Milwaukee Official Stirs Controversy On Mentally Ill Patient Violence


Milwaukee County’s top mental health administrator intentionally houses female patients with men known to be dangerous “because the presence of women reduces the likelihood of the men being violent,” reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. John Chianelli, administrator of the county’s Behavioral Health Division, told county supervisors during a closed-door session that segregating men and women would result in more violence.

“It’s a trade-off,” he said. “Putting 24 aggressive male patients into a male-only unit would increase the level of violence in the unit.” His remarks were made to a closed committee on reports of an increasing number of sexual assaults at the county facility, including the rape of a 22-year-old pregnant woman last summer. The Journal Sentinel obtained the letter through a request under the state’s open records law. The comments were sharply criticized as “deplorable” by patient advocates and county supervisors. They said they were offended at Chianelli’s characterization that sexual assault is a lesser harm than other physical assaults. “What a horrendous thing to say,” said Mary Neubauer, co-chairman of the Milwaukee Mental Health Task Force. “John needs to apologize for those remarks to the whole community.”

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