Janesville55°

Staff, security, experience among concerns

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Mike DuPre'
May 14, 2008
— Besides the general concern expressed by a Madison school principal, several other issues were raised in a court hearing Tuesday in which a conditional-release plan for Mark Staskal was approved.

Staskal, 44, has lived primarily at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison since he was found not guilty by reason of mental disease of the 1984 murder of his younger sister, Marcy, in Milton.


In about two weeks, Staskal is expected to move to Brighter Life Living, an adult group home at 924 E. Mifflin St., Madison.


Through questions and statements, Ray Jablonksi, a Rock County assistant district attorney, and Marc McCrory, an attorney representing Staskal’s parents, Redgie and Melly Staskal of Milton, expressed doubts about the conditional-release plan developed under the auspices of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.


Their concerns included:


-- Experience and education: Glenn Larson, the state’s conditional-release program manager, said Jason Standish, the group home owner had a master’s degree in social work. But Standish said he is a high school graduate with no formal education in social work or psychology. He said his primary field is electronics, which he learned on the job.


Standish said he has been “working in mental health for 12 years” through his operation of group homes.


Standish said his girlfriend also lives at the group home and will receive her master’s degree in social work this weekend.


-- Staff: Under the conditional release plan, the group home is required to have one awake staff member on site for every three residents around the clock. Additional staff members still are being hired and trained “to deal with Mr. Staskal’s specific needs,” Larson said.


McCrory noted that Staskal’s monitors will be people not yet or recently hired and unknown to the state.


Larson said the new staffers all will be college graduates who will be trained to handle Staskal and emergency situations.


“You don’t know if they’ve been hired,” McCrory said.


“I don’t know if they’ve been hired or are being trained,” Larson acknowledged.


n Residents: Licensed for four residents, the group home now has three. One of them lives at the group home under a conditional-release plan because he was found not guilty of some crime by reason of mental disease. Neither the resident nor his crime was identified.


Standish said the most serious crime a resident of his group homes had committed was attempted murder.


-- Medication monitoring: Under questioning, Tom Niman, investigator for the Rock County District Attorney’s Office, said he was told medication at the group home was kept in a locked drawer. But the drawer was not locked when he visited, Niman said, and when Standish produced the medication, it was from a small, lockable metal box in the drawer.


-- Security: “I didn’t see any security,” Niman said. “I noticed there was nothing on the windows.”


A key to the house was hung in plain view outside because Standish’s girlfriend had occasionally locked herself out, Niman said.


-- Out-of-home excursions: For at least the first 30 days, Staskal will be accompanied by a staff member if he ventures out into the community.


“The need for this escort will be reassessed at the end of the 30 days,” according to the release plan.


Staskal has been living under less-restrictive conditions at Mendota for 14 years and could have walked away at any time, Larson said, but Staskal has complied with all rules.



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