We, the undersigned organizations and community activists, are calling for a full, thorough, complete, and transparent investigation into the death of Malcolm James while in custody at the Racine County Jail. We, the undersigned, also condemn the harassment and bullying of Mr. James for not being “masculine enough” for the correctional staff.
On Saturday, May 29, 2021 Malcolm James was experiencing a Mental Health Crisis. Mr. James called both 9-1-1 as well as the Racine County Crisis Hotline. Mr. James set a fire in his apartment and was subsequently arrested for 14 counts of 1st Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety and 1 count of Arson. Mr. James was not provided a mental health evaluation prior to his booking into the Racine County Jail, despite his call for help. While in the Racine County Jail, Mr. James continued to show self-harming behaviors. He was taken to an area hospital for medical care and returned to the Racine County Jail without a psychological evaluation. Mr. James continued showing self-harming behaviors and was placed on “suicide close watch in a high visibility cell”.
Mr. James expressed a need and actively sought help from mental health services. While the charges against Mr. James may be warranted for his actions, the stabilization of his mental health should have been the primary response and concern. A psychological evaluation to determine whether Mr. James needed to be hospitalized should have been completed prior to his booking in the Racine County Jail. Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers are not properly trained or equipped to deal with severe mental health crises like Mr. James demonstrated.
Persons recently released from the Racine County Jail, who were there during the period of Mr. James’ incarceration have stated that Correctional Staff bullied Mr. James because of his soft voice. We, the undersigned, believe that toxic masculinity has no place in society, let alone in our criminal justice system. No person, regardless of sex, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, or any other reason, should have to fall into another person’s belief of how one should act or present themselves. As public servants, all employees of the Racine County Sheriff’s Department must treat all persons equally and with dignity.
We, the undersigned, hereby call on Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling to issue a statement denouncing harassment and toxic masculinity. We also call on Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling to explain why the family was not immediately notified of the death of Mr. James.
We, the undersigned, hereby call on the Wisconsin Department of Justice, along with the United States Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into the harassment and subsequent death of Malcolm Isiah James.
Dan Seaver, President, Kenosha Pride, Inc.
Barbara Farrer, Executive Director, LGBT Center of SE W
Tanya McLean, Executive Director, Leaders of Kenosha (LOK)
Gerald Coons, PhD., President / CEO, Diverse & Resilient