Person in Our Care’

Milwaukee County Sheriff inmates word change: The term inmates does “not accurately describe who we are, what we do, or reflect the message we wish to convey,” – Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department is now calling “inmates” in the county jail “person in our care” and “occupants,” according to an internal memo obtained by Wisconsin Right Now.

The August 20, 2021, memo is directive No. 002-21.

It’s labeled “Agencywide Changes in Terminology,” and it was signed by Denita R. Ball, chief deputy, Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. It says, “to be read at all roll calls and posted. Members to read and understand.”

On the question of inmates, it says, “The phrase ‘inmate’ will be changed to Person in our Care or Occupant except in certain legal or policy contexts.” The change is coming at a time of skyrocketing violent crime in Milwaukee.

milwaukee county sheriff inmate

There used to be a time where the goal of jail and prison was to protect society and extract punishment for wrongdoing. Now there is a trend, at least in Democratic jurisdictions, to change the language to frame jail in a way that humanizes inmates and focuses on their feelings and building their self-esteem. What’s next? Will District Attorney John Chisholm change the term “criminal complaint” to “occupant complaint” or “legally challenged person complaint”? How about “misunderstood person complaint”?

We asked the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office for a comment and received this statement:

“Over the years, in many sectors, including law enforcement, evolving to provide clarity, focus, and better services includes retitling places, services, purposes, and sometimes even people. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office is in constant pursuit of such evolution. And these updated titles are a part of that clarity and change.”

The statement continued: “Occupant” is “merely reflective of these individuals’ legal status as pre-trial detainees in temporary custody. ‘Person in our care’ reflects our important obligation and our commitment to safeguard the life and health of those in our custody.”

Continued the Sheriff’s Office, “Additionally, the title of officers who work in the Milwaukee County Jail was updated in the directive to just that: officer. There is no need for the qualifiers ‘corrections’ or ‘correctional.’ The Sheriff’s Office is already fighting hard for greater pay and benefits for staff. And beyond compensation, we want our officers to also be treated as the professionals they are and ensure that they receive, via title, the recognition they deserve for working in a dangerous and difficult environment.”

The Milwaukee County sheriff is Earnell Lucas.

The Dane County Sheriff recently announced that inmates in that jail would be labeled “residents.”

Milwaukee County Sheriff Inmates Search Database

However, the Milwaukee County Sheriff website still has the “Milwaukee County Inmate Search” database with the URL “”

Who are some of the current “occupants” of the Milwaukee County Jail? Here’s a few random occupants:

milwaukee county sheriff inmate

milwaukee county sheriff inmate

The directive lists other language changes too:

The phrase “Correctional/Corrections Officer” will be changed to Officer, except in certain legal, labor or policy contexts.

The abbreviation “CO” will be eliminated from use.

The title of the “Internal Affairs Division” will change to the Professional Standards Division.

“The MCSO Leadership has identified some commonly used terms, titles and phrases used by agency personnel, which do not accurately describe who we are, what we do, or reflect the message we wish to convey.” The changes are “an effort to be more precise in our messaging.”

We reached out to Sheriff Earnell Lucas for comment and will add it into the story if it’s received.


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